Diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose, watery stools. Such stools indicate that the intestinal contents have moved too quickly through the intestines for fluid absorption to take place, or that water has been drawn from the cells lining the intestinal tract and added to the food residue.Like vomiting, diarrhea can lead to considerable fluid and salt losses, but the composition of the fluids is different. Stomach fluids lost in vomiting are highly acidic, whereas intestinal fluids lost in diarrhea are nearly neutral. When fluid losses require medical attention, correct replacement is crucial.
Diarrhea is a symptom of various medical conditions and treatments.It may occur abruptly in a healthy person as a result of infections (such as food poisoning) or as a side effect of medications. When used in large quantities, food ingredients such as the sugar alternative sorbitol and the fat alternative olestra may also cause diarrhea in some people. If a food is responsible, then that food must be omitted from the diet, at least temporarily. If medication is responsible, a different medicine, when possible, or a different form (injectable versus oral, for example) may alleviate the problem.
Diarrhea may also occur as a result of disorders of the GI tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome or colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common GI disorders and is characterized by a disturbance in the motility of the GI tract. In most cases, GI contractions are stronger and last longer than normal, forcing intestinal contents through quickly and causing gas,bloating, and diarrhea. In some cases, however, GI contractions are weaker than normal, slowing the passage of intestinal contents and causing constipation. The exact cause of irritable bowel synd rome is not known, but researchers believe nerves and hormones are involved . The condition seems to worsen for some people when they eat certain foods or during stressful events. These triggers seem to aggravate symptoms but not cause them. Dietary treatment hinges on identifying and avoiding individual foods that aggravate symptoms; small meals may also be beneficial. People with colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine, may also suffer from severe diarrhea. They often benefit from complete bowel rest and medication. If treatment fails, surgery to remove the colon and rectum may be necessary.
Treatment for diarrhea depends on cause and severity, but it always begins with rehydration." Mild diarrhea may subside with simple rest and extra liquids (such as clear juices and soups) to replace fluid losses. However, call a physician if diarrhea is bloody or if it worsens or persists-especially in an infant, young child, elderly person, or person with a compromised immune system. Severe diarrhea can be life threatening.