People who are experiencing diarrhea can recover quickly after several bouts, but there are cases when it can worsen to a life-threatening condition. This is a very common digestive problem of different ages from infancy to the elderly. According to statistics, there are about 2 billion cases of this condition each year and around 1.9 million are children ages 0 to 5. In developing countries, this is one of the reasons for death in children. This is the reason why parents must be very cautious when symptoms of diarrhea occur in their children.
It is characterized by stomach pain, frequent bowel movement, and watery stools. The major causes of this digestive condition are viruses, bacteria, and parasites. However, a disorder in the digestive system can trigger chronic diarrhea. In case a person experiences frequent bowel movement but has a firm stool, then it is not considered as diarrhea. Also, breastfeeding infants normally pass loose and tacky stool, but diarrhea in infants is life-threatening due to dehydration. The same dreadful effect can happen to elders with chronic loose bowel movement.
Common Causes of Diarrhea
One of the most common causes of diarrhea is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract by microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
- Viruses. There are diverse viruses in the environment that might cause diarrhea such as norovirus and rotavirus. Once the gastrointestinal tract is infected by these viruses then it can lead to viral gastroenteritis that can cause acute cases of loose bowel movement.
- Bacteria. Bacteria can easily enter the body through contaminated food and water sources. The most common bacteria that can cause bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract are Salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella.
- Parasites. Other microorganisms that can enter the body through contaminated food and water are parasites. Once these parasites settled in the stomach then a person will develop infection like Cryptosporidium enteritis.
These infections can affect humans through cross-contamination from food contact surfaces, utensils, spoiled food, and unsanitary cooking area. Health conditions caused by these contaminations are called foodborne illnesses.
There is also a traveler’s diarrhea and it is caused by consuming food or water contaminated with microorganisms. This is a common problem for frequent travelers going to developing countries.
2. Side Effects of Medications
Aside from diarrhea after eating contaminated foods and drinking water, people can also develop symptoms of diarrhea as side effects of certain drugs like antacids with magnesium, antibiotics, and anti-cancer medications. Long term medications because of a certain health condition can cause chronic diarrhea. It is vital to consult your doctor once you experience loose bowel movement after taking a drug.
3. Food Intolerances and Allergies
Some people can suffer from allergies and intolerances to a certain type of foods like soy, seafood, cow’s milk, grains, and eggs. All of these foods can irritate the stomach that leads to diarrhea after eating. Intolerance to cow’s milk is known as lactose intolerance which is a common health condition that can lead to frequent bowel movement with watery stool.
Some may also suffer from fructose intolerance which is a sugar that comes from fruits, honey, and processed fruit juices. Fructose is an ingredient used in many beverages like soda and high fructose corn syrup used for baked products. Other causes of diarrhoea are sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol.
4. Digestive Illnesses
Patients suffering from digestive tract disorders can cause chronic diarrhea such as Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and irritable bowel movement. If you have one of these diseases and experiencing bouts of loose bowel movement it is imperative to talk to your doctor for a possible solution to your problem.
5. Abdominal Surgeries
There are instances when patients develop symptoms of diarrhea after surgery especially if it is in the abdominal area. These surgeries connected to the liver, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, appendix, small intestines, and large intestines can trigger diarrhea.
Aside from abdominal pain and watery stools, there are other symptoms that one can experience. These include weight loss, chills, bloating, fever, and body aches. Serious and life-threatening symptoms are bloody stools, frequent vomiting, and dehydration. In case you experience one of these severe signs, immediately seek for medical attention or go to the nearest hospital.