Diarrhea is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements and the discharge of watery, loose stools. The person with diarrhea may also have abdominal cramps and nausea.
Diarrhea occurs when the intestines push stools through before the water in them can be reabsorbed by the body. It is your body’s way of quickly clearing out any viruses or bacteria.
Most diarrhea is caused by viral stomach flu (gastroenteritis). Some medications, especially antibiotics, may also cause diarrhea. For some people, emotional stress, anxiety or food intolerance may bring on the condition. Irritable bowel syndrome may also cause diarrhea.
Drinking untreated water that contains the giardia lamblia parasite can also cause diarrhea that develops one to four weeks later.
Since most caused of diarrhea are viral, they will clear up in a few days with good home treatment.
- Put your stomach at rest. Stop all food for several hours or until you are feeling better. Take frequent, small sips of water or a rehydration drink.
- Since diarrhea may sometimes speed recovery of the underlying problem, avoid anti-diarrheal drugs for the first six hours. After that, use them only if there are no other signs of illness, such as fever, and if cramping or discomfort continues.
- Begin eating mild foods, such as rice, dry toast or crackers, bananas, and applesauce the next day or sooner, depending on how you feel. Avoid spicy foods, fruit, alcohol and coffee until 48 hours after all symptoms have disappeared. Avoid dairy products for three days.