Can Diarrhea Cause Weight Loss
It’s not unusual to experience some intestinal distress during normal daily living — we all have our moments. But diarrhea (a condition that causes frequent loose bowel movements) can be an especially uncomfortable problem. If you find yourself suffering from diarrhea for longer than two or three days, don’t worry. You aren’t alone; many people deal with this situation on occasion. And although your doctor may want to give you antibiotics to help rid your system of any bacteria causing the infection, there are other things you can do to get relief, too. In fact, you’ll probably feel better faster without taking medication. All you need to do is take certain precautions to prevent dehydration.
There are lots of reasons why one might develop diarrhea. Some are short-term problems that pass quickly, such as food poisoning or viral gastroenteritis (also known as stomach flu). However, some types of diarrhea last much longer, sometimes even lasting through pregnancy. When this happens, it’s called chronic diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence. The cause could be anything from lactose intolerance to irritable bowel syndrome.
When diarrhea occurs frequently over time, it becomes what experts call “persistent” or “chronic.” This type of diarrhea has no known cause, but it’s generally attributed to eating foods high in fiber content. Food allergies also play a part in persistent diarrhea since the small intestine needs to filter out undigested proteins in order to function properly.
In addition, medications like amoxicillin, cimetidine, ranitidine, omeprazole, clarithromycin, telithromycin and rifabutin can trigger diarrhea. Antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections like pseudomembranous colitis can also lead to diarrhea. There are even cases where patients who took nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, were found to have developed severe diarrhea after using them.
So how does diarrhea affect weight gain? Keep reading to learn about the connection between these conditions and how to manage them.
Bacterial Infections That Cause Diarrhea
If you think you have diarrhea, consult your physician immediately. Stomach viruses, parasites and bacteria can cause persistent diarrhea, which can result in dehydration and malnutrition. Bacteria, viruses and parasites invade the lining of the small intestine, leading to inflammation. They then spread into the bloodstream and attack the mucus membranes. While most people recover within a week or so with rest, treatment and proper diet, those who suffer prolonged bouts of diarrhea may require hospitalization.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, increased appetite, fever, weakness, muscle cramps, dehydration, blood in stools and a general feeling of discomfort. Dehydration is perhaps the worst complication that can occur with diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, sunken eyes, decreased urine output, excessive thirst, little or no interest in drinking liquids and lethargy.
Dehydration can easily happen in children who drink little fluids due to their higher metabolic rate, and adults who choose caffeinated sodas instead of plain water. Adults should consume at least eight glasses of fluid each day, and children should receive plenty of liquid as well. Your best bet is to keep a bottle of water with you wherever you go to ensure that you stay hydrated. Other good choices include milk, juice, clear soups, tea, coffee, ice cream, popsicles, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages and sports drinks. Avoid alcohol altogether if you notice symptoms of dehydration, as it will dehydrate you further.
The next page discusses treatments for diarrhea and ways to prevent dehydration.
Treatment for Acute Diarrhea
If you have acute diarrhea, your first stop is likely going to be the bathroom. Most doctors recommend staying home until you’ve expelled everything that came out of your bowels. Afterward, try to eat bland, low-fat meals consisting of rice, potatoes, bananas, breads, cereal, noodles or soup. Make sure that you drink lots of fluids, preferably clear liquids like pureed fruits or vegetable smoothies. Don’t forget to sip on Gatorade, soda pop or orange juice every now and then. You should also avoid dairy products until your intestines settle down. Finally, make sure that you replace potassium lost through urination by consuming bananas, yogurt and prunes.
You’ll want to see your medical professional if your diarrhea continues past 48 hours, gets worse or doesn’t improve. If you’ve had bloody stool, you may have dysentery. Bloody stool is formed when red blood cells break down and mix up with fecal matter. To treat this, consult your doctor immediately for antibiotic medication and possibly antidiarrheal medicine.
Persistent Diarrhea Treatments
Since we know that dietary changes can help reduce diarrhea, let’s talk about what you can do to combat this annoying problem. First off, you should check with your physician before taking any kind of over-the-counter remedy. You may have heard some miracle cures floating around that work wonders, but remember, everyone reacts differently to different illnesses. Taking something without consulting your doctor first could end up doing more harm than good.
Besides making sure that your body stays hydrated, you should make sure that you’re getting enough nutrients. Try to eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice) rather than simple ones (white flour and white rice). Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin C. Consume plenty of protein sources, such as chicken breast, lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts and beans. Vitamin A supplements can be helpful against diarrhea, too. Be careful with spicy foods, however, as peppermint oil can aggravate gastrointestinal issues.
On the next page, read about how to prevent future episodes of diarrhea.
Preventing Persistent Diarrhea
One way to prevent recurrent bouts of diarrhea is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly, and continue exercising even when you’re ill. Stay away from fatty foods, caffeine and alcohol, as these can contribute to diarrhea. Limit your intake of sugars and starches, as these can disrupt digestion. Also, avoid fried foods, greasy foods and processed foods. These contain preservatives that can upset your digestive tract.
To help relieve gas and bloating, add probiotic supplements to your diet. Probiotics are live microorganisms that aid in digestion, giving your body the ability to absorb nutrients. Certain strains of beneficial bacteria can even fight harmful bacteria. Yogurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut. Studies show that probiotic supplementation reduces the duration of diarrhea. For maximum benefit, seek out a product that includes both bifidus and lactobacillus cultures.
Many people use herbal remedies to help ease their gastrointestinal distress. Chamomile tea may calm your intestines if taken orally. Peppermint oil can provide temporary relief from indigestion. Garlic, ginger and lemons can also provide relief from mild to moderate cases of diarrhea. In extreme cases, you may wish to consider seeking medical attention.
For related information, browse the links on the following page.
Acute diarrhea affects millions of Americans every year and costs U.S. businesses billions in missed school and workdays. About 20 percent of American households have someone with diarrhea at any given time.
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