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Diarrhoea is when the stool which is passed is soft, watery and frequent as a result of too much fluid in the stool. The fluid balance in the intestines is usually kept in balance by the colon, which absorbs excess fluid. There are many causes of diarrhoea. Infections caused by the indigestion (eating/drinking), of unwanted bacteria cause diarrhoea by upsetting the fluid balance in the intestines. Unwanted bacteria may be found in meat that is not fresh, in water that is not sterile or in any food/liquid which is contaminated by faecal matter and bacteria as a result of poor hygiene and lack of sewerage. This most commonly occurs in developing countries and rural areas where treatment is not widely available.

Severe bouts of diarrhoea are often accompanied by abdominal cramping and pain which may range from mild to so severe that a person cannot walk. The most serious complication of diarrhoea is dehydration. It is therefore vital that a person suffering from a bout of diarrhoea makes sure that their fluid and water intake is sufficient. Dehydration results from insufficient water in one’s body and causes, amongst other things, a dry mouth and tongue, confusion and a loss of balance and co-ordination.

Prolonged periods of diarrhoea may result in malabsorbtion of nutrients in the intestines. In extreme diarrhoea, i.e. very watery diarrhoea, bowel control may be difficult and often the desire to use the toilet becomes urgent and the person may fear that they will not make it to the toilet in time. Flatulence often accompanies diarrhoea and may be a cause of embarrassment.

Other causes of diarrhoea include very spicy and hot foods eaten by people with sensitive digestive systems who are not used to such foods, food intolerances and food allergies (such as lactose intolerance) may cause diarrhoea and an increase in fluids and a decrease in bulk forming foods results in diarrhoea. Certain medications cause diarrhoea (for example anti-biotics and chemotherapy) and too much vitamin C may also cause diarrhoea. . Diarrhoea as a result of stress, nervousness and anxiety is common, especially amongst highly strung individuals. Diseases of the colon, like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome often present with diarrhoea, and in some cases, the diarrhoea may alternate with constipation.

Diarrhoea in babies, elderly and weak individuals is often more serious as their ability to counteract the effects of dehydration and nutrient deficiency is weaker. If you experience severe weight loss and a high fever with diarrhoea or if your stool contains blood then you should consult a healthcare practitioner. Parasitic infections and worms, as well as excessive alcohol intake and diseases of the pancreas all tend to cause diarrhoea. Please consult your healthcare practitioner if your symptoms persist for longer than two days.



Watery stool.


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