Diarrhea: The Texas “Two Step” but There’s No Music

March 15, 2016

Texans try to put a pretty face on a hated and dreaded illness – diarrhea – by calling it the Texas “two step”. The description is intended to mimic how a person hurries down the hall to the nearest bathroom.

But diarrhea is no laughing matter. Diarrhea is when a person has loose bowels, which involves the stool being very watery. This illness can have varying degrees of pain, and not only is it unpleasant and inconvenient, it always seems to hit at the worse time for almost all of us.

Of all the reported illnesses in the U.S., diarrhea is the second most common, and the average adult has it four times a year. And believe it or not, American children have seven to 15 cases by the time they reach age five.

The real danger with diarrhea is that with the loss of fluids, it can lead to dehydration. This can lead to death if the person who has loose bowels doesn’t drink enough fluids to rehydrate their body.

What Causes Diarrhea?

So what causes diarrhea? The most common culprits are:

  • Food poisoning
  • Medications
  • Food allergies
  • Viral gastroenteritis (stomach bug)
  • Traveling to different countries
  • Taking too many laxatives at once or using on a regular basis
  • Food types – high-fat and high-sugar
  • Stress
  • Colon cancer
  • Following abdominal surgery

Underlying medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease (irritable bowel syndrome), diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease and chronic pancreatitis also can cause diarrhea.

While we will shed light on the various aspects of diarrhea, we know that many are focused on the causes, treatments and coping skills to get through it!

Most Common Remedies to Treat Diarrhea

There are a wide array of over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications designed to treat the condition. They typically work best for patients who have been dealing with the malady for more than six hours, but they are not recommended for extended periods of time since this can lead to constipation. If your diarrhea is accompanied by blood or high fever, avoid medication and consult your doctor since these signs of an underlying illness.

There are two different types of medication for diarrhea:

  • One absorbs excess water in the digestive tract, which helps to thicken and firm any stools you may pass.
  • The second type reduces the number of bacterial microorganisms in our body responsible for causing the diarrhea. Both antibiotics and probiotics fall into this category.

How to Recover and Cope With Diarrhea

  • Rehydrate: Water is key to staying hydrated, but it doesn’t replenish electrolytes. These are minerals that help your body manage its fluid levels, muscle activity and other important functions. Go for soup and broth with sodium, fruit drinks or a rehydration fluid such as Ceralyte, Oralyte or Pedialyte. Caution: The CDC advises against using sports drinks to rehydrate after a bout of diarrhea.
  • Change your diet: When you havediarrhea, you cannot continue to eat as usual. Stick with soup and broth. When you have turned the corner, add lean meat, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes and bread.
  • Avoid food triggers: Tobring an end to your diarrhea, avoid foods and drinks that have caffeine and lots of sugar, as well as sugar substitutes.
  • Wash your hands: When you have diarrhea, wash your hands even more than normal, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating. Don’t share this dilemma with friends and family – have someone else prepare meals or order out.

Worst Foods for Digestion

Here are some of the foods that are the worse for digestion and which should be avoided if you are having a bout of diarrhea:

  • Fried foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Artificial sugar
  • Too much fiber
  • Beans
  • Cabbage and its cousins
  • Fructose
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee

When to Seek Medical Treatment

If your diarrhea persists and the over-the-counter medications do not work, then you may want to consult a doctor. The physician may be able to figure out the cause and give you a stronger medicine. Watery stools can be painful so it is important to find the cause and treat it.

Bacterial Causes of Diarrhea

Bacteria are important (the good kind of course) to our overall health, but some can cause chaos on your digestive well-being. These tiny bugs find fertile breeding ground in raw meats, eggs, shellfish and unpasteurized milk. While food contamination causing diarrhea in the US is rare, the most common food-related cases come from food that was not refrigerated well enough or went bad before the individual consumed it.

To reduce the risk of bacteria-related diarrhea, be sure to cook meat, poultry and eggs completely. And remember to frequently wash hands, utensils, the kitchen counter and stove surfaces. Refrigerate leftovers quickly and don’t leave them on the counter at room temperature for longer than necessary.

When selecting a restaurant and fast food establishment, look for health department ratings posted online or posted in the restaurant. These ratings indicate the restaurant’s levels of cleanliness and food safety. Many television stations and newspapers report restaurants scores and demerits from the local health department such as Behind the Kitchen Door. 

Viral Causes of Diarrhea

Some viral infections can cause not only diarrhea but also vomiting. These strains are highly contagious, moving from one unwashed hand to another unwashed had. Shared drinks, utensils and contaminated food also provide passage to your unsuspecting stomach. Unfortunately, individuals who no longer have symptoms or never exhibited any in the first place can sometimes spread these viruses.

Just like bacterial diarrhea, hand washing, clean kitchens and common sense go a long way in protecting yourself. If you know someone who has diarrhea, do not eat or drink from the same containers.

In most cases, the diarrhea and stomach upset will work their way out of your system within two to three days.

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