In simple terms diarrhea is an abnormal increase in the frequency and fluidity of stools.Depending on the time frame a diarrhea can be called acute (Short Term) or chronic (Long terms).
Almost everyone gets acute diarrhea during the course of life and is normally caused by infections and as side effect of certain medicines. It is short lived. Just lasts for a few days! Chronic diarrhea lasts for many weeks and is indicative of a serious underlying problem that requires treatment.
Depending on the causes of diarrhea it can be categorized mainly into the following different types:
1- Osmotic Diarrhea
This is caused by the inability of the digestive system to absorb certain components of food such as sugars (lactose and fructose), sugar alcohols (sorbitol) and some minerals (magnesium, sulfate and phosphate). Water is drawn by these unabsorbed into the intestines, causing passing of watery stool. Normally osmotic diarrhea disappears after the foods containing these elements are removed from the diet.
2- Secretory Diarrhea
This is caused by secretion of water and salts by intestine into the stools. This happens during various kinds of infections. The infections release toxins that secrete water and salt by interfering with the intestines. Carcinoid tumors and medical conditions like celiac disease can also stimulate secretions.
3- Exudative Diarrhea
This occurs when inflammation of the lining of the colon causes the release of blood, mucus and/or other fluids. This type of diarrhea can be caused by a number of conditions such as tuberculosis some types of cancers and irrigational bowel disease (IBD).
4- Paradoxical Diarrhea
This is a false indication of diarrhea. The symptoms are diarrhea-like but actually the complication is constipation called a fecal impaction. In case of paradoxical diarrhea, liquid stool flows around hard, impacted stool which still inside the rectum. Paradoxical diarrhea is very common among children, senior citizens or adults with limited mobility or mental capacity.
5- Pseudodiarrhea Diarrhea
This is an induced diarrhea such as caused by use of laxatives. Other causes include eating disorder bulimia nervosa which is caused by people trying to reduce body weight and Munchausen syndrome in which people fake illness to seek attention.
It is often noted that different types of diarrhea may occur simultaneously at the same time.
Understand Diarrhea in Details
After common cold, diarrhea is number 2 most common ailment in the world. What is diarrhea or frequent passing of loose and watery stool is a symptom of an underlying disease but not a disease itself. Anyone at any age can get diarrhea.
The average adult encounters it about four times a year. It generally is an out come of food poising. The temporary looseness of stools can be due to over consumption of laxative foods like prunes. In many cases it can be caused without any examinable reason. As long as the condition improves with in a couple of days it is not a cause of concern.
More than 5 billion cases of diarrhea occur every year throughout the world. Though, it can cause death due to dehydration in malnourished people in some developing nations but it is usually not as dangerous in case of affluent and well nourished society.
So diarrhea has a major impact on global health and is highly correlated with nutritional status. It is an important area of focus because it can be significantly reduced by appropriate interventions and treatment.
In cases of babies and elderly people it can be life threatening so special care should be taken.
It is a major cause of death in the developing world where the effect is greatest among the young. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 3.5 million deaths a year are caused by diarrhea. 80 percent of these deaths are children under the age of five (majority six months and three years of age).
Poor nutritional status according to various studies, can double the risk of contracting diarrhea when exposed to an infectious agent. In addition the duration and acuteness can increase to 3 times than normal in case of a mal nourished child.
In many developing countries death from diarrhea have been prevented by World Health Organization (WHO) recommended home made remedies for diarrhea.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a condition of an increase in frequency of passing stools together with a change in their consistency. Normally, during most of the digestive process, the food remains in liquid form. When food passes through the colon, most of the fluids are absorbed creating a semisolid stool. When the food and fluids pass too quickly or in too large amount or both through the colon, diarrhea occurs. Since the fluids aren't sufficiently absorbed, the result is a watery bowel movement. In addition, some times the lining of the colon may be inflamed making it less able to absorb fluids.
It isn't always caused due to food – anxiety, turmoil and emotional stress can also be responsible for the condition. Due to some functional bowel disorders the muscles that move waste along the intestine can spasm like in irritable bowel syndrome. Occasionally in some people certain medicine such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and antacids containing magnesium can induce the condition as a side effect.
Bacteria and parasites. When contaminated food or water is consumed, the bacteria and parasites present as contaminants can be responsible for the condition. Common bacteria that causes the condition are Campylobacter, Shigella, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli and Parasites that are responsible include Giardia lamblia and cryptosporidium.
Viral infections. Rotavirus is the most common virus that is responsible for it. Norwalk virus, herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis are some of the other common viruses that cause the condition. Diarrhea caused by viruses spreads easily.
Food intolerance. Certain types of sugars such as lactose found in milk, fructose found in many fruits and artificial sweeteners (Sorbitol and mannitol) found in chewing gum and other sugar-free products, can cause diarrhea in children and some adults.
Other causes of diarrhea include surgery and some Intestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.
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