Diarrhea 101: What it Says About Your Health | Digestive Health
Did you know you can tell a lot about a person’s health by what’s going on in their gut? Two or three well-formed bowel movements each day, for example, is a good indicator of a balanced intestinal environment—meaning there’s an ideal ratio of good (and neutral) to harmful bacteria in the gut. A balanced gut helps to “keep things moving,” so to speak, but when that balance is out of whack, digestive problems such as diarrhea may occur.
First things first: what is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is commonly defined as the frequent passage of loose, watery stools—typically triggered by intestinal irritation or a change in motility (muscular action) in the digestive tract. There are two main types of diarrhea: acute, meaning occasional, and chronic diarrhea, which lasts for more than a couple days. Let’s look at both.
- Acute (occasional) diarrhea
Most of us have experienced an occasional bout of diarrhea at one time or another. This type of diarrhea lasts two to three days and may be accompanied by abdominal cramping, bloating and/or nausea in addition to loose stools.
- Chronic diarrhea
When diarrhea lasts longer than two to three days, it is considered chronic diarrhea. People with chronic diarrhea may develop more severe symptoms, including fever, weight loss, bloody stools and/or intense abdominal or rectal pain.
Should I worry about prolonged diarrhea?
The short answer is yes. Constant diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous and potentially even life threatening. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, whose immune defenses may not be as strong. Symptoms of dehydration include excessive thirst, urinating less often and fatigue. In children, look for drowsiness, fever and a dry mouth and tongue. Call a doctor immediately if these signs are present.
What causes diarrhea?
The causes of diarrhea can vary greatly, but one of the most common diarrhea causes is diet. The types of food we eat and beverages we drink have a big impact on our gut health, and things like sugar and artificial sweeteners, fried and fatty foods and caffeine may contribute to diarrhea symptoms, as well as too little fiber in the diet. Other common causes include food sensitivity (e.g. gluten intolerance), the use of certain medications, stress, nutrient deficiency, intestinal diseases and bacterial or parasitic infection.
Are there home remedies for occasional diarrhea?
Many people want to know how to stop diarrhea, but like most health issues it is best to take a preventative approach. That way, you can avoid the problem in the first place. There are many simple, natural steps you can take to support bowel health and help prevent occasional diarrhea. These include:
- Eating plenty of fiber. Fiber supports good digestion and bowel function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may trigger diarrhea.* Good sources include fruit, non-starchy veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts, along with a daily fiber supplement.*
- Limiting fried and fatty foods. Fried foods and certain fatty meats may contribute to occasional diarrhea. Try to avoid these foods or consume them in moderation.
- Cutting back on caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen diarrhea symptoms.
- Avoiding problem foods. Diarrhea may stem from an underlying food sensitivity; the two most common are gluten and dairy. Modifying your diet to avoid problem foods may help prevent diarrhea and support bowel health.
- Being kind to your digestive tract. Herbs such as marshmallow root and ginger root, along with the amino acid L-glutamine, all found in our IntestiNew™ formula, help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.*
- Promoting balance with probiotics.* Eating more probiotic foods and taking a daily probiotic supplement like Renew Life® Ultimate Flora™ Everyday Probiotics supports a balanced internal environment to help promote good digestion and bowel health.*
- Drinking plenty of water. Studies indicate that kids and teens are not drinking enough water, contributing to health problems that have digestive implications. Drinking plenty of purified water (at least half your body weight in ounces each day) helps flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may cause diarrhea.
When should I consult my doctor?
While an occasional bout of watery diarrhea is not a cause for concern, those with symptoms lasting more than a few days should call their doctor. Seek help immediately if the following symptoms occur:
- Severe abdominal/rectal pain
- Blood in stools/black stools
- Fever higher than 102° F (39° C)
Good digestive health begins in the gut
A healthy and well-balanced gut is often considered the foundation of good health. Not only can taking care of your gut help prevent occasional diarrhea and other digestive issues, but it also supports your overall health. At least 70% of the immune system can be found in the gut, so remember to be good to yours by following a wholesome diet and including Renew Life digestive wellness supplements in your daily health regimen.