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Diarrhoea Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Diarrhoea is a condition that results in frequent bouts of loose or watery poo. It’s something affects most of us from time to time and it usually clears up on its own within a few days. However, extended bouts can be dangerous, so you should speak to a doctor if your gut doesn’t return to normal after a week.

You can speak to one of our doctors about your diarrhoea symptoms. They’ll outline the possible causes of your diarrhoea, and can prescribe medication that will help you get better.

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Symptoms of Diarrhoea

As anyone who’s had diarrhoea will know, the most noticeable symptom is your poo. It’s softer or looser than normal and contains a high volume of water.

Not only that, you might experience uncomfortable stomach cramps and feel as if you have less control over your bowel movements than normal. This can be inconvenient and potentially embarrassing.

One potentially dangerous symptom of diarrhoea is dehydration. You lose a lot of water in your poo when you have diarrhoea and this needs to be replaced.

If you feel tired, lightheaded or nauseous, you can’t eat, you’re getting muscle cramps or your heart is beating faster than normal, it’s possible you’re dehydrated and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

While most bouts of diarrhoea are mild, if you also experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact a doctor urgently:

  • If your diarrhoea lasts longer than a week
  • If your poo is black or contains blood
  • If you’re passing very watery poo more than three times a day
  • If your diarrhoea is so bad that you can’t sleep
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Causes of Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is usually an indication of a digestive problem. This can be caused by a virus (e.g. norovirus), bacteria (e.g. E. coli) or an intestinal parasite. You can pick these up in a variety of ways, from poor food hygiene to visiting certain holiday destinations where sanitation is known to be poor.

You can experience diarrhoea as a side effect of certain medications, such as antibiotics or laxatives, or if you have an allergic reaction to a certain food. Drinking too much alcohol can also potentially irritate your gut.

In some cases, diarrhoea can itself be a symptom of another problem. You might have an undiagnosed digestive condition such as:

In very rare cases, diarrhoea could be a sign of bowel cancer.

There are even potential mental causes for diarrhoea, such as anxiety. Several studies have shown the link between the brain and the gut, so there’s evidence to suggest that if you’re worried or under stress, diarrhoea could be one of your symptoms.

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Treatment for Diarrhoea

As mentioned earlier, diarrhoea usually clears up on its own. To help speed this process along, you should drink plenty of water to replace what you’ve lost when you poo. A salty broth is another good option, as salt can help your gut absorb the nutrients it needs. Avoid acidic or fizzy drinks.

If you’re finding it difficult to get enough fluids, a doctor can recommend an oral rehydration solution (ORS) that will help you avoid dehydration.

You might not feel like eating if you have diarrhoea, but it’s good to try if you can. Starchy food such as bread and pasta will help firm up your poo again. It’s best not to eat anything fatty or spicy, as this will irritate your already sensitive gut.

If you’ve picked up diarrhoea through a virus or bacteria, it’s worth taking steps to avoid these contagious conditions from being passed along. You should always:

  • Wash your hands after going to the toilet and before preparing food.
  • Store food correctly, e.g. don’t put raw meat or poultry above cooked food.
  • Ensure food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Pay attention to food labels and don’t eat anything past its sell by date.

If you’d like to discuss treatment for your diarrhoea discreetly with an experienced medical professional, book an appointment with one of our doctors today.

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