Consult your healthcare professional if:
- Your stools look like they contain blood or coffee grounds
- You have severe stomach pain
- You have excessive thirst, a dry mouth, or decreased urination
- The diarrhoea lasts more than two days In adults, 24 hours in children 3-6 years, or 12 hours in babies 2 years and under.
Loose watery stools constitute diarrhoea, even if there is only one motion daily.
Diarrhoea can occur from a variety of causes. Some of the most common are infection of the digestive tract including giardia, amoebic and bacillary dysentery, coliform and staphylococci; a reaction to food eaten; or a reaction to medication. Stress can also contribute to both diarrhoea and constipation. Learning to relax and reducing stress can, in many cases, solve a variety of illness symptoms, including diarrhoea.
Cow's milk, goat's milk and even soy milk may cause diarrhoea in some young children, as an allergy to the proteins in these foods may develop at an early age. Goat's milk and soymilk are less likely to cause problems.
Children will usually grow out of this allergy. Dairy foods are a good source of protein and calcium. Most people can enjoy these foods as part of a well balanced diet.
A small percentage of Australians may have a lactose (sugar of milk) intolerance and this can be another cause of diarrhoea. This is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase in the intestine, resulting in an inability to absorb the sugar lactose. Water is then flushed into the bowel from the body, resulting in what is called lactose diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance can be genetic or it may follow a gastrointestinal infection. Small amounts of cow's milk, even in lactose intolerant people, usually won't cause any adverse symptoms.
- Digestive enzymes can help your body to break food down and reduce the load on your stomach
- Probiotic supplements containing Acidophilus and Bifidus will help to restore balance to digestive flora after episodes of diarrhoea or vomiting
- Slippery elm - in combination with peppermint can help soothe the inflamed membranes of the intestinal lining and give temporary relief from the symptoms of diarrhoea.
- Take plenty of fluids, especially filtered water, and rest.
Life Style Factors
Remove foods from your diet, which may irritate your gut and cause diarrhoea. These foods differ from person to person. Avoid milk, coffee and alcohol, fatty food, very hot or cold food during recovery.
Be scrupulously clean. Wash hand after using the toilet and before preparing food. Cook food thoroughly and refrigerate carefully. Don't eat any refrozen fish or chicken. "If in doubt, toss it out."
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