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Diarrhoea FAQs

Diarrhoea FAQs Diarrhoea is characterised by the passing of watery, unformed stools at frequent intervals. There may be a gripey abdominal pain (colic) which is relieved after a stool is passed. Acute diarrhoea comes on suddenly and lasts a short time, usually caused by bacteria or viruses (food poisoning). However, it can be serious in babies and the frail and elderly, because of the risk of dehydration.

The bowel is designed to re-absorb water from stools back into the body. Diarrhoea is caused by inflammation or irritation in the bowel, which causes it to expel stools more quickly than usual. Because the stools are expelled more quickly, less water is re-absorbed by the bowel and the stools are loose and runny. In addition, the contents are passed more quickly and frequently, due to the extra activity in the bowel.

The irritation in the gut that causes diarrhoea is most frequently caused by an infection. Probiotics can help to maintain a healthy gut and hence fend off diarrhoea.

Chronic diarrhoea affects someone over a long period of time, which may be a result of a more serious disorder and should always be investigated by your doctor.

What types of treatment exist for diarrhoea?
Imodium contains loperamide, which reduces activity in the intestine and thus allows the stool to remain in the bowel for longer. The longer the stool remains in the bowel, the more water the bowel will absorb from the stool and hence the drier the stool.
Diocalm contains morphine hydrochloride which works in a similar way to loperamide, reducing activity in the bowel and hence allowing the water in stools to be re-absorbed.
Pepto-Bismol contains Bismuth Subsalicylate which helps to form a protective antiseptic coating in the stomach and gut. This helps to fight the infections that tend to cause diarrhoea in the first place.
Dioralyte helps the body to replace fluids and body sales lost during bouts of diarrhoea.

Will it help to drink less water?
No - diarrhoea actually causes dehydration because the stools contain water that should be re-absorbed into the body. Drinking less water will only result in further dehydration and will simply make you feel much worse. The problem is caused by the bowels failing to remove water from the stools, rather than the stools being too watery in the first place.

Will it help to eat dry foods such as toast etc?
No - dry foods will only help to irritate the bowel and make the symptoms worse. The stools will not be any drier because they will still pass through the bowel without the water being re-absorbed.

How can I prevent diarrhoea?
Though no preventative treatments are foolproof, there are many products that can help to prevent diarrhoea. Probiotics, such as those in the DTECTA range, can help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive system and thus build up the body's own natural immunity to diarrhoea. There are also products such as turmeric and tormentil that are believed to be generally good for our digestive system.
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