Diarrhoea refers to the frequent passage of loose or watery unformed stools. It may be acute or chronic. Commonly known as " loose motions", it is perhaps the most common disease in India.
The intestines normally get more than 10 litres of liquid per day which comes from the diet and from the secretions of the stomach, liver, pancreas and intestines. In the cause of diarrhoea, water is either not absorbed or is secreted in excess by the organs of the body. It is then sent to the colon where the water holding capacity is limited. Thus, the urge to defecate comes quite often.
There are many and varied causes of diarrhoea. The chief causes are overeating or eating of wrong foods, putrefaction in the intestine tract, fermentation caused by incomplete carbohydrate digestion, nervous irritability and excessive intake of laxatives. Other causes include infection by parasites, germs, virus, bacteria or a poison which has entered into the body through food, water or air, allergies to certain substances or even common foods such as milk, wheat, eggs, and sea foods and emotional strain or stress in adults and fright in children.
It may also result from the use of antibiotic drugs. This is due to the destruction of the beneficial bacteria in intestines along with pathogenic bacteria at which the antibiotic treatment was aimed.
Diarrhoea may be a prominent feature of organic diseases affecting the small or large intestine such as the sprue syndrome, malignant disease and ulcerative colitis. It may also result from operations on the gastro-intestinal tract. Diarrhoea may alternate with constipation. This may be a result of the irritation of the mucous membrane by impacted hard faeces.
Diarrhoea for prolonged periods can lead to certain complications. These may include general weakening of health due to loss of vitamins A, D, E and K and other nutrients as foods is rushed through the body without giving the nutrients a chance of being absorbed, dehydration due to loss of body fluids and washing out of minerals from the body and nervous conditions.
Among the various complications, dehydration poses a serious problem, especially when diarrhoea is accompanied by vomiting. It can even be fatal if unchecked. Dehydration is characterised by hot, dry skin over the abdomen, sunken eyes, dry mouth, intense thirst and reduced flow of urine. This can usually be prevented, if the patient suffering from diarrhoea, with or without vomiting,. is given plenty of liquids. The patient should be given about 150 to 200 ml. of fluid every hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dietary CureIn severe cases of diarrhoea, it is advisable to observe a complete fast for two days to give rest to the gastro-intestinal tract. Warm water only may be taken during the period to compensate for the loss of fluids. An enema with water temperature of 95 o F, may be taken daily during this period. Juices of fruits like orange or pomegranate, butter-milk, or coconut water may be taken after the acute symptoms are over. Barley water mixed with an equal quantity of milk, with added sugar, can also be given. In mild cases, well-boiled rice or khichdi (rice and mung dal cooked with a pinch of salt), with curd and ripe bananas are permitted.
Foods which should be avoided in diarrhoea are milk and milk-drinks, whole grain breads and cereals, cheese, fruits except banana, nuts, meats, fatty soups, sweets and all vegetables except tomato juice. After the condition improves, meals can be enlarged gradually to include raw juices like papaya juice, lemon juice and fresh pineapple juice, cooked vegetables, whole rice, soured milks such as yogurt and butter-milk. Raw foods should be taken only after the patient completely recovers.
Certain natural remedies have been found effective in curing diarrhoea and these are carrot soup, banana, turmeric powder, the cultured or sour milk and garlic. Carrot soup supplies water to combat dehydration, replenishes sodium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, sulphur and magnesium, supplies pectin and coats the intestine to allay inflammation. It checks the growth of harmful intestinal bacteria and prevents vomiting. One pound of carrot may be cooked in five ounces of water until it is soft. The pulp should be strained and boiled water added to make a quart. Three-quarter table-spoon of salt may be mixed. The soup should be given in small amounts to the patient every half an hour.
Bananas contain pectin and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Turmeric, a yellow vegetable powder used as a condiment has proved beneficial. Acidified milk such as yogurt or butter-milk help overcome the harmful intestinal flora and re-establish the benign or friendly flora. The acid in the soured milk also fights germs and bacteria. Garlic is yet another natural remedy which fights diarrhoea and routs parasites. It is a powerful , effective and harmless antibiotic and aids digestion