Diarrhea is defined as loose, liquid stools that may be frequent. Although violent diarrhea is not necessarily a sign of something severe, continuous bouts may cause dehydration and should be monitored closely. Severe diarrhea may be one of the first symptoms of a virus called “gastroenteritis.” The diarrhea occurs when the gastrointestinal track becomes inflamed, irritating the stomach and small intestine (commonly caused by a food-born illness). Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. The stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) may also be the most common cause of diarrhea, and can be transmitted through contact in public places such as schools, the workplace or within families. The condition should, however, resolve within a matter of days.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition most often affecting women. When the muscles contract too much while eating it causes symptoms like bloating, cramps and bowel changes (either loose stool or constipation). This disorder, though inconvenient and uncomfortable, is not harmful. Emotional stress is thought to bring on episodes of IBS. Diet and exercise may help.
Those who suffer with lactose intolerance will have trouble digesting milk and milk products due to a shortage of the enzyme lactase (lactase breaks down the sugar in milk.) When the sugar cannot be absorbed, water is drawn into your intestines and gets fermented by the bacteria in your colon, resulting in excessive gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. Avoiding some dairy products may be helpful; however, those who wish to indulge may find relief by taking medications before a meal to help with digestion. This condition is not serious, as diet modifications can ease the symptoms and calcium supplements can be taken for nourishment.
Cholera is an acute illness that is typically mild but in some instances may be severe. The most common cause of this condition is consumption of contaminated food or water that infects the individual with a bacteria. The toxin released by the bacteria causes excess water to be secreted with chloride ions in the intestine, producing violent diarrhea. Because of the severe nature of the diarrhea, individuals who are not treated may become critically dehydrated and die within hours. Those residing in the United States are fairly safe from cholera with modern sewage systems in place and clean water that is widely available, though caution should be taken when traveling to certain countries outside of the U.S.