Get Chronic Diarrhea Under Control
Chronic diarrhea can be a tough health situation to handle, but if not addressed, it can have some serious health consequences down the road. It can be very dangerous for the elderly as well as infants and young children. Diarrhea is defined as having loose watery stools at least 3 times per day; chronic means it is ongoing or happening on a routine basis. Obviously that can be bothersome, but if not corrected it can lead to dehydration, malabsorption and nutritional inadequacies.
Let's learn more about chronic diarrhea. There can be many causes for chronic diarrhea including
- A variety of gastrointestinal disorders such as
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Undiagnosed celiac disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIBO
- Following abdominal surgery of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder or small and large intestines.
- Food allergies or intolerances such as intolerance of lactose or sugar alcohols.
- Certain medications such as laxatives; antacids, antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs. Medications can also reduce the number and variety of healthful gut bacteria that help to promote normal bowel movements.
- Foodborne illnesses from food contaminated by E. coli, salmonella or listeria, which can result in diarrhea and cause 3,000 deaths each year.
You will want to figure out the underlying cause of the diarrhea so that action can be taken to make changes that will stop it. Diarrhea that goes unchecked can be very dangerous. The solution will depend upon the underlying issue. For example, the solution might be:
- A change-up in medications.
- Going gluten-free after a diagnosis of celiac disease.
- Using Lactase tablets when consuming dairy products if there is lactose intolerance.
- Adjusting the diet after abdominal surgery to minimize diarrhea.
But the bottom line is do not tolerate diarrhea and think this is your normal. It can be quite dangerous. See the doctor for further evaluation.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital