We all occasionally at one time or another get hit with an attack of diarrhea. The most common causes of acute (sudden and short lived) diarrhea are usually from a viral infection or food poisoning. Our bodies are usually able to clear the infection or toxin within a few hours to a few days.
Any diarrhea lasting longer than a few days, accompanied by a fever or severe abdominal pain, tinged with blood and/or associated with severe dehydration needs prompt medical evaluation. Otherwise, the following supportive measures are recommended:
- Immediately stop all milk products. Milk delays healing of the damaged lining of the intestine, known as the brush border. You may gradually resume milk once the diarrhea has resolved.
- Stay hydrated with electrolyte rich fluids such as Pedialyte or bouillon broth water. Sports drinks are not the first choice as they have a lot of sugar which may make the diarrhea worse in some cases. Appropriate fluids help prevent dehydration. Shoot for 1 to 2 eight ounce glasses of fluid for each full, watery stool.
- Follow the BRAT and/or CRSP diet exclusively for 1 to 2 days; that is, don’t eat anything other than bananas, rice, apples and toast (BRAT) and/or carrots, rice, spinach and potatoes (CRSP). These foods are easily digestible, allowing the brush border to heal more rapidly.
- Imodium or Kaopectate are helpful at slowing most diarrhea. I usually steer patients away from Pepto Bismol becuase it turns to stool black, making it difficult to differentiate from old blood in the digestive tract.
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