Diarrhea is defined as frequent, loose, watery stools or an abnormal increase in the frequency and water content of the stool. All stools or bowel movements contain water. However, when the water content increases or becomes excessive and the frequency of the stools increase this is known as diarrhea.
It is important to know what a normal bowel frequency is for you. For some people three soft formed stools per day is not abnormal. But for others, three stools per day would be a significant increase in their normal bowel frequency and when that increase in frequency is accompanied by an increase in water content then this is identified as diarrhea.
Diarrhea occurs because there is not enough liquid absorbed by the colon. When we eat, the food we take in is mixed with large amounts of water as a part of the digestion process. So by the time the food mixture reaches the colon it is essentially a liquid substance. Then the water is absorbed by the colon leaving a soft, formed stool. It is when there is a problem with the absorption of the water or perhaps a problem with the colon itself when diarrhea occurs.
There are many causes of diarrhea and happily most occurrences of diarrhea resolve on its own. When diarrhea lingers more than a few days or you are developing other symptoms it is important to seek medical attention as dehydration can be a serious and even deadly complication of diarrhea. The primary cause of diarrhea is a viral or bacterial infection. Even though there are hundreds of healthy and beneficial bacteria that live within the colon, if harmful bacteria or viral agents get into the body, then some will travel to the gastrointestinal system and result in diarrhea.
Diarrhea is usually treated by addressing the symptoms and attempting to manage them. For example, sticking to a liquid diet may be helpful in the early stages of a diarrhea episode. Also, avoiding milk and milk products may also be helpful. Over the counter medications such as Imodium or Kaopectate can help to reduce or even stop the diarrhea. Keeping well hydrated while experiencing diarrhea is very important as dehydration is one of the most serious complications of diarrhea.