"Diarrhea" or "diarrhea syndrome" refers to a condition where bowel movements produce loose or watery stools, often more liquid than normal, with an increased frequency of bowel movements. Diarrheal stools, unlike ideal stools with a moisture content of 70-80%, exceed 90% moisture content.
Table of Contents
・Types of Diarrhea
・Mechanism of Diarrhea
・Identifying the Cause of Diarrhea
・Prevention of Diarrhea and Coping with Stress-Induced Diarrhea
Types of Diarrhea
There are mainly three types of diarrhea:
Secretory Diarrhea: Occurs due to damage to the intestinal mucosa from factors like bacterial infections or food allergies, leading to excessive secretion of intestinal fluids.
Osmotic Diarrhea: Caused by substances within the intestines that increase osmotic pressure, disrupting the absorption of water in the intestines.
Excessive Motility Diarrhea: Results from an overactive intestinal movement due to disruptions in the autonomic nervous system, causing insufficient absorption of water as stool passes through too quickly.
Mechanism of Diarrhea
The fundamental mechanism of diarrhea involves abnormal functioning of the intestines.
Normally, the intestines use a movement called "peristalsis" to digest contents and regulate water content adequately, sending it towards the anal side. However, when this "peristalsis" is excessively activated due to disturbances in the autonomic nervous system or abnormalities in the intestine's water regulation function, the moisture content in the stool increases, leading to diarrhea.
Direct causes can include food poisoning, laxative use, stress, and in the case of chronic diarrhea, factors like neurogenic causes, parts of other diseases, or inflammation in the intestines due to the side effects of medications.
Identifying the Cause of Diarrhea
Determining the cause of diarrhea can be somewhat understood by when it occurs.
For instance, if diarrhea only happens after consuming specific foods, it might be food-related. If diarrhea is accompanied by fever, nausea, and blood, it could indicate an illness, and seeking immediate medical attention is advisable. Stress-induced diarrhea, occurring primarily during stressful times like before work, or when there are no symptoms other than diarrhea and no weight loss, may suggest stress as the potential cause.
Prevention of Diarrhea and Coping with Stress-Induced Diarrhea
To prevent diarrhea, it's essential not to consume excessive irritants or things that burden the body. For example, if diarrhea occurs after drinking too much alcohol, it's advisable to limit alcohol intake. Additionally, lactose intolerance is more prevalent in Japanese individuals compared to Westerners. If consuming dairy products leads to loose stools, consider reducing dairy intake.
If you're prone to diarrhea during specific situations, such as when traveling, bringing an anti-diarrheal medication or avoiding unfamiliar foods can help prevent diarrhea. If stress triggers diarrhea, consult a doctor for advice.
If diarrhea occurs, drink room temperature water to prevent dehydration and wait for the diarrhea to subside. Consume easily digestible foods like porridge in small amounts and avoid fatty or spicy foods.