Managing Diarrhoea - GoldCare

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Managing Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea – loose, watery and often frequent bowel motions, can be a really troublesome problem and for some people, their underlying bowel condition means that it will be an issue that is unlikely to resolve completely. It is caused when the bowel pushes the stool (poo) too quickly through the system, before water has had chance to be absorbed. Diarrhoea, if not treated, can lead to dehydration and mal-absorption of essential nutrients.

However, do not despair as there are strategies that can help manage diarrhoea to help reduce the impact on your day-to-day life.


Everyone will get diarrhoea at some point in their life, if it is a new symptom for you and doesn’t resolve after a few days, it is important to seek help from your GP. It is also important to look out for signs of dehydration and seek help from your GP or pharmacist if you suspect this is happening. Common signs of dehydration include:

  • thirst
  • dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Poor urine output, dark urine
  • Fatigue and light headedness (feeling dizzy)


There are lots of different causes for diarrhoea, some are short term problems (acute), whilst others last for longer and may never resolve completely (chronic). Causes of diarrhoea include:


  • A bacterial or viral infection
  • A reaction to food/food intolerance
  • Diseases and disorders of the bowel
  • Reactions to medication
  • Stress


Acute diarrhoea is usually related to bacterial or viral infections, whilst chronic diarrhoea can be due to disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Some people also suffer with diarrhoea if they are unable to absorb bile, for example after having their gall bladder removed or surgery on the end of the small bowel.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek help from your GP:

  • You have had diarrhoea for more than 3 days
  • You have severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • You have a high temperature
  • You see blood in your stools or they are black and sticky
  • You have signs of dehydration


Tests and Investigations:

If your diarrhoea is not resolving, your GP may suggest some tests to try and find out what is causing it. The first test your GP is likely to carry out is a stool (poo) test, this can give lots of information such as if you have an infection or a virus. Depending on if you have any other symptoms, your GP may also carry out a blood test. If a food intolerance is suspected, you may have some tests to rule out allergies. For diarrhoea that is chronic and not settling, a camera may be used to look into the bowel, this is called a sigmoidoscopy (examining the last part of the bowel) or colonoscopy (examining the whole of the large bowel/colon).


Top tips for managing diarrhoea:

The most important treatment is to replace any fluid lost and prevent dehydration – It is vital, to drink plenty of fluids, aim for a minimum of 8-10 cups a day.

Rehydration solutions can be purchased from most supermarkets and pharmacies, or you can make up your own solution at home – there are lots of recipes on-line!

There are medications that can be taken to stop diarrhoea but if you think you have a bacterial infection, this is not recommended as it prevents the passage of the organism, thus prolonging the problem.  Speak to your pharmacist to see if these may be suitable for you.

Until the diarrhoea subsides, try to avoid milk products and foods that are greasy, high in fibre or very sweet. If you can tolerate fluids then gradually build up to a bland diet, eg: toast, crackers, biscuits, fish, chicken, etc.

If you have chronic diarrhoea, you may find it helpful to keep a food diary, to see if you can identify any particular foods that make your symptoms worse. If you find you are having to omit a lot of foods from your diet, speak with your GP who can refer you to a dietician if needed – it is important that you are getting sufficient nutrients and may need a supplement.

Try and manage your stress levels – easier said than done in today’s busy world! Taking some time for yourself each day to relax or meditate can work wonders for your bowel health. If you are struggling to manage your mental health, reach out to your GP as there is lots of help available.

If your diarrhoea causes you to have accidental bowel leakage, ask to be referred to your local bladder and bowel/continence service. They are highly experienced and specialist trained healthcare professionals (usually nurses and/or physiotherapists) who deal with all manner of bladder and bowel problems and are experts in helping you find solutions to your problems. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from seeking help, they talk to people about ‘poo and wee’ problems all day long!

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