True diarrhea occurs when not enough water is removed from the stool, making the stool loose and poorly formed. Diarrhea is often association with gas, cramping, an urgency to defecate and if the diarrhea is caused by an infections organism or a toxic substance, nausea and vomiting.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and a loss of electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and bicarbonate. If large amounts of fluids and electrolytes are lost, the person will feel weak, stand up and get dizzy, have low blood pressure, heart rhythm changes and other serious symptoms.
Stool is normally 60 to 90% water. Diarrhea occurs when the percentage is over 90%. Diarrhea can occur in the following situations:
• There is an increased transit time
• There are substances in the stool that prevent the large intestinal wall from reabsorbing the water
• The intestinal tract is dumping or secreting water into the stool.
Any of these conditions could be caused by drugs, chemicals, infections with viruses, bacteria (Campylobacter/ Yersinia/ Clostridium difficile), or parasites (Cryptosporidium/Giardia), some foods, stress, tumours, mycoplasmas, and chronic disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and malabsorption syndromes. Certain foods such as some fruits and beans and hexitols, sorbitol and mannitol (sugar substitutes) can cause diarrhea. A deficiency in the digestive enzyme lactase that digests milk products can cause diarrhea.
Treatment depends on the cause but normally digestive enzyme support, probiotics and intestinal lining support are required.