Diarrhoea refers to the frequent passage of loose or watery unformed stools. As a rough guide it can be said that three or four loose or watery stools a day can be considered as diarrhoea. The disease may be acute or chronic. Commonly known as “loose motion”, it is perhaps the most common disease in India.
The intestine normally gets more than 10 litres of liquid per day which comes from the diet and from secretion of the stomach, liver, pancreas and intestines. In the case of diarrhoea, water is either not absorbed or is secreted in excess by the organs of the body. It is then sent to the colon where water- holding capacity is limited. Thus the urge to defecate comes quite often.
There are many and varied causes of diarrhoea. The chief causes are overeating or eating of wrong foods, putrefaction in intestinal tract, fermentation caused by incomplete carbohydrate digestion, nervous irritability, use of antibiotic drugs and excessive intake of laxatives. Other causes include parasites , germs, virus, bacteria or a poison which has entered into the body through food, water or air ; allergies to certain substances or even common foods such as milk, wheat, eggs and sea foods and emotional strain or stress in adults and fright in children.
Diarrhoea may be a prominent feature of organic disease affecting the small or large intestine such as the sprue syndrome, malignant disease and ulcerative colitis. It may also result from operations on the gastro-intestinal tract. Diarrhoea may alternate with constipation. This may result from the irritation of the mucous membrane by impacted hard faeces.
Diarrhoea for prolonged periods can lead to certain complications. These may include
- weakening, due to loss of vitamins like A, D, E and K and other nutrients as food is rushed through the body without giving the nutrients a chance of being absorbed.
- dehydration, due to loss of body fluids and washing out of minerals from the body and nervous conditions.
In severe cases of diarrhoea, it is advisable to observe a complete fast for two days to provide rest for the gastro-intestinal tract. Hot water only may be taken during the period to compensate for the loss of fluids. Juices of fruits may be taken after the acute symptoms are over. After the condition improves, meals can be enlarged gradually to include cooked vegetables, whole rice, spoured milks. Raw foods should be taken only after the patient completely recovers.
An effective remedy for diarrhoea is the use of buttermilk. It is the residual milk left after the fat has been removed from yogurt by churning. It helps overcome harmful intestinal flora and re-establish the benign or friendly flora. The acid in the buttermilk also fights germs and bacteria. It may be taken and mixed with a pinch of salt three or four times a day controlling diarrhoea.
Carrot soup is another effective home remedy for diarrhoea. It supplies water to combat dehydration, replenishes sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulphur and magnesium, supplies pectin and coats the intestine to allay inflammation. It checks the growth of harmful intestinal bacteria and prevents vomiting. One pound of carrot may be cooked in five ounces of water until it is soft. The pulp should be strained and boiled water added to make a quart.
Three-quarter tablespoon of salt may be mixed. This soup should be given in small amounts to the patient every half an hour.
The pomegranate has proved beneficial in the treatment of diarrhoea on account of its astringent properties. If the patient develops weakness due to profuse and continuous purging, he should be given repeatedly about 50 ml. of pomegranate juice to drink. This will control the diarrhoea.
Mango seeds are also valuable in diarrhoea. The seeds should be collected during the mango season, dried in the shade and powdered and kept stored for use as medicine when required. It should be given in doses of about one and a half gram to two grams with or without honey.
Turmeric has proved another effective home remedy for diarrhoea. It is a very useful intestinal antiseptic. It is also a gastric stimulant and a tonic. Turmeric rhizome, its juice or dry powder are all very helpful in curing chronic diarrhea. In the form of dry powder, it may be taken in buttermilk or plain water.
In case of diarrhoea caused by indigestion, dry or fresh ginger is very useful. A piece of dry ginger is powdered along with a crystal or rock salt. A quarter teaspoonful of this powder should be taken with a small piece of jugglery. It will bring quick relief as ginger, being carminative, aids digestion by stimulating the gastrointestinal tract.
Starchy liquids such as arrowroot water, barley water, rice gruel and coconut water are highly beneficial in the treatment of diarrhoea. They not only replace the fluid lost but also bind the stools. Other home remedies include bananas and garlic. Bananas contain pectin and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Garlic is a powerful, effective and harmless antibiotic. It aids digestion and routs parasites.
The best water treatment for diarrhoea are the abdominal compress (at 60o F) renewed every 15 to 20 minutes and cold hip bath ( 40 o – 50 o F). If the patient is in pain, abdominal fomentations for 15 minutes should be administered every two hours.