The best way for your doctor to figure out what's causing your diarrhea is to get some information from you.
He will want to know:
- If there's blood or mucus in your diarrhea
- How watery it is
- How long you've had it
- If anyone around you has it
- If your urge to go is severe
- Do you have belly pain, or pain in your bottom?
- Do you have a fever?
- Do you feel dizzy or confused?
- Have you traveled anywhere recently?
- Are you taking antibiotics, or have you recently finished some?
- Do certain foods make you better or worse?
He also might want to get a sample of your stool to send for lab testing. He may order blood tests as well.
If your doctor thinks a specific food is causing your problem, he may ask you to stay away from that item for a while to see if it helps. A common example is intolerance to milk products, called lactose intolerance. If you have this, changes to your diet usually help.
If your doctor needs more information to figure out what's going on, you may need to have a test called a colonoscopy. Your doctor will use a snake-like tube that lets him see the walls of your colon and rectum.
How to Feel Better
Diarrhea should go away in a few days without treatment. Until you feel better, rest, drink enough fluids, and watch what you eat.
Your body loses water with each trip to the bathroom. If you lose too much, you can get dehydrated.
Drink clear liquids -- water, broth, or fruit juice -- during the day to stay hydrated. Try to get about 2-3 liters (8-12 cups) a day while you’re sick. You can sip them in small amounts between meals instead of while you eat. Your doctor might recommend a sports drink to replace salt, potassium, and other electrolytes your body loses when you have diarrhea. If you also have nausea, sip the liquids slowly.
Eat bland, low-fiber foods until you feel better. Doctors often suggest the BRAT diet:
- Rice (white)
Other good choices include:
- Peanut butter
- Skinless chicken or turkey
Avoid foods that can make diarrhea or gas worse, like:
- Fatty or fried foods
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Spicy foods
- Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda
Most of the time diarrhea doesn't need to be treated. But some over-the-counter medicines can help you feel better.
Two types of meds relieve diarrhea in different ways:
- Loperamide (Imodium) slows the movement of food through your intestines, which lets your body absorb more liquid.
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) balances out how fluid moves through your digestive tract.
Read the directions on the package. See how much of these medicines to take and when to take them. Don't take more than the label recommends -- it won’t make the drug work better or faster. And don’t take more than one of these medicines at a time.
If you have any questions, call your doctor or pharmacist. Don't give Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol to children -- it could cause dangerous health problems.
Get medical help if you:
- Have severe pain in your belly or bottom
- Have bloody or black poop
- Get dehydrated -- you feel very thirsty, pee less than usual, have dry mouth, and feel weak
- Run a fever of 102 or higher
- Aren’t better in 48 hours