Acute Diarrhoea and Stomach Pain - first consider the following scene.
You wake up suddenly, heart pounding. The pain in your stomach squeezes hard and forces you to your side. Growling like an angry bear, you feel cramps and bubbling in your side - all making you breathe hard, sweat dotting your forehead as you get to your feet, rushing blindly for the bathroom. You reach - just in time to slam open the toilet seat and collapse down on it while your bowels forcefully release in a loud and watery whoosh of sound. "Oh!" you moan as another spasm of pain washes over your abdomen; "why did I eat that leftover chicken last night??"
On This Page
- What Is Acute Diarrhoea?
- Reasons For Acute Diarrhoea
- How Acute Diarrhoea and Stomach Pain Develop
- Preventing The Spread of Acute Diarrhoea
- Acute Diarrhoea And Stomach Pain Treatment
- When Will You Start To Get Better After Acute Diarrhoea?
What Is Acute Diarrhoea?
When you have acute diarrhoea and stomach pain or cramps, there are a few simple solutions you can use with items you probably have at home already to help you feel and get better quickly.
Diarrhoea means frequently passing loose or watery stools.
It happens when food and liquids pass through your body too quickly.
By acute diarrhoea, we mean symptoms that have been going on for relatively short time - like a few hours or days.
Chronic diarrhoea, on the other hand, has been going on for weeks or months, and the causes and treatment can be slightly different.
Reasons For Acute Diarrhoea
Acute Diarrhoea has many causes:
- drug reactions or allergy,
- infections like gastroenteritis from contaminated food/drink,
- food sensitivity/allergy,
- stress, or injury to the large bowel.
How Acute Diarrhoea and Stomach Pain Develop
Diarrhoea happens due to either having lots of fluid entering the intestine, from reduced absorption of fluid from the intestine or rapid passage of stool through the intestine.
This process happens with jerky movements of the bowel muscles (spasms), and allows gas to collect inside the bowel - causing pain.
When you experience diarrhoea, your body loses Fluids, Salts, and Calories from food and liquids that you would typically digest and absorb.
Losing fluids and salts have a more severe complication which is dehydration - a state where you have insufficient fluids in your body for its needs.
Dehydration can lead to serious injury to your kidneys or death if it develops and you don't treat it quickly.
If you are pregnant or unwell with other health problems like heart disease, pre-existing kidney disease or diabetes, it's essential to treat diarrhoea carefully. Young children and older people can be at higher risk of serious illness if diarrhoea is not handled correctly.
Speak to a doctor for advice if someone in any of these categories develops diarrhoea.
Preventing The Spread of Acute Diarrhoea
When you have diarrhoea, don't forget these useful hygiene tips to protect your friends and family:
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food
- clean the toilet, including the handle and the seat, with disinfectant after each bout of diarrhoea
- avoid sharing towels, flannels, cutlery, or utensils with other household members
Acute Diarrhoea And Stomach Pain Treatment
Some simple practices can help reduce the risk of dehydration, so let's look at them next.
1a. Fluids To Take
It's essential to replace the fluids you are losing from diarrhoea. If water is all you have, then start with it.
After every loose stool, drink some water - at least half a cup aiming for at least 8-10 cups of water in 24 hours.
You are better off taking small, frequent sips of water than trying to gulp large quantities at a time which you further irritate your stomach/bowels.
In addition to water, your body also needs salt and sugar to replace what's lost.
Avoid anything too sweet or fizzy as they can further irritate the sensitive stomach/bowels. In this group, we also include protein-containing fluids which your bowels will struggle to digest and absorb at the time.
Other fluids you can have:
- Diluted fruit juices
- Soft drinks that are caffeine-free and diluted with water
- Weak, decaffeinated tea and coffee
1b. Fluids To Avoid
Fluids you should avoid in diarrhoea and stomach pain treatment:
- sweetened and fizzy drinks including soda, fruit juices
- caffeinated drinks
- drinks with artificial sweeteners like Sorbitol, (you may find these in 'light' or 'calorie-free' drinks
- milky or yoghurt containing drinks
A fluid that is also important in treating diarrhoea if you are at risk of dehydration or dehydrated is rehydration therapy - or oral rehydration salts.
In most places, you can buy these over the counter in a chemist or pharmacy without a prescription - it makes sense to keep a box in your home medicine cabinet to be available when you need it.
You could also make up a batch of your replacement therapy:
Mix half a small spoon of salt and six-level small spoons of sugar dissolved in one litre of clean/boiled/bottled water makes up a batch of rehydration salt you can use over 24 hours.
A key sign that you are taking enough fluids is that you will pass urine which should be a light yellow colour.
2. What To Eat With Acute Diarrhoea
You may not feel like eating much when you have diarrhoea - this is ok for a short period, but you should eat solid food as soon as you feel able to.
- Go for low fibre diet may help decrease cramps and gas, and may help you manage and control diarrhoea.
- Avoid heavy, large meals, spicy or oily foods, sweet foods and those made with sugar-free substitutes.
- Stay away from very hot or very cold foods and drinks which cause diarrhoea or stomach cramps to worsen. These could also happen with Dairy and high protein-containing foods.
Some examples of foods you can eat are potatoes (without the skin), rice, bananas, crackers, dry toast, plain pasta.
Cereals like cornflakes or Rice Krispies are also helpful but watch the milk and sugar; avoid cabbage, cucumber and onions that worsen gas.
Salty foods help the most.
You don't need to eat if you've lost your appetite, but you should continue to drink fluids and eat as soon as you feel able to.
3. Pain relief in Diarrhoea
Firstly, you feel unwell with acute diarrhoea and stomach pain that happens when your bowel muscles are cramping more than usual or bloating from accumulated gas in the bowel.
Gas accumulates with the fast movement of fluids in the bowel; and is the major reason for the painful spasms that happen with bouts of diarrhoea.
As the excess amounts of gas move around the bowel, they stretch the tissues causing pain.
At the same time, if bout of diarrhoea is due to infection, the toxins or poisonous material created by the germ contributes to bloating and more pain.
Secondly, you also get tired very quickly because you lose fluid and calories.
You can treat stomach cramps with:
- simple pain killers like paracetamol or acetaminophen taken when you feel able to drink some plain water.
- using a hot water bottle or heated wheat bag could provide some relief to painful cramps
- avoid using any anti-inflammatory medicine like Naproxen and Ibuprofen.
- watch what you eat and drink as your recover - they could make the pains worse.
When Will You Start To Get Better After Acute Diarrhoea?
In adults, most forms of diarrhoea from infections usually improve within 2 to 4 days, although some can last a week or more.
Stay at home until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea to prevent spreading any infection to others.
If you are not getting better after a few days or start to feel worse - speak to your doctor.
Hopefully, you got a couple of useful points here for managing any bouts of mild or moderate diarrhoea.
Till next time, stay well.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through email@example.com