Diarrhea. We know, even the word makes you cringe. The uncomfortable feelings in your gut and the frequent trips to the bathroom are sure to ruin your day. But it’s not all bad. Diarrhea may actually be just what your body needs.

How Does It Start?

Diarrhea occurs when molecules in the immune system are activated due to an infection in the intestines. The virus prevents nutrients from absorbing correctly which makes your stool watery and loose. It’s not our favorite, either, but where does this infection come from? Are you able to prevent it? The answer is yes!

Bacteria can enter your stomach through a variety of ways, though most commonly through food. If you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and a certain sensitivity to specific foods, avoid them and you’ll be more likely to avoid frequent bowel movements. Or, if you are lactose intolerant or have a gluten allergy, stay away from foods that contain dairy or wheat. However, there may be a time you unknowingly consume bacteria from food that is not cooked properly or from foods that have been “poisoned” by bacteria. This is more difficult to prevent if you are not in control of the cooking. Be sure to wash your hands, and the hands of your family, frequently to avoid a virus from taking over your digestive system. But once the infection begins, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea will soon follow.

What’s The Point?

The infection may spread over time causing you more pain, discomfort, and become more difficult to treat—if it weren’t for diarrhea. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have discovered the positive effects of diarrhea. Their extensive study of the body’s reaction to a bacteria known as E. coli reveals that molecules in the intestines work together to release bacteria through diarrhea. The annoying trips to the bathroom and the discomfort that seems unending is your body’s way of preventing the infection from getting worse. The research recommends that at the beginning of an infection, instead of choosing an over-the-counter medication to stop your frequent bowel movements, allow yourself to have diarrhea. It may actually help you in the healing process.

When Do I Call a Doctor?

Please note that these suggested guidelines are for adults only. Contact your child’s pediatrician for instructions concerning diarrhea in children. Usually you will not need to see a doctor for diarrhea. However, diarrhea can often cause dehydration, so drink plenty of water, replenish lost electrolytes, and if your urine is dark, it may be time to pick up the phone. If there is blood in your stool, diarrhea continues for more than three days, or your abdominal pain gets more severe, then it’s time to make an appointment with one of our doctors at Associates in Digestive Health. We will use our care and expertise to help you feel better!