Man experiencing abdominal pain, possibly needing medical advice. Man experiencing abdominal pain, possibly needing medical advice.

Flush or Fail: Does Diarrhea Actually Rid Our Body of Viruses?

Among the most common diseases in humans, let’s understand diarrhea. I am sure we all have had it – and some of us would have had it in a pretty bad way.

But what is it, what causes it, and how to help yourself because it is preventable as well as treatable? We will also see the body’s mechanism and cell biology behind it.

The general meaning of having diarrhea is liquid bowel movements, which can be extreme and even be accompanied by abdominal pain.

The number of bowel movements can also increase for some people, and usually, the reason is that the intestines can not absorb water in adequate quantities. Diarrhea is a very common occurrence across all groups.

It is believed that adults have it at least twice a year, and children anywhere between three to four times a year.

It is believed that diarrhea is a mechanism of removal of some pathogen from the body which can be bacterial or viral. The gut tries to eject the harmful invader so in a way it does flush out the virus, as usually the acute cases are due to viral infection.

So, I will tell you what causes it.

There can be a plethora of reasons that can cause diarrhea and let us enlist the most common ones.

Stress, food poisoning, and viral/bacterial infection top the list. Although there are other reasons also like alcohol abuse, food allergies, lactose intolerance, and some chronic diseases.

Improper absorption by the intestinal wall also affects the digestive tract. Anxiety, antibiotics, or other over-the-counter medications and bowel syndromes can also lead to diarrhea symptoms.

But what are the symptoms?

Although you will not experience diarrhea with any extreme symptoms, because it is a very common occurrence, however, in some cases, it can be explosive and very painful.

We talked to some experts who told us about what can cause it.

The common symptom in all patients is weakness and dehydration. Dehydration can also make your mouth feel dry, with very little or no urine, and very dark urine.

Dr. Rhea Taylor

Other symptoms include abdominal pain and cramps, weakness and dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. There can be some symptoms that can make your diarrhea worse like blood and mucus in the stool.

Since you feel extreme dehydration during diarrhea, you must consume a lot of water and other replenishing fluids like fruit juices to rehydrate your body and the lost electrolytes also.

But do not try to consume a large quantity at a go, this will make you feel very uncomfortable instead keep sipping water or replace fluids with watery foods like cucumber or watermelons or also by consuming Oral Rehydrating Salts also called ORS.

Consume food that is not too spicy and hot. Make sure you are consuming safe food like soups and broth. Eventually, once the infection reduces in a few days move towards complex carbohydrates like breads or rice.

Sonya, Nutritionist

While you are consuming safe food, make sure that you do not consume anything that can trigger your intestinal infections like sugary food or drinks, fried and spicy foods. Specifically avoid caffeine, sports drinks, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners.

Probiotics are another very useful part of preventing diarrhea. These are present naturally in yogurt, cheese, and some other fermented foods. These promote a healthy gut and you can also consume probiotic supplements.

Some medications can be used to treat diarrhea like loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate. Although you must consult a doctor before consumption of any other medicine.

Zinc supplements can also be consumed to reduce the extent and severity of the disease by at least 20-25%. It also helps in the reduction of stool volume.

Icy Whiz team

Is Diarrhea Good for the Body or Bad?

You will be surprised to know that according to a study published at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, diarrhea can be a blessing in disguise.

It plays the important role of eradicating bacteria and viruses from the intestine when it gets infected at the beginning.

It limits the life of the infection, reduces its severity, and affects its longevity because when a virus tries to enter the gut via the intestinal wall, two molecules of the intestine work in a pair and helps in quickly clearing viruses, without causing any major damage.

Diarrhea and Dehydration (Medical Symptom)

We can also consider the study where the researchers infected mice to study the activity of the intestinal pathogens in mice and understand the process of pathogen clearance.

It was found that diarrhea is a condition that is initiated by the body where the permeability of the pathway is increased which leads to the movement of fluids.

What happens in this situation is that the body is losing water which is being flushed out via the intestine, and this, in turn, makes you go for another trip to your washroom.

Diarrhea plays a role in some of the Covid patients, they can experience this stomach bug either when they catch the virus or as a consequence.

“The problem with Covid is that some of the symptoms of Diarrhea and Covid are very similar to each other, and even to influenza. So, sometimes it becomes difficult to analyze what is your diarrhea preceding Covid or just flu.”

COVID Specialist

Some of the symptoms of Covid – 19 which act as a cue for consulting a primary care physician include fever or chills, fatigue, and headache, body aches, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Some standard practices that we should follow for preventing diarrhea are include using soap/handwash whenever you wash your hands, consuming safe drinking water, maintaining good personal hygiene, making sure you consume safe, clean, and healthy food, vaccinating children timely and maintaining high standards in sanitation.

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by soubhik


Anushree Khandelwal

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