Digestive Health

Updated 03 May 2017

Diarrhoea - running for your life?

Everyone’s been there. You wake up startled at 3.10 am and realise you have about ten seconds to get to the toilet. Now you understand the rumblings you had when you went to bed.

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People get diarrhoea when food moves too quickly through the gut, and there has been insufficient time for the bowel to absorb the water. Frequent and loose stools are typical of this condition.

Everyone can get this – from the very young to the very old. Causes of diarhhoea are varied and it is essential that if you suffer frequently from this condition, that you go to the doctor so that the cause can be dealt with.

Food poisoning and food intolerance often cause diarrhoea. Foodstuffs that are particularly prone to causing this condition are dairy products, wheat and other grains, coffee, certain artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, very fatty foods and alcohol.

If the diarrhoea persists, your GP would want to take a stool examination, or take an X-ray of the bowel or, if the answer is still elusive, take an endoscopy of the bowel. Sometimes a drug that slows the passage of the material in the gut can be prescribed. Sometimes there is purely a vitamin deficiency, which can be sorted out by vitamin supplements.

Things you can do to reduce diarrhoea

  • Try and avoid grains and dairy products for a while
  • Eat small meals every two or three hours rather than large meals two or three times a day
  • Eat slowly and chew your food properly
  • Reduce or stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake
  • Check that medication that you might already be on, does not give you diarrhoea
  • Avoid spicy or oily foods
  • Reduce your coffee intake
  • Try and reduce your stress levels

Information from ‘Every Woman’s Health Guide” by Maryon Stewart and Dr Alan Stewart

 

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Digestive Health Expert

Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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