This uncomfortable and usually untimely experience we know as diarrhea has a greater purpose than to simply ruin your day. Yes, that’s hard to believe. But when you rush to take anti-diarrheal medication to stop the madness, you may actually be making things worse. Let’s check out the facts you need to know.

What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is caused by an infection in the intestines that prevents nutrients from absorbing correctly. When this happens, bowel movements are typically loose and watery. Infections can form in the body as a result of food consumption. Eating foods that you are allergic to, like gluten or dairy, often leave you running for the bathroom. But you may experience an upset stomach due to food poisoning when you unknowingly consume bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. In other situations, viral infections enter your body and you are corrupted by “the stomach bug.” By sharing beverages or food, shaking hands, or opening doors without frequently washing your hands, you have a greater chance of inviting this virus to enter your digestive system. But regardless of why an infection spreads in your stomach, the symptoms are the same. While diarrhea would be miserable enough on its own, it is often accompanied with nausea, bloating, cramps, and frequent bowel movements. These are the symptoms that tempt you to rush to the nearest drugstore and find over the counter anti-diarrheal medication.

But before you do that, consider a study that was recently done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital that proves diarrhea may be the best thing for your intestines. The study explored an infection caused by E. coli and determined that early on in the infection, molecules in the intestine influenced one another to release the bacteria in the stomach. How? Diarrhea. Diarrhea was the body’s natural response to clearing out the bad stuff causing pain, discomfort, and an inability to absorb nutrients. When you attempt to stop diarrhea by using over the counter medication, you’re actually prolonging the infection and potentially making it worse. When you stop diarrhea prematurely, you can anticipate the longevity and severity of the infection to be more unbearable than the diarrhea itself.

What Should I Do About It?

Please note that children have different medical needs when discussing diarrhea, so please contact your child’s pediatrician for guidance for this symptom in children. 

If you are an adult experiencing diarrhea, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and other fluids that replenish electrolytes. Dehydration is a common symptom of diarrhea, but can easily be avoided. After two or three days, the diarrhea should subside. However, if you experience frequent bowel movements for more than three days, notice blood in the stool, or your abdominal pain is severe, our doctors at Needham Gastroenterology are here to help you! Schedule an appointment with us today so you can start feeling like yourself again.