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Diarrhea

What is diarrhea?

If you have three or more loose stools per day, you have diarrhea.

When should you seek medical attention?

If you have had diarrhea for more than one week you should seek medical attention.

What is acute diarrhea?

Acute diarrhea occurs suddenly because of infections and usually ends after a few days.

What causes acute diarrhea?

The most common cause of acute diarrhea is bowel infections with bacteria, viruses or parasites. Vomiting and fever will often occur.

Most often, you become infected directly by other people. The contamination can be due to poor hand hygiene in the restroom or other direct contact between people.

You can also become infected through food, which may be contaminated either by the manufacturer (eg. vegetables watered with contaminated water) or poor kitchen hygiene (improper storage, cooking at low temperatures, the food is promoted for a long time – eg. at the buffet).

Examples of diarrhea-causing microorganisms

  • Bacteria
    • Salmonella
    • Campylobacter
    • Coli
    • Shigella
  • Virus
    • Rota
    • Herpes
    • Cytomegalo
  • Parasites
    • Amoebae (may cause dysentery)
    • Giardia (may cause flagellatdiaré or "beaver fever")
    • Cryptosporidiae (causes "pool-diarrhea")

What is chronic diarrhea?

If you have had diarrhea for more than 4 weeks it is called chronic. (In this case the term chronic just means prolonged). Chronic diarrhea can be a result of infections but can also arise with other diseases.

What can be the causes for chronic diarrhea?

Chronic diarrhea doesn’t imply that it is a condition you can’t get rid of.

The vast majority of cases of chronic diarrhea can be treated effectively with medication.

The causes can be

  • Bowel inflammation
    • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) or microscopic colitis.
  • Allergy
    • Gluten allergy (celiac disease).
  • Food intolerance
    • Most likely the sugar from milk (lactose intolerance).
  • Metabolic Disorders
    • Increased metabolism, diabetes.
  • Medicine
    • Antibiotics

How do you get examined?

There must be sent stool samples to the laboratory, blood tests must be taken, and possibly a colonoscopy to collect tissue samples. Read more about colonoscopy

How is diarrhea treated?

Treatment of diarrhea depends on the cause

  • Infections
    • Antibiotics
  • Metabolic Disorders
    • Medication adjustments
  • Allergies
    • Avoid what you are allergic to.
  • Other types of bowel inflammation
    • Medical treatment
    • In rare cases, surgery. Read more about inflammatory bowel disease.

If you suspect that the cause of diarrhea may be a side effect of any medication used, take a closer look at www.medicin.dk (Danish site about medicine) or other official homepage on the net.

What can I do? What about the diet?

For shorter periods of time you can use over the counter medication to stop the diarrhea such as Imodium or Imodium Plus.

Fiber Products such as HUSK can reduce diarrhea.

Lactic acid bacteria (for example A38, Cultura and Yogurt) supports the healthy and natural gut bacteria.

Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, very hot/spicy food, fatty food and smoked food can aggravate diarrhea.

It is important that fluid intake and salt intake is large enough to prevent dehydration (drink about a liter more fluid than usual + 1 teaspoon of salt).

See your general practitioner if the diarrhea has lasted longer than a week.

What are the prospects?

Good! The vast majority of cases can be treated effectively with medication. Many cases of diarrhea disappear by themselves.

In rare cases, prolonged therapy is required. Surgery very, very rarely.