Your doctor will ask about your medical history, review the medications you are taking, perform a physical exam, and may order tests to determine the cause of your diarrhea. Possible tests are:
- blood test.A complete blood count, electrolyte measurements, and tests of kidney function can provide information on the severity of the diarrhea.
- stool test.Your doctor may recommend a stool test to see if bacteria or parasites are causing your diarrhea.
- Hydrogen breath test.Such tests can help determine if you are lactose intolerant. After drinking lactose-rich fluids, the amount of hydrogen in your breath will be measured periodically. Breathing out too much hydrogen is a sign that you're not fully digesting and absorbing lactose.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.A thin, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum so the doctor can see inside the colon. The device also comes with a tool that allows the doctor to remove a small sample of tissue from your colon, called a biopsy. A flexible sigmoidoscopy allows the lower colon to be seen, while a colonoscopy allows the doctor to see the entire colon.
- Aubrey Endoscopy.The doctor uses a long, thin tube with a camera on the end to examine your stomach and upper small intestine. You may collect tissue samples for analysis in a laboratory.
Most cases of acute diarrhea resolve on their own within a few days without treatment. If you've tried lifestyle changes and home remedies for diarrhea without success, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatments.
antibiotics or antiparasitics
Antibiotics or antiparasitic medicines can help treat diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. Antibiotics won't help if a virus is causing diarrhea.
Your doctor may recommend fluid and salt changes. For most adults, this means drinking water, juice, or broth that contains electrolytes. Your doctor may recommend it if drinking liquids causes stomach upset or vomitingnumber fourliquid.
Water is a good substitute for fluids, but it lacks the salts and electrolytes (minerals like sodium and potassium) necessary for the body to function. You can help maintain electrolyte levels by drinking juice for potassium or soup for a sodium boost. However, certain fruit juices, such as apple juice, may make diarrhea worse.
In children, ask your doctor about using an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte to prevent dehydration or replace lost fluids.
adjust the medicines you are taking
If your doctor finds that an antibiotic is causing your diarrhea, they may lower your dose or switch you to another medicine.
Treat underlying diseases
If your diarrhea is caused by a more serious condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor will work to manage that condition. You may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, who can help you develop a treatment plan.
request an appointment
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Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Diarrhea usually goes away quickly without treatment. To control symptoms until the diarrhea goes away, try the following:
- Drink more waterIncludes water, broth, and juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Gradually add semi-solid and low-fiber foodsWhen your bowel movements return to normal. Try lemonade biscuits, toast, eggs, rice or chicken.
- avoid certain foodsSuch as dairy products, fatty foods, high-fiber foods, or spicy foods for a few days.
Ask about antidiarrheal medications.Over-the-counter diarrhea medications, such as loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate, can help reduce the frequency of watery stools and control severe symptoms.
These medicines may make certain diseases and infections (bacteria and parasites) worse because they prevent your body from eliminating the cause of your diarrhea. Some of these medicines are not recommended for children. Talk to your doctor before taking these medicines or giving them to a child.
- Consider taking probiotics.These microbes can help restore a healthy balance in the gut by increasing the population of good bacteria. However, it's unclear whether they can help shorten episodes of diarrhea. Probiotics are available in capsule or liquid form and are also added to some foods, such as some brands of yogurt. More research is needed to better understand which bacterial strains are most helpful or what dosage is needed.
Get ready for your appointment
You can start by seeing a member of your primary care team. If you have persistent diarrhea, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system, known as a gastroenterologist.
Here is some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
what can you do
When making an appointment, please ask ahead of time if you need to do anything such as B. Fasting before certain tests. List the following:
- your symptoms,Include the start as well as any events that may not be related to the reason for your appointment.
- important personal information,Include major stressors, recent life changes or travel.
- drug,Vitamins or supplements you are taking, including dosage. If you have recently taken an antibiotic, write down the type of antibiotic, when you took it, and when you stopped it.
- question to askyour doctor.
When you have diarrhea, here are some basic questions to ask:
- What could be the cause of my diarrhea?
- Could my diarrhea be caused by a medication I am taking?
- What tests do I need?
- Could my diarrhea be temporary or chronic?
- What is the best practice?
- What are the alternatives to the main method you propose?
- I have other health issues. What's the best way to control diarrhea?
- Are there any limitations I should be aware of?
- Can I take medicines such as loperamide to relieve diarrhea?
- Should I see a specialist?
Feel free to ask more questions.
what to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask you questions, including:
- When did your symptoms start?
- Are your symptoms constant or intermittent?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to be making your symptoms worse?
- Is your diarrhea waking you up at night?
- Do you see blood or have black stools?
- Have you been around someone with diarrhea recently?
- Have you been to a hospital or nursing home recently?
- Have you recently taken antibiotics?
what you can do during this time
While waiting for your appointment, you can help relieve symptoms by:
- Drink plenty of fluids.To prevent dehydration, drink water, juice, and broth.
- Avoid foods that make diarrhea worse.Avoid fatty, high-fiber, or spicy foods.
Mayo Clinic staff
August 22, 2023