Diarrhea is a common problem. It is characterized by stools of liquid or soft consistency, larger and more numerous than usual (more than 3 stools per day).
But what are its causes and complications?
Diarrhea: what is it?
This is not a disease, but a symptom of colitis. Its most common cause is the ingestion of contaminated water or food. It lasts 1 or 2 days, then disappears without requiring treatment.
Throughout its duration, it is necessary to hydrate well, because the body can lose a lot of water and mineral salts through the stool.
This measure is particularly important for children and the elderly, for whom dehydration can have more serious consequences. Indeed, after only 1 or 2 days of diarrhea, young children can be very severely dehydrated.
In industrialized countries, it is very rare for diarrhea to cause death. Nevertheless, in underdeveloped countries, it is the second leading cause of death among children under 51.
What is digestion?
Digestion is a biological process in which food is broken down and transformed into nutrients .
Digestion begins in the mouth, where food is crushed and mixed with saliva, then continues in the stomach, which secretes acidic digestive juices and continues to grind food for a few hours.
Upon exiting the stomach, predigested food (called chyme) continues to be broken down in the small intestine by digestive juices from the pancreas and gallbladder. Transformed into nutrients, they can then cross the semi-permeable membrane of the intestine and be absorbed by the blood and the lymph. From there, they can circulate in the body and be used according to the needs of the organism. What hasn’t been absorbed is turned into fecal matter in the colon.
An adult drinks about 2 liters of liquid per day. Its digestive system receives an additional 7 to 8 liters (saliva, digestive juices, bile, etc.). Thus, a total of 9 to 10 liters of fluid passes through the intestines daily.
Most of the water present in feces is extracted during passage through the intestines. The body absorbs or “recycles” about 99% of the water that passes through the digestive system. This system is finely tuned: all it takes is for this absorption rate to drop by 1% (due to infection, bowel disease, etc.) to trigger diarrhea.