Factors that cause diarrhoea
Diarrhoea (frequent loose watery output) can be caused by several factors, including illness, stress, diet and some medications. If you develop diarrhoea you think may be caused by illness, a tummy upset or food poisoning - or if it is very severe or persists for more than two days - it is important to seek medical advice from your GP. Some type 2 diabetics who take metformin may find that this medication causes diarrhoea; if this becomes a problem inform your GP or diabetic nurse. Some antibiotics can also cause diarrhoea.
Stress and diarrhoea
Some individuals find that stress, especially if it is severe and ongoing, causes major problems with diarrhoea and pain. Medication may be suggested to slow down the bowel to alleviate these symptoms. Stress management and relaxation techniques may also be helpful in managing stress and in minimising bowel effects.
Diet and diarrhoea
If you think the diarrhoea is due to a change of food, water or daily routine, some of the following tips may help:
- Reduce the amount of high fibre foods in your diet e.g. beans and lentils, fruit and green vegetables
- Increase plain starchy foods such as rice, pasta, white bread, porridge and bananas
- Avoid very fatty or spicy foods, particularly those containing chilli powder
- Keep coffee (and any other caffeinated drinks), fruit juices and alcohol to a minimum as these can increase output
- Alcohol is also very dehydrating so avoid if you have diarrhoea
- You can also try eating starchy marshmallows or jelly babies (approx 200g) as the gelatine in them can help slow the bowel. Avoid sugar free varieties though as the artificial sweetener can have a laxative effect.
Remember to drink plenty of fluids even if your appetite is poor. This is particularly important if you have an ileostomy, in which case it is also important to avoid drinking large volumes of plain water as this can lead to more problems. Instead, drink a range of fluids such as squash and electrolyte drinks. You may also need to increase the intake of salt in your diet to prevent dehydration. If you are unable to tolerate meals try taking salt in the form of meat extract drinks such as Oxo or Bovril and eat dry savoury crackers. In emergencies, crisps and a bottle of Lucozade can be used. If increasing your fluid intake further increases your stoma output seek medical advice.
If you experience an abnormal change in output consistency or volume, you should contact your Stoma Care Nurse or GP for medical advice. However, if you are experiencing a normally high volume of liquid output you may wish to try a motion management sachet such as Morform, which can thicken your pouch contents into a more manageable consistency.