d. Adjust your diet to avoid constipation and straining to move the bowels.
Include such foods as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and six glasses of water in
your daily diet to keep your system regular.
Section III. DISEASES/DISORDERS OF THE LOWER GASTROINTESTINAL
Organs of the lower gastrointestinal system are concerned with absorption and
excretion of waste. The small intestine absorbs nutrients. The large intestine absorbs
water and eliminates solid waste. Disease in this part of the gastrointestinal system can
disrupt the digestive process.
a. Definition. Diarrhea may be defined as the passage of several semisolid or
unformed stools in rapid succession. A more common definition of diarrhea is loose,
watery stools, usually occurring frequently. The passage of a single, loose stool does
not constitute diarrhea. In determining whether a person has diarrhea, the consistency
of stools is considered rather than the frequency of stools.
b. Etiology. Diarrhea may be caused by many factors. The basic cause of
diarrhea is an increase in peristalsis, wavelike movements which propel the products of
digestion rapidly through the gastrointestinal tract. If the contents move too rapidly, a
smaller amount of water from the contents is absorbed into the large intestine, and the
stool becomes either soft or liquid. The gastric contents have not stayed in the large
intestine long enough to have sufficient water absorbed into the intestinal wall. A
person who overuses laxatives may have diarrhea. Intestinal infections such as
diverticulitis infection by staphylococcus bacilli, salmonella bacilli, viral enteritis, and
cholera all can cause diarrhea. Some antibiotics such as tetracycline may cause
diarrhea. Some individuals may have intolerance for certain foods. Particular foods
may cause malabsorption (impaired intestinal absorption of nutrients); stimulus (the
food stimulates the digestive system to hyperactivity), or sudden peristalsis (the food
causes gastric contents to moved along too rapidly). There are three major problems
that may occur with severe and/or prolonged diarrhea: electrolyte imbalances,
dehydration, and vitamin deficiencies. Diarrhea due to a disease causing malabsorption
may result in a nutritional deficiency.
c. Symptoms. Included are the following:
Several watery stools which may be foul smelling.
Abdominal pain or cramping.
Tenesmus--painful, ineffectual straining to defecate.