Stomach Ailments

Diarrhoea, Nausea and Constipation

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Diarrhoea is ‘loose’, watery stools (bowel movements) that pass three or more times in one day.1
Acute diarrhoea for example due to viral gastroenteritis usually lasts 1 or 2 days. If diarrhoea continues for 4 weeks, this can be a symptom of a more serious or chronic problem.1
Diarrhoea can affect people of all ages.1
Symptoms associated with diarrhoea
Diarrhoea can be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
⦁ Cramps or pain in the abdomen1
⦁ An urgent need to use the bathroom1
⦁ Loss of bowel control1
⦁ Fever, chills, and bloody stools1
⦁ Nausea, vomiting2
⦁ Dehydration
NB: Dehydration can be serious, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

The most important treatment for diarrhoea is replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration;1

  • oral rehydration
  • water, fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, and salty broths1

Other treatments include:

  • soft, bland food1
  • zinc and probiotics3
  • Medicines may be needed to stop the diarrhoea or treat an infection.1


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Constipation is when an individual hasinfrequent (less than three per week), hard and dry, and sometimes painful bowel movements

The stool can be hard and dry and sometimes painful to pass.
To prevent constipation, the diet must be high in fruit, vegetables and grains which are high in fibre. Drinking plenty of fluids is also important as well has getting enough exercise. Medications to help treat constipation are called laxatives.4,5  Over-the-counter laxatives are available to treat occasional constipation in a variety of ways:5
  • Draw water into the colon to allow easier passage of stool
  • Absorb water to form soft, bulky stool, prompting normal contraction of intestinal muscles
  • Stimulate rhythmic contractions of intestinal muscles to eliminate stool

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the best laxative or dietary and lifestyle changes that suit you best.5


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Nausea is the ‘feeling’ of wanting to vomit. Vomiting is when you actually throw up.6
What causes nausea?
  • Pregnancy morning sickness
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Migraine
  • Motion sickness
  • Cancer chemotherapy6
Medicines used to relieve nausea and vomiting, are called antiemetics.6 Several over-the-counter medicines are used as antiemetics:7
Antacids. Can help by coating the stomach lining and neutralising stomach acid.
Antihistamines. May help prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness by blocking a vomiting trigger in the brain.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

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IBS is abdominal pain and discomfort, with constipation or diarrhoea, lasting at least one day a week for three months.8
The main symptoms are pain and discomfort related to passing stool. Some people will have constipation-related symptoms and some will have diarrhoea-related symptoms, or both.8
Treatments focus on correcting any dietary sensitivities and gut flora balance.
Medications can include;

  • Fibre supplements. Taking a supplement such as psyllium with fluids may help control constipation.
  • Laxatives. If fibre doesn’t help constipation symptoms, magnesium hydroxide or other laxatives may be used.
  • Anti-diarrhoeal medications. Loperamide or other anti-diarrhoeals can help control diarrhoea. Bile acid binders, such as cholestyramine can also help.
  • Reducing stress, exercising regularly and simple changes to diet and lifestyle can often provide relief from IBS.8

Gut flora imbalances

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Probiotics have been shown to help in the treatment or prevention of diarrhoea caused by gastroenteritis, use of antibiotics or conditions affecting the bowel function like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.9
Please note: This is educational information only and should not be used for diagnosis. For more information on stomach ailments, consult your healthcare professional.

  1. Medline Plus. Diarrhea [Online; 13 September 2019] Available from: Last accessed January 2020.
  2. Medline Plus. Bacterial gastroenteritis [Online; 6 November 2019] Available from: Last accessed January 2020.
  3. Lin B. Viral Gastroenteritis. Medscape emedicine [Online; 8 January 2018]. Available from: Last accessed January 2020.
  4. Medline Plus. Constipation [Online; 28 January 2020] Available from: Last accessed January 2020.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution. [Online; 6 June 2017] Available from: Last accessed January 2020.
  6. Medline Plus. Nausea and Vomiting [Online; 7 February 2019]. Available at: Last accessed January 2020.
  7. com. Nausea [Online; 10 June 2019]. Available at:  Last accessed January 2020.
  8. Mayo Clinic. Irritable bowel syndrome [Online]. Available at: Last accessed January 2020.
  9. Vieira AT, Teixeira MM and Martins FS. The role of probiotics and prebiotics in inducing gut immunity. Front Immunol 2013;4:445. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00445.

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