What is Diarrhea / Dysentery / Food Poisoning

I. Diarrhea

  • Diarrhea is generally defined as passage of large, frequent (4 – 8 episodes generally) and loose (watery) stools. However, some people may have more than 3 bowel motions in a day with loose consistency normally. Therefore, a change from normal pattern is more important.
  • It is usually caused by inflammation (irritation/soreness) of large bowel where most of water is absorbed from digested food.
  • Infection is the most common cause (especially in tropics) though non-infective causes are also prevalent.
  • Diarrhea usually lasts two to three days and then resolves on its own. However, sometimes it can get prolonged and may give rise to other problems.

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II. Dysentery

  • In simple terms it is diarrhea with stool containing blood with/without mucus (thick, whitish sticky material). Infection by Shigella bacteria is most common cause and it frequently occurs in epidemic form (i.e. a large number of individuals get affected at the same time from a common source like water).

III. Food poisoning

  • It occurs due to food contaminated by germs.
  • Food items that are commonly associated with food poisoning are raw or undercooked foods from animal sources e.g. meat, milk, eggs, cheese and fish.
  • Vegetables can also get contaminated during processing by unhygienic handlers (people who act as carrier of the germs).
  • Symptoms range from abdominal discomfort in mild cases to bloody diarrhea, dehydration and even death in serious cases.