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How to Stop Chronic Diarrhea in Elderly Adults

Diarrhea can be quite irksome, especially for older adults. When it comes to chronic diarrhea, you can also experience other debilitating symptoms, such as fever and nausea. However, there are things you can keep in mind to prevent and treat it. In this post, we will take a look at the symptoms and causes of frequent diarrhea in the elderly and what to do for diarrhea in the elderly.

Symptoms of Diarrhea in the Elderly

The symptoms of chronic diarrhea in the elderly include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Blood and mucus in the stool
  • Loose, watery stools
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement

One serious symptom of prolonged diarrhea in the elderly is dehydration, which can be dangerous if the individual does not receive medical attention or rehydrates. These side effects include:

  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness/shakiness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

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Causes of Diarrhea in the Elderly

The causes of frequent diarrhea in the elderly include:

  • Appendicitis
  • Food poisoning/traveler’s diarrhea
  • Clostridium difficile bacteria (usually caused by antibiotics or stomach-suppressing medications)
  • Bowel disorders
  • Bowel Obstruction/fecal impaction (hardened stool lodged in the colon; develops in people with severe constipation)
  • Celiac disease (when eating gluten damages your small intestine)
  • Colon cancer (cancer in the large intestine)
  • Crohn disease (inflammation of digestive tract)
  • Diverticulitis (inflammation of outpouchings of the colon)
  • Gastric bypass surgery (eating more than you should after this surgery)
  • Ischemic colitis (causes colon injury from decreased or interrupted blood supply)
  • Lactose intolerance (a digestive disorder causing an inability to digest lactose)
  • Radiation enteritis (irritation of the intestines after radiation therapy for cancer)
  • Ulcerative colitis (inflammation/ulcers in the digestive tract)
  • Carcinoid tumors
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pelvic abscess

Now that we know more about the symptoms and causes, let’s take a closer look at how to stop chronic diarrhea in the elderly.

Treatment for Chronic Diarrhea in Elderly

You can prevent diarrhea by practicing the following:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Manage related conditions, such as IBD
  • Take anti-diarrheal medications, or switch out medications that may cause your diarrhea
  • Stay hydrated (water; non-caffeinated teas; low sodium broths)
  • Make changes to your diet (see the next section for more information)
  • Try natural remedies (i.e. fiber supplements)
  • When traveling to developing countries, take the following precautions:
    • Drink only bottled water
    • Avoid ice made from tap water
    • Avoid food from street vendors
    • Avoid raw or undercooked meat or seafood
    • Avoid unpeeled or uncooked fruits and vegetables

Best Foods for Diarrhea in the Elderly

Practicing portion control and limiting alcohol or caffeine can have wonderful benefits for preventing diarrhea. However, you still need food and beverages to keep healthy and it may be difficult to choose the proper diet. Here are some foods to prevent diarrhea after eating in the elderly:

BRAT foods can alleviate diarrheal symptoms

  • Bananas
  • Rice (white)
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

Other bland foods you can eat include:

  • Boiled potatoes
  • Hot cereals (i.e. oatmeal, cream of wheat)
  • Unseasoned crackers
  • Probiotics (i.e. yogurt, miso, or sauerkraut)
  • Water (especially those with electrolytes and minerals to restore the ones you lost)

By all means, you should AVOID these foods:

  • Fried foods
  • High-fiber foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugary foods and artificial sweeteners
  • Caffeinated beverages and carbonated drinks