When the actions of the bowel are too frequent, the amount of material large, loose, frequently foamy and full of mucus, the condition is diarrhea. Abdominal discomfort and pain at the end of the bowel are often associated with severe diarrhea. Dr. William Dock points out that constipation is the predominant digestive order of the city dwellers in the temperate zone, and diarrhea is common among primitive peoples in tropical areas and in men living under military conditions. In our Army the condition has been called “the G.I. trots.”
Infections with dysentery germs, ameba and staphylococci bring on diarrhea. In cities with good sanitation diarrhea is most often due to abuse of cathartics, irritant foods, nervous or emotional disturbances, fevers and infections, or just plain fatigue. Diarrhea is more frequent in hot than in cold weather.
In making his investigation the doctor will want to know first whether or not diarrhea is regular, frequent, related to certain foods, or other habitual activities. Most acute diarrheas clear up if you do without food for a day or two, taking simply hot tea or water. Well-cooked rice, applesauce or even meat may be taken when twelve hours have passed without any loose movement. Milk, fruit juices, and soft eggs should not be given until recovery is complete.
In the laboratory, examination may always be made of the waste material; from it a great deal of information may be gained as to the cause of the diarrhea. In severe chronic conditions the doctor may find it necessary to examine the bowel from below directly with the proctoscope, and also study by the X-ray.