Vomiting is the forcible voluntary or involuntary emptying (throwing up) of stomach contents through the mouth. Vomiting is not a disease but a symptom of many conditions such as motion sickness, emotional stress, overeating, reaction to certain smells and odours, food poisoning, and infections.
The most common cause of vomiting is gastroenteritis. This is an infection of the gut usually caused by virus or bacteria. Prolonged and excessive vomiting can dehydrate the body and may alter the electrolyte balance. Repeated or excessive vomiting may cause injury to the oesophagus or may corrode the oesophageal mucosa (inner lining of oesophagus).
In such a case, fresh blood may be seen in the vomit. However, in most cases vomiting does not last for more than one or two days and is not very serious.
A person who is vomiting should be given lot of fluids. ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) may be given frequently. ORS is a special powder which contains sugar and salts in specific amounts. Person who is vomiting should sip this fluid at regular intervals. A home made sugar solution with a pinch of salt can substitute for ORS.
Vomiting should not be taken very lightly. Persistent vomiting can sometime be due to a severe infection. A doctor must definitely be consulted if vomiting continues for more than a day.
Passing loose stool or liquid stool three or more times in a day is termed Diarrhoea. It is usually a symptom of gastrointestinal infection which can be caused by bacteria, virus or a parasitic protozoan. It begins as an irritation in the colon wall, then peristalsis increases and absorption of water by the colon becomes very slow.
Infection is spread through contaminated food or by drinking contaminated water or from person to person because of poor hygiene. Rotavirus and Escherichia coli (colon bacteria) are two most common causative agents of diarrhoea in developing countries. Severe diarrhoea leads to fluid and electrolyte imbalance particularly in children and people who are malnourished and have impaired immunity.
The most serious threat posed by diarrhoea is dehydration. Water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate) are lost through liquid stools, vomiting, sweat, urine and with breathing. If these are not replaced then the person suffers from dehydration and if proper treatment is not given then the person may even die because of severe dehydration and fluid loss.
A person suffering from diarrhoea should be given ORS at regular intervals and doctor should be consulted if diarrhoea persists for more than a day or two. In order to prevent diarrhoea one should always observe good personal hygiene and prevent food from contamination.
Constipation is a term which is used when bowel movement becomes difficult or less frequent. The faeces become excessively dry and hard. This happens when the undigested food passes slowly through the colon and large amount of water is absorbed in the large intestine.
It is basically a disorder of the bowel function caused mainly due to inadequate fibre in the diet, irregular diet, inadequate activity or exercise, and stress or due to resisting the urge to have a bowel movement. Medicines (especially strong pain killers, antidepressants), or hypothyroidism may also be a cause of constipation.
One can easily prevent constipation by eating a well balanced diet with plenty of fibre, drinking lot of water or fluids, regular exercises and passing stool whenever one feels the urge.
Indigestion, also called dyspepsia is another name for an upset stomach. Indigestion is a feeling of discomfort in the upper abdomen during or immediately after eating (commonly called stomach ache). There is a recurrent pain and burning sensation in the upper abdomen.
Indigestion may be triggered by overeating, eating spicy, greasy or fatty foods, emotional stress, consuming too much of high fibre foods, caffeine or tobacco and smoking or drinking too much of alcohol.
Frequent consumption of medicines like antibiotics and pain killers, stomach or intestinal ulcers, and gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining and gall stones) are some other causes of indigestion.
Indigestion is common in all age groups and is not a sign of serious health problem unless there are other accompanying symptoms like an unexplained weight loss or severe abdominal pain.
In jaundice, there is a yellow discoloration of the skin and the eyes due to a high level of bilirubin (bile pigment) in the blood. This happens when not much of it gets excreted. The high levels of bilirubin may be because of inflammation or other abnormalities of the liver cells, or blockage of the bile ducts.
Sometimes jaundice is caused by the breakdown of a large number of red blood cells, which can occur in newborn babies. Jaundice is usually the first sign, and sometimes the only sign, of liver disease. Jaundice may also be caused by viral infection transmitted through infected water.
Jaundice is related to the function of the liver so it is necessary to keep the liver healthy by eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercises.