Ok, time for an embarrassing diarrhea question.
October 25, 2011 10:39 PM   Subscribe

4 days of the runs, I don't have a doctor and this doesn't seem severe enough for the ER. But it hurts so please help!

So heres the deal: I suspect I got food poisoning Friday from a Salvadorian food truck (in LA, not El Salvador..food trucks are typical here) because a couple hours later I felt horribly bloated. Nausea and diarrhea came the next day. I took immodium but it didn't help. By the 2nd night I had a fever, but it broke and I felt better, but the diarrhea continued. I have consumed nothing but soup, applesauce and gatorade/water for 3.5 days. Today I felt normal and decided to celebrate by making myself my favorite meal: wheat pasta with garlic tomato sauce and meatballs and a glass of wine. Big mistake. Ass-burning diarrhea has plagued me for the last 2 hours.
So, do I NEED to see a doctor*? Or have I just not given this thing enough time to run its course?
*I do have a HMO but haven't established a GP for myself and hate to go through all the rigmarole for something that may just need another day or so to pass.
posted by hellameangirl to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had food poisoning from an LA food truck earlier this month, so I feel your pain on that front.

If you really aren't nauseous anymore, you could try some plain yogurt to replenish your gut flora.

Other than that, try to stay hydrated. Maybe some Imodium?
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:51 PM on October 25, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, I'll try yogurt but Imodium hasn't helped much.
How long did your symptoms last? I've had food poisoning before and usually it only lasts 1-2 days.
posted by hellameangirl at 10:58 PM on October 25, 2011

Make up Oral Rehydration Solution (recipe available online), drink several litres of it, and park yourself on the toilet.

Made salty enough, it should literally go in one end, and out the other, pretty rapidly.

Your body is wanting to make sure every last bit of the junk is gone, so let it do it's thing.

And wean yourself slowly back onto normal food, your body will be on high alert, and even the wine & garlic could be reading as 'Danger! Poisons!' to your poor, defenseless intestines.

Poor you. :(

If you were otherwise starting to feel better, just take it a little slower. If you're not getting better, then see a Dr.
posted by Elysum at 11:51 PM on October 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

The general rule of thumb is that if you are still sick after 3 days, there is a risk of dehydration and you should head to the doctor.

If you have really severe food poisoning it can require antibiotics for you to get fully better (assuming that the poisoning is caused by bacteria or a parasite, and not a virus).

Get well soon!
posted by fresh bouquets every day at 12:04 AM on October 26, 2011

Yes to dehydration. Make sure you are drinking enough water.

And yeah dude...check your weight...when you get surprised enough, go to the doctor.

And NO...this is not a way to lose weight and still live.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:17 AM on October 26, 2011

You won't ever hear me advocate against seeking a professional medical opinion when in doubt, but it does sound like you're past the worst of it. If you've been feeling fine all day (relatively speaking, considering the past 72 hours) my guess would be the food poisoning has run its course, and your current difficulties are more a result of stressing your overtaxed intestines. I wouldn't expect your fever to pass and for you to be feeling much better if an infection was taking hold.

Severe upset like that does a serious number on your guts and it can longer than you might expect for everything to get back to normal. The lining can get pretty inflamed and will remain very sensitive for a while. Aggravating it can trigger a very unpleasant reaction. My advice goes along with Elysium's: keep up your intake, both water and energy, and slowly work your way back up to regular meals. Go easy on the spices and don't touch anything like alcohol, carbonated or caffeinated beverages for a few days.

Now that all being said, if the most recent bout of the runs doesn't let up within a few hours and/or you don't notice pronounced improvement over the next 24 hours or so, go see a doctor. Better safe than sorry. If you feel you really do need medical attention, don't ever change your mind based on advice from the internet.
posted by vohk at 1:33 AM on October 26, 2011

The duration of food poisoining depends on both the health of the person affected and the bug which caused it - just to take an example, E Coli makes you ill for longer than Campylobacter.

As said upthread, dehydration is the big worry here if you're feeling generally ok apart from the diarrhoea. Get oral rehydration fluids into you - you absorb the water better with the sugars and salts in it, much better than just plain water. If you have any of the symptoms of severe dehydration listed here, get to the doctor now.

If you've any other symptoms - like blood in your stool, blood in your urine, fever - you should see a doctor now. If you're not getting better in the next day or so get to the doctor. Vohk's advice on not putting off seeing the doctor just because the internet says so is very sound!
posted by Coobeastie at 1:51 AM on October 26, 2011

Good advice above. Cook up some white rice and eat it plain with salt. Eat as much of it as you can, chew it well. And as for the burning in that delicate area buy some baby wipes and use them every time.
posted by mareli at 5:31 AM on October 26, 2011

For the pain, you should pick up some flushable wet wipes. They feel better on your bum at times like these and are more effective in terms of getting things really clean.
posted by Kimberly at 6:15 AM on October 26, 2011

Try the BRATT diet for a while - bananas, (white) rice, applesauce, (white bread) toast and tea. That is a soothing bland diet to help your poor battered intestines get back into normal shape. Then once you stop, er, "running", you can go with the probiotics and whatnot to restore your intestinal flora.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:16 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drink lots of tea with sugar or honey, and salty chicken soup (just don't get the low sodium), and gatorade if you like it. Make some white rice, I'd make it with chicken broth, chicken soup or bouillon, and eat it in small meals.

For the burning butt, I recommend a dab of vaseline.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 AM on October 26, 2011

Nthing everything said above.
For the burning butt - Cortisone cream. I had a particularly nasty surgery once to that area and they prescribed a strong Cortisone cream, it basically strengthened my body to let it heal itself, plus it took down inflammation.
posted by aloiv2 at 8:34 AM on October 26, 2011

This is what urgent care centers are for. You're sick to the point that you should probably see a physician today--as noted, more than three days of intestinal upset, it's time to get professional help--but you're not emergently sick to the point that you should probably see a physician in fifteen minutes. Because urgent care centers simply don't handle emergencies or serious illnesses, they're pretty damned efficient at seeing people with these kind of routine ailments, and at figuring out when what the patient perceives as routine is actually something worse.

But like an ED, you can basically just walk in to one of these places and get yourself seen. You don't need a GP or a referral. Some of them are even open 24 hours. Hit up google maps for your address and search for "urgent care." You'll probably be surprised at how close the nearest clinic is.
posted by valkyryn at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses! I'm not out of the woods yet but still feel fine enough to go about my normal business, and I haven't noticed pronounced weight loss or signs of dehydration.
I'm going to the health food store after work and getting probiotic foods...the BRAT diet has been frustrating. Funny thing, I have a ridiculous aversion to bananas due to when I was sick as a child I had to take banana flavored medicine. Just the smell makes me nauseous.
As for the "pain in the ass", I actually always use baby wipes, and found that aloe vera gel helps with the burn (I had some already for sunburn) but I'll try some cortisone as well.
posted by hellameangirl at 9:04 AM on October 26, 2011

I live in Mexico and occasionally run into trouble. Based on my experience:

- Drink actual rehydration fluids, not just water, starting as soon as the diarrhea hits. Here one brand is Electrolit and it comes premade, in plastic bottles. It's less junky than Gatorade. I read that nausea can be reduced if you start maintaining electrolytes asap and it did seem to shorten the suffering the last time I got sick.

- The post-diarrhea discomfort is likely due to your gut bacteria being out of whack. Rather than probiotic foods like yogurt, I've had better luck with probiotic supplements, which provide a lot more of the good guys. The GNC chain of supplement stores has an "ultra probiotic" supplement that has fixed me up quickly.

- Avoid wheat until your guts are happy again.
posted by ceiba at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2011

I've had food poisoning a few times, and, like it or not, I have a sensitive stomach.

Besides wheat, I read that you also ate applesauce and and tomato sauce. Both are acidic, and are worth avoiding while you recover.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:08 PM on October 26, 2011

You don't have to eat bananas when you have diarrhea, good news for banana haters.

The BRAT diet is unproven. From the CDC MMWR:
"Highly specific diets (e.g., the BRAT [bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast] diet) have been commonly recommended. Although certain benefits might exist from green bananas and pectin in persistent diarrhea (59), the BRAT diet is unnecessarily restrictive and, similar to juice-centered diets, can provide suboptimal nutrition for the patient's nourishment and recovering gut."

If you feel fine aside from the diarrhea, and aren't showing any signs of dehydration or having bloody diarrhea, there probably isn't much your doctor can do for you at this point. Typically we wait a week to treat a presumed infectious non-bloody diarrhea with antibiotics. (IANYD!) Hope you feel better soon.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2011

Desitin or generic zinc oxide cream is best to kill the pain of a sore butt. Millions of babies with diaper rash agree.

I do have a HMO but haven't established a GP for myself and hate to go through all the rigmarole for something that may just need another day or so to pass.

If it doesn't clear up tomorrow, you should probably see the doc. This may actually be the best time to go through "all the rigmarole." Wouldn't it be a royal PITA to try and get established hen you're wiped out with the flu, have a severe pulled muscle, whatever?
posted by BlueHorse at 7:52 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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