Diarrhoea is not welcomed by cyclists, however it is often seen in the pro peloton. The 2008 Tour of California lost a large number of riders as it swept through the teams. It is usually caused by bacterial invasion, such as through food poisoning, and when severe, calls for hospital treatment. This propulsion of faecal matter by the body is a natural protection mechanism after having detected foreign invaders. For this reason (only when symptoms are mild), it is not desirable to take anti-diarrhoeal medication as it encourages the body to hold on to bacteria/ toxins, and often leads back to constipation. A natural alternative is carob powder, which has an astringent effect on the intestinal tract’s membranes. Mild bouts are often helped by drinking antispasmodic herbal teas such as camomile and peppermint. Warm water infused with ginger and cinnamon and sweetened with honey has an antibacterial effect on the gut. Though if dehydration threatens, rehydration salts (potassium, sodium and sugar) may be required. To help prevent holiday diarrhoea (and if your friends and family can bear it), include a couple of garlic cloves in evening meals for a couple of weeks before you leave. Malabsorption is the key concern with diarrhoea. Having skipped the action of osmosis, nutrients are prematurely expelled from the body. If vitamin A and zinc are flushed out, your ability to fight bacteria is suppressed, which can lead to gut infections. A good multivitamin/ mineral supplement can assist here. Consuming probiotics containing lactobacillus is a quick and effective way to restore healthy gut flora as it neutralises bacteria. Live soy yogurt can be a favourable alternative to milk varieties. During massage, excellent essential oils for diarrhoea include camomile, sandalwood and thyme.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects the whole digestive system. Its intermittent symptoms commonly alternate between constipation and diarrhoea, with bloating, cramping and flatulence. Anxiety and food allergies exacerbate symptoms, and a diet of grilled fish and lightly cooked vegetables help to calm the bowel. Many find that taking peppermint oil tincture brings great relief, as it is antispasmodic and carminative, as is slippery elm. If the stomach is not too sore to the touch, gently massage with a blend of true melissa or rose otto, with camomile and lavender essential oil. IBD (irritable or inflammatory bowel disease) is more complex than IBS. It comes in many forms, with varying severities of constipation and diarrhoea, affecting the old and young. The name also covers Crohn’s Disease, usually affecting the small intestines, and ulcerative colitis which favours the colon. This condition can also cause weight loss, fever, passing blood and incontinence. Therefore, due to the risks of anaemia and peritonitis, it is vital to care for what goes into the body. High sugar intake and low-fibre diets are usually the main culprits, though simply overeating can also exacerbate symptoms. Saturated fat-filled junk foods (of which there are far too many to list) must be avoided completely.
If experiencing symptoms, despite a healthy diet and lifestyle, you may be suffering from digestive enzyme deficiency, something that a qualified nutritionist can test for. The daily stress many of us experience has a direct effect on how the bowel works—it suppresses digestion. See a stress management practitioner to draw up a personalised program if afflicted. Many call on a course of reflexology to bring the body back to a state of homeostasis. Reflexes on the feet that correspond to the digestive organs are manipulated by the therapist. For example, as well as the stomach and colon reflexes, the pancreas, liver and gall bladder reflexes are also stimulated to work synergistically and aid digestion. Remember to aim for effective digestion, absorption and elimination. If any of the three are malfunctioning, so too will your overall health be.