What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea refers to digestive issues that results in loose, watery stools and abdominal pain that can vary based on its severity and duration. This condition falls into two categories: acute diarrhea or chronic diarrhea. Acute diarrhea is typically caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses, and will only last for a few days without the aid of medication. Chronic diarrhea is the sign of something more serious, and could relate to an underlying condition like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
How is diarrhea treated?
Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medicines are one of the most effective means of clearing up diarrhea symptoms available. Anti-diarrheal medicines like loperamide (Imodium) work by slowing down peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the bowels that work to expel material from the digestive tract. Conversely, products like Kaopectate/Pepto Bismol that contain bismuth subsalicylate, fight diarrhea by changing the balance of fluid in the intestines. While products like these are extremely effective in eliminating diarrhea symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause of the problem and people should consult their doctors if the problem persists.
In addition to taking OTC anti-diarrheal medicines, there are a number of potential lifestyle changes that can curb the ailment as well. Being properly hydrated is key, as diarrhea can cause dehydration and steady consumption of water will work to alleviate the issue. Additionally, be sure to avoid high-fiber, dairy or fatty foods that can contribute to diarrhea and instead opt for low-fiber, binding foods like crackers, toast, rice, eggs and chicken. Lastly, probiotics have also been found to be helpful in treating diarrhea, and these beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and cheese, provide balance in the digestive system.
Why do I need a prescription for anti-diarrheal medicines?
After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was passed, as of January 1, 2011, a new set of uniform standards were put into place regarding the reimbursement of medical expenses. To reimburse the cost of OTC medicines and drugs under FSAs, HSAs and other consumer spending accounts, account holders must submit a prescription from a physician for each product. This does not apply to the reimbursement of the cost of insulin (insulin is exempt from the rule), but common OTC products like pain relief medications, cold & flu products and more require a prescription for reimbursement.