Doctor Shares Maths Trick That Can Reveal What Caused Your Diarrhoea

*Suppresses 'number two' joke*
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There’s nothing grimmer than a dose of diarrhoea.

Aside from being gross, inconvenient and mightily uncomfortable, the condition is also potentially pretty dangerous – which makes finding the source of the squits an urgent (sorry) task.

It can be tricky to figure out where, exactly, your sore stomach comes from. But – hard as it may seem to believe – there’s a formula you can use to tell what’s likely causing your stools to be on the loose side.

Zoe, a nutrition specialist site, recently released a podcast with Dr Will Bulsiewicz – a doctor specialising in gut health – on the topic, sharing the surprising formula with listeners.

So, we thought we’d share the miserable maths with you. Here’s what we found:

The number of toilet trips matters

Traumatic toilet trips might feel like they go on forever. But, though you’re likely not feeling up to much maths, Dr Bulsiewicz says it’s important to track the number of times you rush to the loo when you’ve got the runs.

The doctor shared that “if you have just one or two loose bowel movements, that honestly is probably something that you ate”.

This means that minor upset tummies are likely due to some food, and may not be as harmful. In the episode, Dr Bulsiewicz stresses that spicy, fatty and dairy-rich foods can be especially upsetting to the stomach.

However, if the situation is more dire, the doctor suggests it could be due to an infection.

“If you have three bouts of diarrhoea within a 24-hour period, that’s when I start to really consider the possibility this could be an infection,” he said. “And the term for this that we use is gastroenteritis, which means infection of the stomach and intestines.”

This happens because the disease redirects water from the small intestine to the colon, where various excreta (basically, urine and poo) reside.

Infections tend to be a little more worrying than an upset stomach from some food you disagree with, so make sure you check in with your doctor if you’re worried.

Any other signs of infection?

Yep – and they’re just as fun to hear about as the digestive algebra we mentioned above.

Signs that your bathroom woes are worth a trip to the GP include:

  • Vomiting,
  • Nausea,
  • Losing your appetite,
  • Losing weight,
  • Showing signs of dehydration,
  • Experiencing pain,
  • Spotting blood in your stool,
  • Getting up in the middle of the night because of diarrhoea.

What should I do if I’m concerned?

In the case of diarrhoea, the NHS recommends drinking plenty of fluid, staying at home, resting, eating when you can, and taking paracetamol for discomfort.

If you spot the signs of dehydration, can’t keep fluid down, have experienced diarrhoea for more than a week, or are dealing with a very young baby or old person who has it, you should call 111.

And if you vomit blood or a ground coffee-like substance, if you have green vomit or if a child has yellow-green vomit, it you suspect poison, and/or have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights or a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache, call 999 immediately or go to A&E.