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Avoiding Dehydration

Diarrhea From IBD Can Lead To This Potentially Serious Condition


Updated July 09, 2014

The extended periods of diarrhea, vomiting, or both, that can occur with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may lead to dehydration. Dehydration can often be treated at home, but it can become serious if left untreated.

The symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Cramps in the abdomen or leg.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Decreased tears.
  • Decreased urine output.
  • Dry skin.
  • Dry or sticky mouth.
  • Excessive loss of fluid through vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating.
  • Fatigue.
  • Less frequent urination.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Thirst.

Preventing dehydration can, at times, seem like an uphill battle. The best way to keep hydrated is to drink at least 64 ounces (about 2 liters) of water every day. Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, and soda pop, as well as alcoholic drinks, should not be added into this daily total. In fact, caffeine and alcohol can actually contribute to dehydration.

Dehydration includes not only the loss of water from the body, but also the loss of electrolytes. Sports drinks can be very effective in replacing lost sodium and electrolytes quickly. To avoid nausea and to get the best results, all fluids should be sipped slowly. Drinking too quickly could lead to discomfort or vomiting.

If a dehydrated person has very severe pain or a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or above, a doctor should be contacted immediately. It may be necessary for a severely dehydrated person to receive fluids intravenously (injected into a vein) in a hospital emergency department.

Loss of fluids is a special problem for people who have ileostomies. One of the main functions of the large intestine (colon) is to absorb water. The small intestine does learn to absorb water to some extent, but it is still important to drink plenty of water if you have had surgery to remove all or part of your colon.

The best way to avoid dehydration is to keep up with your daily health-care regimen and to use some common sense.

  • Don't spend long periods in the sun without drinking plenty of water.
  • Don't wait until you're thirsty to start drinking -- thirst is a sign of dehydration.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
  • If diarrhea continues for three or more days, call a doctor.
  • Sip water constantly throughout the day.
  • When flying, drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages.


Vorvick LJ. "Dehydration." A.D.A.M., Inc 15 Aug 2011. 11 Sept 2013.

Iowa State University Extension. "Fluids." Iowa State University 12 Jan 2006. 2 Aug 2013.

Suggested Reading From IBD/Crohn's Disease

Amber J. Tresca
About.com Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

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