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Health Care Assistant (HCA) - Kelowna - 2024

This LibGuide is designed to introduce HCA students to the OC Library resources and services.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Virtually every Canadian has experienced both constipation and diarrhea in their lifetime.

Indication of constipation include:

  1. Three or less bowel movements per week

  2. Difficult bowel movements (Straining)

  3. Hard Stools

  4. Incomplete evacuation

  5. Manual maneuvers to assist with the bowel movement 

  6. Constipation is common for patients with diets low in fibre and who may be on fluid restrictions (kidney and heart).

Diarrhea is when a patients stools are loose and watery. The patient may have to go to the bathroom multiple times a day. Diarrhia is a common condition. It typically lasts 1 or 2 days and goes away on its own.

Diarrhea can either be:

  1. Short-term (acute) last 1 - 2 days

  2. Long-Term (chronic) lasts several weeks

Causes of Diarrhea can include:

  1. bacterial infection

  2. viral infection

  3. food intolerance or food allergy (celiac disease, gluten allergy)

  4. parasites that enter the body through food or water

  5. reaction to medicines especially antibiotics and anti-rejection medications

  6. intestinal disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease

  7. irritable bowel syndrome

  8. surgery of the stomach or gall bladder

  9. metabolic conditions such as thyroid problems

  10. cancer treatment especially radiation treatment and tumors that produce too many hormones.

Dehydration can be a serious side effects of diarrhea, especially for patients who are frail or have underlying health conditions.  

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term used to describe chronic long-standing inflammation of the tissues in a patients digestive tract, This includes Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease.  Both of these diseases are characterized by diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon).  IBS is a group of symptoms that occur together, not a disease. It usually causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. 

C. difficile [Clostridioides difficile (klos-TRID-e-oi-deez dif-uh-SEEL)] is a bacterium that causes an infection of the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. Symptoms can range from diarrhea to life-threatening damage to the colon. It mostly affects older adults in hospital or in long-term care settings. It usually occurs after antibiotic therapy.

Food safety is always an important undertaking when working with patients. 

A healthy diet should include consuming a variety of vegetables and fruits. The food supply in Canada is among the safest in the world, however, food borne illness can be a serious health threat. Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites (foodborne pathogens) can make some people seriously ill and in the most extreme of situation can lead to death. .

Annually in Canada 1 in 8 people (4 million people) become ill from consuming contaminated food.

The danger increases when consuming raw food in the form of fresh vegetables and fruits, it is important to handle and prepare produce in a safe manner to help prevent it being contaminated with harmful microorganisms. This is especially important when handling and preparing imported produce.

Extra diligence must be practiced when working with patients who may be immune compromised.  Food safety is major issue for patients who have had organ transplants and take anti-rejection medicines, suffer from diseases that compromise their immune system (i.e., HIV/AIDS), or have undergone cancer treatment. For example, kidney transplant patients must adhere to the following nutrition and food safety guidelines.  

Food borne illness is on the rise. For example, Cyclospora Infections (Cyclosporiasis) caused by a parasite found in the tropics can cause a diarrheal illness. The BC Centre For Disease Control (BCCDC) in July 31, 2023 reported a total of 43 cases were reported in BC; with nine cases traced to people who did not travel outside of Canada and the United States. The source was suspected to be imported produce contaminated with Cyclosporiasis. 


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