Diarrhea occurs when the digestive system is not functioning properly, resulting in frequent loose or liquid bowel movements. Diarrhea can be mild, acute or chronic. The main causes of diarrhea are viral infections but it can also be due to food poisoning, caffeine and excessive alcohol consumption. Some of the common symptoms of diarrhea are abdominal pain, slight fever, and pus or mucus in the stool. In most cases diarrhea will go away on its own within a few days.
How to Get Rid of Diarrhea by Dieting
Control diarrhea through your diet. Limit yourself to saltine crackers and natural probiotic yogurts during the first 24 hours of diarrhea, when it is at its most active stage. You want your diet to be bland but nutritious, easy to keep down.
- Add plain toast, baked potatoes, rice, pasta, eggs, cooked cereal and bananas to your diet as the frequency and volume of the diarrhea decreases. Continue to drink plenty of clear liquids.
- Start eating fish, chicken and applesauce, in addition to the above-mentioned foods, once your stool begins to retain its normal shape and consistency.
Drink water and other fluids that help restore essential vitamins and minerals lost through diarrhea. When you have diarrhea, your body sheds fluids that contain things like sugar, salt, and potassium. Getting those minerals back in fluids, especially water and sports drinks, becomes important.
- Combatting dehydration is your primary medical concern with diarrhea. If you are vomiting in addition to having diarrhea, be sure to take frequent, small sips of liquid instead of drinking lots of liquid at a time.
- Caffeine-free liquids are best. Caffeine is a mild diuretic, meaning that it can have a dehydrating effect. If suffering from diarrhea, stick to liquids that don’t have the possibility of dehydrating you even more.
Eat just a bit to ease your stomach upset. Sometimes, when you’re nauseated, the last thing you want to do is even smell food. Don’t listen to that voice in your head and try eating something light and easy to digest; it will help settle your stomach, is gentle on your tummy, and can make you feel better. You know how pregnant women are told to eat saltines? It eases their nausea. This is the same (without the looming labor woes).
- Eat some salty crackers, sugar cookies or animal cookies to ease the pain. Plain cookies (not jazzed up with any intense flavor) may make your stomach feel better. If you are gluten intolerant, try rice.
Follow the BRATTY diet. If the pain is sticking around for a few days, keep to a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, tea, and yogurt. These foods help bulk up the intestines and have a slightly constipating effect.
- The rice and toast should both be wheat–it has a greater dietary fiber content than the white version of each. Neither butter nor jam should be added; these may actually worsen diarrhea.
- Applesauce contains pectin, which helps to firm up stool. Apple juice contains little to no pectin and could actually make it worse. Stick to the sauce.
- Avoid yogurts that are high in sugar. Excess sucrose can aggravate the situation as well. Look for yogurts with active cultures.
Avoid milk and dairy products. This is especially important if you are even mildly lactose-intolerant. When you have diarrhea, everything moves quicker: The lactose goes through your digestive system on turbo power and barely has time to get absorbed.
- Undigested lactose can make diarrhea worse. Your suffering will increase, in the form of an aching tummy, a bloated stomach, and distention of the bowels. Yogurt seems to be the lone exception here, unless you normally don’t tolerate it well.
Know what not to eat. Knowing what not to eat can be just as important as knowing what to eat. Here’s an informal list of the things that you should probably avoid ingesting while your body tries to fight off diarrhea:
- Gum with sorbitol. Sorbitol is a laxative.
- Spicy foods, fruits, and alcohol until at least 48 hours after diarrhea has subsided.
Home Remedies for Diarrhea
Get extra sleep to help your body get healthy. Not so much a remedy as a common sense treatment supplement, sleep is very necessary when it comes to curing diarrhea. Since diarrhea is a symptom, it is a good indicator that your body is trying to fight off a problem. Fighting a health condition requires your body to focus all of its resources.
Stay still to reduce nausea. In the same sense that mothers would shake babies to induce vomiting (let’s hope they don’t do that anymore), staying still may make you feel better.
- Feeling like you’re not on a roller coaster is best for your upset stomach. If you can lay down, do so. And if you can fall asleep, even better. Generally, food moves more slowly through your system when you’re asleep.
Drink chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is good for cases of diarrhea because it is rumored to help treat intestinal inflammation and relax the colon. Drink up to 3 cups a day, sipping in small quantities to help your body absorb the liquid.
- Black tea, which contains tannins, may also be effective against diarrhea. Tannins are supposed to help fluid retention.
Try some mucilaginous herbs. A horrible-sounding name for a beneficial group of herbs. (Don’t let the name scare you off.) Mucilaginous herbs may help soothe the digestive tract and help expel bacteria that is causing the diarrhea. Always consume mucilaginous herbs with plenty of water. Mucilaginous herbs include:
- Slippery elm
Get some blueberries in your tummy. Blueberries, like darker teas, contain tannings, which are supposed to help the body retain fluids. Blueberries also contain anthocyanosides, which are antioxidant-rich and may contain antibiotic properties.
Use ginger to soothe your stomach. It’s been shown to reduce the gases and spasms that accompany diarrhea. Try ginger ale, ginger tea or cookies with ginger in them.
- Ginger can interfere with blood-thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin), so don’t use ginger if you are taking blood thinners.
Try saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii is a probiotic yeast. This means that it helps to support the growth of the natural flora of your intestines. While it is unknown as to why the stuff works, it is thought that it reduces intestinal inflammation and may encourage an increase in your bodies natural immune responses. This stuff has been used for years as a cure for diarrhea and is reported to work quite well.
Try apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is rumored to be able to kill some forms of bacteria that cause diarrhea. Add one tablespoon of vinegar to a glass of warm water (add nothing else, especially sugar). Drink this three times a day, as soon as you get diarrhea. Your diarrhea should subside within a day or two.
- If taking vinegar with other probiotics, wait several hours in between drinking the ACV and eating the probiotics. Yogurt, for example, contains good bacteria and is generally considered beneficial for diarrhea. Wait one or two hours after you’ve had ACV until you go for the yogurt.
How to Get Rid of Diarrhea With Medication
Take an OTC medication containing bismuth compounds. Bismuth compounds, found in common products like Pepto Bismol, are reputed to have antibiotic-like properties that counteract the bacteria that produce diarrhea. It’s not exactly known how bismuth compounds combat diarrhea. They may only be beneficial for patients suffering from traveler’s diarrhea or those battling the H. pylori bacterium.
Try taking an anti-motility medication. Anti-motility medications cause a slow-down in the movement of the intestine and colon. This slow-down relaxes the bowel organs, which gives the organs more time to absorb water, resulting in less watery stool. Two common anti-motility medications include loperamide and diphenoxylate. Loperamide is available without prescription, but diphenoxylate requires a prescription.
Take an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal absorbent. Absorbents are medicines that bind to the walls of the intestine and colon and absorb water so that your stools are less watery. The two different ingredients in absorbents are attapulgite and polycarbophil. Follow package directions for dosage.
- If using an absorbent, it is important not to take any medication within several hours of taking the absorbent. Absorbents can cause the medication to bind to the intestine and colon, diminishing their medicative power. For best results, take absorbents and medications separately.
See a doctor for antibiotics. If the medications you’re taking, in conjunction with bland food and plenty of water, doesn’t seem to improve your case of diarrhea after 72 hours, see your doctor. They may prescribe an antibiotic medication which will help treat diarrhea caused by a bacterium or parasite. Antibiotics will not help diarrhea treated by a virus.
- The following foods and beverages are known to make diarrhea worse and should be avoided: chocolate, cream, citrus fruits and juices, coffee, red meat, raw fruits and vegetables, spicy foods and alcohol.
- Do not use nonprescription antidiarrheal medicines if you have bloody diarrhea, a high fever, or other signs of serious illness.
- See your doctor if there is blood in your diarrhea, your body becomes dehydrated or if the diarrhea lasts for more than three to five days.