Diarrhea is a condition that causes frequent bowel movements with a loose, watery stool. It can have many causes. Unless it is a severe condition caused by an infection or an underlying disease, a patient can treat it by making a few dietary changes and taking OTC medications.
Causes of diarrhea
Several factors can lead to diarrhea
- Infections: Stomach flu, bacterial gastroenteritis, and parasitical infections like intestinal worms can lead to this condition.
- Food poisoning: Adverse reactions to food can cause diarrhea.
- Medical conditions: Conditions like ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome or IBS can cause chronic diarrhea.
- Medicines: Some medications like NSAIDs and antibiotics can be the cause.
There are other causes of diarrhea as well. Your doctor will get all the details of your condition, consider the medicines you are consuming, and check for any underlying ailment that could cause diarrhea. They may also ask you to go for blood and stool tests if you have severe diarrhea.
Treatment of diarrhea
Most of the times, diarrhea goes away on its own after three or four days. Some over-the-counter medicines like bismuth subsalicylate and loperamide can help.
If you have severe diarrhea due to a bacterial infection, you may have to take antibiotics for treating the condition. If some other ailment like celiac disease or IBS is the cause, you may have to consult a gastroenterologist who will provide you with a treatment plan for chronic diarrhea.
What should diarrhea patients eat and drink?
When you have diarrhea, you have frequent bowel movements, and this causes dehydration. So, you should drink a lot of water. Your doctor may also suggest some special drinks like a sports drink to replace the electrolytes lost from your body.
Stick to a balanced diet and avoid spicy foods. Usually, the diet plan followed for treating diarrhea is called BRAT. It consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.
Bananas contain pectin, which is a water-soluble fiber that helps to bind and thicken the liquids in the intestine. Rice is well known for its soothing and binding effect. Applesauce also contains pectin which helps to firm up the stools. Dry toast helps to satiate your appetite and does not cause any irritation.
Probiotics as a treatment for chronic diarrhea
For treating chronic diarrhea, take your doctor’s advice before starting a course of probiotic supplements. Probiotics contain good bacteria that help to contain the growth of bad bacteria that harm your health. These beneficial bacteria also help to clean up your gastrointestinal system and maintain good gut health.
Here are some natural sources of good bacteria:
- Curds or yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Green olives
- Sourdough bread
- Aged soft cheeses
Most fermented foods are good sources of beneficial gut bacteria. Hence, the food items mentioned above can help treat diarrhea.
Other natural treatments for diarrhea
- Ginger can help your body get rid of toxins. Peel and grate a tiny piece of ginger, mix it with a teaspoonful of honey, and consume this. Do not drink water for a while after you have this mixture.
Make a herbal drink by boiling a small piece of peeled ginger in water, strain this, and let it cool. Add a teaspoon of honey and drink this.
- Fenugreek is rich in mucilage which helps in providing a protective lining in your guts. Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in yogurt or curd and leave it overnight. Then, first thing in the morning, eat this mix of curds and softened fenugreek. It helps to calm your guts.
- Buttermilk is a traditional remedy used across the world to soothe an irritated digestive system. Consume a glass of buttermilk when you are experiencing abdominal pain.
- Chamomile can also help to reduce abdominal pain and spasms that accompany diarrhea. Brew some chamomile tea and drink it.
- Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties. Drink a glass of water mixed with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Besides containing water-soluble fibers, bananas are also a rich source of potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte needed by our body for several vital functions.
- Orange peel promotes digestion. Peel the skin of some organic oranges. Wash the peels, put it in a pot, and pour some hot water over it. Cover the vessel with a lid. After it cools, strain the mixture, and add some honey. Drink this to promote digestion.
- Honey in its raw form is a useful ingredient. It has antibacterial properties and helps the body absorb calcium quickly. It also aids in repairing damaged intestinal tissues and has anti-inflammatory properties. Take a teaspoonful of honey every day to treat diarrhea.
- Maintain good hygiene, always wash your hands before sitting down for meals.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before you cook them.
- Keep your kitchen clean.
- If there are any leftovers, refrigerate them.
- If you have had a medical condition that can cause diarrhea, avoid the trigger foods like wheat (celiac disease) or dairy products (lactose intolerance)
When you are traveling:
- Avoid eating street food.
- Avoid tap water. Only drink bottled water at all times.
- Eat well-cooked food.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid spicy foods.
Diarrhea treatments can range from the simple to complex. Treatments for severe diarrhea may include antibiotics and diet restrictions. To treat chronic diarrhea, you must identify the underlying cause.
You may also have to make permanent changes in your diet like avoiding wheat or milk products, or foods rich in unhealthy fat. There are over-the-counter medicines you can try, but never use these on children. Always consult a doctor before taking any medication. Many traditional home remedies can aid in the treatment of severe diarrhea and chronic diarrhea.