Diarrhea, described simply, is a digestive ailment that leads to loose, watery bowel movements. The other symptoms of diarrhea include stomach pain, abdominal cramping, low-grade fever, bloating in belly, nausea and vomiting. Diarrhea can be often described as body’s way of dealing with gastrointestinal system disruptions.
Not all bouts of diarrhea are severe, most of them are mild. Most cases of diarrhea are caused by virus or bacteria and in many cases they are cured in two to three days. But not all cases of diarrhea are caused by virus or bacteria.
Young children often suffer from an infectious diarrhea, which is often caused by a virus. Viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu is one of the causes of diarrhea. Viral gastroenteritis is characterised by inflammation of stomach and intestines and it is caused by virus. This disease leads to watery diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and sometimes it is accompanied by fever too.
It is a contagious disease which spreads through close contact with infected people and also through contaminated food and/or water.
Other causes of getting diarrhea are contaminated food and water sources (in fact it is the most major cause of diarrhea across the world), and lack of sanitation and hygiene, which are common causes of diarrhea in developing and underdeveloped countries. Viruses which can cause diarrhea include norovirus and rotavirus, which can develop or come to life after intake of contaminated food and liquid.
If we break down the causes further we can find that irritable bowel syndrome is a medical condition which can also cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can occur from alcohol abuse, diabetes, food poisoning, radiation therapy, recent antibiotic usage and even laxative abuse also. A lactose intolerant person can also develop diarrhea after intake of dairy products. Food allergy can also induce diarrhea.
Traveller’s diarrhea is also not unheard of; it can occur if one acquires diarrhea during travels through intake of contaminated water.
Over indulgence in food or drink can also cause diarrhea. Particularly, overindulgence of greasy or sugary foods can irritate your stomach and this can spark diarrhea in some cases, especially if you are already suffering from a gastrointestinal condition like stomach ulcer, acid reflux or GERD.
Stress or anxiety can also cause diarrhea. In the ancient Indian medicine system Ayurveda, diarrhea is also believed to be induced by mental causes and toxins. It is termed Atisara in Ayurveda.
The Preventable Human Tragedy
Diarrhea is a menace, which at times can be life threatening too, particularly for infants, children and old people. In India, diarrhea is one of the leading causes of death among children below the age of five. It leads to death of 1.1 lakh people in India on an average, every year. Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of childhood diarrhoeal disease every year, WHO observed in 2017.
According to WHO, diarrhea can last several days, and can leave the body without the water and salts that are necessary for survival. The global body also stated that children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity as well as people living with HIV are most at risk of life-threatening diarrhea.
Sometimes for underprivileged people, availability of safe drinking-water and improved sanitation and hand washing with soap can reduce the risk of diarrhea significantly.
For mild bouts of diarrhea, one can try many effective home remedies for diarrhea rather than going for an antidiarrheal drug, which in some cases may translate the mild diarrhea into constipation.
Liquid as Safeguard and Cure
One of the effective home remedies for diarrhea and a crucial preventive step to get the diarrhea from worsening is to drink plenty of fluids and water. Diarrhea without proper fluid intake may lead you to dehydration, which in severe cases may lead the diarrhea affected person to the emergency room of the hospital. Especially in young children and old people dehydration from diarrhea can assume dangerous and even fatal proportions.
Ideally one should have about 2-3 liters of water and some additional fluids in a day when one is having diarrhea. In case you are having nausea with diarrhea, slowly sip through the liquids but do have them. Not only water and other fluids help you to cope with diarrhea, they can quicken your recovery from diarrhea too.
It is because diarrhea leads to the body losing lots of water and electrolytes, which include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are needed by the human body to function normally. They need to be replenished by the intake of lots of fluids to quicken recovery process. Fluids should include juices (except prune juice and apple juice which have laxative properties), clear broths, or electrolyte-rich sports drink or ginger tea or all of them.
Having 1 liter of water infused with half a teaspoon of salt and five teaspoons of sugar and drinking that solution frequently does also have the potential to act as one of the effective home remedies for diarrhea. Having sugar and salt with water facilitates the intestines in efficiently absorbing fluids.
Young children and infants afflicted with diarrhea should be administered pediatric rehydration drinks. If your infant is experiencing diarrhea do not discontinue breastfeeding him or her during the illness.
Diet is the Key
Of course, you need to have a bland diet when suffering from diarrhea. It is because bland diet has less likelihood of irritating your stomach than a normal diet. The right diet can facilitate to ease your diarrhea symptoms, especially in case of mild diarrhea.
The right diet for diarrhea afflicted patients include pectin rich food such as fruits, drinks rich in electrolytes such as sports drinks, miso soup and chicken soup, cooked soft vegetables(except those mentioned below) and baked potato, baked skinless chicken breasts, oatmeal and yogurt.
One can also have the BRAT diet to tackle diarrhea, which include banana, rice, apple sauce and bread toast. BRAT diet is a low-fiber diet which can facilitate in making stools firm. Bananas are especially helpful when suffering from diarrhea as they help restore potassium lost through diarrhea, and thus can prevent cramps. Rice will give energy without unduly irritating the gut.
Besides what to have one must also know what to avoid when having diarrhea. When suffering from diarrhea, avoid the intake of coffee and other caffeinated drinks, prune juice, sodas, sugary drinks and alcohol, as they have laxative effect. Avoid carbonated beverages also when suffering from diarrhea as it can irritate the digestive tract, which has the potential to further worsen your condition.
At the same time, avoiding spicy, greasy and high-fat food should be abhorred when suffering from diarrhea. High fibre foods like bran and beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, berries, chickpeas, prunes, ice-cream, milk and pepper should also be avoided when suffering from diarrhea.
When suffering or recovering from diarrhea, a diet of small, frequent meals is always preferable over three larger meals a day. Also drink the liquids between meals rather than having liquids with meals.
Cure through Probiotics
Having probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to your digestive system, in food or supplement form may facilitate in addressing a mild diarrhea. Probiotics can be one of the natural remedies for diarrhea. A decade back researchers conducted a comprehensive review of 63 studies on probiotics covering over 8,000 participants, which revealed that probiotics significantly reduced the duration of recovery from diarrhea. It was also deciphered that probiotics are without any major side effects.
Diarrhea can lead you to lose a significant amount of healthy bacteria from your stomach and intestines, which can be quickly replaced through probiotics, which in turn can help in restoring normal bowel function. If you do not have content of enough good bacteria growing in your gut you are likely to get frequent incidences of diarrhea or stomach upsets.
Moreover, many a time diarrhea occurs as a result of an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Intake of probiotics can help cure this imbalance through its content of good bacteria. This in turn may facilitate normal bowel function and quicken the cure of diarrhea. Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium bacteria and Saccharomyces boulardii yeast are examples of probiotics.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast probiotic which may alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveller’s diarrhea.
Having yogurt or kefir with live probiotic bacteria can be very much helpful during diarrhea though other dairy products in general (such as milk and cheese) should be avoided while you are suffering through this ailment. However, lactose intolerant person should not take yogurt with probiotic bacteria too if he or she is suffering from diarrhea. Sauerkraut, aged soft cheeses, miso, green olives, sourdough bread, and tempeh are other natural sources of probiotics. Though kimchi is also loaded with probiotics, but it should be avoided when you are suffering from diarrhea because of its content of hot spices.
Rice Water and Ginger
Having yogurt tempered with roasted fenugreek and cumin seeds can also alleviate the affects of diarrhea. Diarrhea also has the potential to be addressed quickly by the intake of rice water, which can act as one of the home remedies for upset stomach and diarrhea. You just need to boil 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water for about 10-15 minutes, or till the water assumes a cloudy look. Then strain the rice and preserve the water. Then consume the water.
Rice water can contribute towards giving the necessary fluid to the body to prevent dehydration. It can also facilitate in quickening the cure of diarrhea through its binding effect in the digestive tract.
Ginger can also act as one of the home remedies for diarrhea. Ginger is endowed with anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibacterial properties which have the potential to address stomach ailments. Moreover, the antioxidant effects of ginger do positively influence the overall health of stomach. An animal study, which dates back to 2007 deciphered that ginger was an effective treatment for diarrhea caused by E. coli bacteria. Another research also supports the use of ginger to treat diarrhea and other abdominal issues. Diarrhea caused by intake of contaminated food is believed to be cured by administering of ginger.
Having ginger tea can help to soothe your stomach, which can facilitate in quickening your recovery from diarrhea. And of course, ginger tea can contribute towards rehydration of your body, which your diarrhea affected body badly needs.
To make ginger tea take a cup of boiling water and add a few tablespoons of freshly grated or finely chopped ginger in it. Steep for five minutes and your ginger tea is ready. One can also take fresh ginger or have ginger capsules or ginger powder in your battle against diarrhea. However, do not take more than 4 gm of ginger per day.
Some Easily Available Remedies
Turmeric does also have the potential to act as one of the home remedies to stop diarrhea. Infuse a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm filtered water and drink it. Drinking the concoction thrice a day for 1-2 days may combat the menace of diarrhea quickly. For kids administer the concoction with ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder instead of one teaspoon. Turmeric is endowed with anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in addressing diarrhea. However, do keep in mind that turmeric can negatively react with many prescribed medications and thus overdoing this home remedy can cause more harm than good. In case you find problem in drinking turmeric amalgamated with water, mix a tablespoon of honey in the concoction.
Having a pinch of cinnamon with some warm water and lemon juice can also facilitate in curing diarrhea quickly than it would have been cured otherwise. One can amalgamate 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/3rd teaspoon of ground ginger powder with a tablespoon of honey to concoct a cinnamon and ginger tea, which can also help in addressing diarrhea.
One can also try a pinch of powdered nutmeg with a spoonful of clarified butter or ghee as a treatment for upset stomach.
What is great that ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg are very much available in most homes. Their above-mentioned usage are some of the natural ways to stop diarrhea.
Intake of apple cider vinegar can also be one of the home remedies to stop diarrhea. It can kill bacteria or virus or parasites involved in causing diarrhea and can facilitate in replenishing the supply of good bacteria in your digestive tract, which together can help in addressing diarrhea.
One needs to mix 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 5-8 oz of warm, filtered water and drink the compound on an empty stomach. Continuing drinking this concoction after every three hours for 24 hours can help in getting relief from diarrhea.
Zinc as Supplement
Taking zinc supplementation in the form of OTC zinc tablets of 20 mg daily for two weeks can also be one of the home remedies for diarrhea among adults. Zinc supplementation is a WHO-approved treatment for loose stools. Zinc can also strengthen your immune system and this can prevent future episodes of diarrhea too during the next three months.
However, in case of children, zinc supplementation should be administered only after consulting with a qualified medical professional.
For diarrhea caused by food poisoning or by intake of contaminated water, activated charcoal might help you in alleviating diarrhea symptoms through absorbing the bad bacteria and microbes which are creating the trouble. Activated charcoal can also facilitate to do away with the feeling of nausea and intestinal gas which sometimes accompany diarrhea and stomach upsets.
Adults suffering from diarrhea can take 520-750 mg of activated charcoal after each meal, while taking care not to exceed its intake beyond 5 gm per day and children may take a smaller dose. For the right dosage one can also follow the directions given on the bottle of activated charcoal, which you can purchase from health food stories and/or pharmacies.
Remember that activated charcoal can interfere with nutrient absorption, so do not intake it for more than three days at a stretch. In any case, if your diarrhea doesn’t get cured in three days then you shouldn’t rely on home remedies but should go to a medical professional.
Over-the-counter medications like Imodium or Pepto-Bismol can also be used for quick relief from diarrhea, especially if you can’t stay at home for long because of your work schedule. But have them only after advice from the doctor.
When to Visit Doctor
However, if any one or some of these home remedies do not work even after two days, do not hesitate to go to a medical professional. Moreover, persistent diarrhea which has duration between two to four weeks and chronic diarrhea, which lasts longer than four weeks might indicate more serious health issues and require professional medical consultation.
In case you are suffering from diarrhea and also experiencing blood or mucus in stool or black stool and/or weight loss and/or high fever that is more than 101 degree Farenheit and/or experiencing severe pain in your abdomen then it means the disease has turned serious and can no longer be treated at home. In such cases one need to rush to a qualified doctor. If you are having dark urine and rapid heart rate along with diarrhea, call your doctor right away. Moreover, if diarrhea continues for more than three days for adults then also it implies that you need professional medical help.
For children medical help should be taken even if diarrhea continues for more than one day. Besides the above-mentioned conditions, for diarrhea afflicted children some other symptoms should also be discerned to see if they need immediate medical help or not. If the diarrhea afflicted child is seen crying without tears, or having dry mouth or tongue, or showing unusual signs of drowsiness or having his/her skin not retracting when pinched or is having no wet diaper in four hours, go for immediate medical help. Furthermore, for both children and adults, severe diarrhea which involves passing stools more than four times an hour or more requires professional medical help and should not be relied on home remedies.
And it should also be remembered that though all of these above-mentioned home remedies can be helpful in addressing diarrhea or does have the potential to cure diarrhea but one cannot say with certainty that any of these remedies will definitely cure diarrhea.
There are several home remedies which can or have the potential to stop diarrhea but one cannot say with certainty that they will definitely cure diarrhea. Intake of probiotic and rice water are among the ways one can explore to get quick relief from diarrhea.
Intake of a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm filtered water (1/2 teaspoon for children) for three times a day can also give one quick relief from diarrhea.
Overall, one needs to drink 2-3 litres of water and some other fluids in a day to prevent diarrhea from worsening and also to quicken the recovery process. While you are having diarrhea, drinking 2 to 3 liters of water per day along with sports drinks, coconut water, herbal teas, can quicken the recovery process.
Rice water and ginger tea and drinks rich in electrolytes such as sports drinks and apple cider vinegar with water are ideal drinks to alleviate or cure diarrhea. But overall one should have 2-3 litres of water and some other fluids in a day when one is having diarrhea to prevent worsening of condition and for quickening the recovery from the menace.
BRAT diet is an intelligent option to stop diarrhea. Yogurt or kefir with live probiotic bacteria can be much helpful during diarrhea provided one is not lactose intolerant. Oatmeal is also a good option. Oatmeal contains soluble fibre which might be helpful in alleviating diarrhea symptoms.
Drinking plenty of water and fruit juices can help you to cope up and recover from diarrhea. Drinking cinnamon and ginger tea, ginger tea, turmeric infused water and rice water can also help one to get cured from diarrhea.
The protein in eggs can help you to reduce fatigue that is associated with diarrhea. However, omelet should be avoided and one should go for boiled eggs or scrambled eggs. Also avoid sauce with eggs when having diarrhea.