Health & Wellness

5 Natural Remedies for Diarrhea

Who wants to talk about diarrhea? No one! The only people in my life that talk about this constantly are my two young boys—who find the word overly amusing—and always at the most inopportune times. But the bottom line is, though, diarrhea happens. And when it strikes, of course you want it to stop as quickly as it came on. Thankfully, there are several gentle, natural remedies for diarrhea I suggest to my patients when they are dealing with bowel movements that seem to have a mind of their own.

 

What Is Diarrhea?

In short, diarrhea means loose stools. If you have three or more loose stools in one day, congratulations: you have diarrhea. Sometimes diarrhea comes with other symptoms, such as upset stomach or abdominal pain, and sometimes it strikes alone.

Acute bouts of diarrhea commonly result from a virus, food poisoning or medication and usually clear up in one to two days. In these cases, if tolerable, you need to allow your body to release these toxins and not take anything to stop this natural detoxification process. This usually allows it to resolve on its own.

When it persists, though, diarrhea may signal a more significant medical problem. Chronic cases of diarrhea can result from bacteria from contaminated water or food; parasites; food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance; diseases that affect the digestive system, such as Crohn’s disease; and irritable bowel syndrome. [1] But they can also occur due to poor digestive function resulting from other secondary factors, such as stress, poor bacterial flora, lack of fiber in your diet, and more.

Chronic diarrhea is a signal to your body that something is not working as it should with your digestion and nutrient absorption. Don’t simply accept this as normal. Instead, it’s important to find the cause and fix the problem. It will not only resolve the diarrhea, but also improve and restore balance to your overall health.

 

Treating Diarrhea

To treat diarrhea, often people will run to their drugstore for over-the-counter medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide Imodium. Sports drinks are another popular home remedy to combat dehydration. In a pinch and on rare occasion, these remedies are appropriate, but on a whole, I prefer trying more natural remedies for diarrhea as a first resort.

First, in cases of acute diarrhea, seek medical attention if symptoms do not improve within 24 to 48 hours, you have a persistent fever higher than 102 degrees F, you have black or bloody stools, or you experience signs of dehydration. Dehydration symptoms include dry mouth, sunken abdomen, eyes, or cheeks, and skin that doesn’t snap back when pinched. Young children who are dehydrated may seem unusually sleepy or irritable and fail to produce a wet diaper in three or more hours. [2]

Top 5 Natural Remedies for Diarrhea

Before we get to homeopathic and other natural remedies for diarrhea, for acute cases, I recommend first trying foods that stop diarrhea. The BRAT diet—bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast (I use gluten-free)—is a good home remedy for diarrhea. (Diarrhea control is yet one more benefit of a plant-based diet!).

In addition, avoid sugar (including fruit juices such as apple juice), dairy products, and processed foods. Guess what? Those sports drinks you consider helpful for hydration during diarrhea also typically contain a lot of additives and sugar. As a result, it’s best to hydrate by drinking lots of water. It may seem counterintuitive to drink water, because you don’t want your stools to get looser, but water helps prevent dehydration, and dehydration can lead to further diarrhea. Drinking water while consuming the BRAT diet will actually help bulk up your stools and assist with your end goal.

Beyond BRAT, the following natural remedies for diarrhea are good for both acute and chronic cases.

1. Argentum nitricum

As we’ve discussed before, stress and digestion are strongly linked. If a person has diarrhea stemming from a stressful event, such as public speaking, a big exam, or a high pressure social situation, argentum nitricum is a homeopathic natural remedy for diarrhea worth trying. This remedy is also good for diarrhea that kicks in immediately after eating or drinking, or after consuming too much sugar. [3]

2. Arsenicum album

Another homeopathic natural remedy for diarrhea, arsenicum relieves burning, foul-smelling diarrhea associated with food poisoning. It’s often used in children and tends to be a good remedy when anxiety accompanies diarrhea symptoms. Examples of such anxiety include not wanting to be left alone or worrying about everything, especially your overall health. Often, symptoms will get worse when you consume cold food and drinks and you will only be able to tolerate small sips of water. [4, 5]

3. Phosphorus

This homeopathic remedy can work for someone who experiences a weak or empty feeling in the abdomen, followed by diarrhea that seems to run out like water runs from an open faucet. It’s also well suited for people who are thirsty and those who feel better after sleep and eating food. [6]

4. Sulphur

Sulphur is a good natural remedy for diarrhea that is burning, urgent, hot, and occurs early in the morning, making the person rush to the bathroom immediately upon waking. It also often contains undigested food. [7]

5. Podophyllum peltatum 

For watery, offensive-smelling, yellow or yellow-green, painless diarrhea accompanied by cramping abdominal pain, podophyllum can work well. The type of diarrhea that responds to this remedy often strikes in the morning and results from eating too much fresh fruit. Another clue this may be the remedy for you? Check to see if your abdominal pain can be relieved by warm compresses. [8]

Note: Homeopathy in itself is an involved discipline. These are some quick keynotes to help you find your remedy fast! If you would like a remedy for a more chronic presentation, see your naturopathic/integrative doctor for a full work-up.

5 natural remedies for diarrhea - Dr. Pingel

Other Helpful Natural Remedies

Probiotics. Probiotics help keep a healthy balance of bad to good bacteria in the gut. I often prescribe probiotics for my patients with chronic diarrhea. I also prescribe a higher dose in patients who’ve experienced an acute episode to help them rebalance their gut flora.

It’s important to note that probiotics can cause bloating and constipation in some delicate digestive systems, so it may not be the best remedy for all people with chronic digestive issues. Look for a multi-strained, well-sourced probiotic supplement that contains at least 20 billion live active cultures. [9]

Apple pectin. In addition to the BRAT diet, you can use a natural fiber, such as  apple pectin, which acts as a prebiotic (food for probiotics) and can help treat both diarrhea and constipation. [10] You may find that you prefer apple pectin to psyllium husk as a fiber source, as the latter can cause bloating.

In addition, there are several ayurvedic natural remedies for diarrhea, including digestive carminatives (herbs that relieve gas), such as fennel, turmeric, coriander, and ginger. I often recommend ginger tea for my patients with nausea and diarrhea. Alternatively, a nice cup of golden milk can help soothe the tummy as well!

Diarrhea is one of those conditions that could signal something else is wrong. So, in order to treat persistent diarrhea effectively, you must find out why it’s happening and get to the root cause. The natural remedies for diarrhea we covered will help control your symptoms, but ideally, you will want to also try to figure out the underlying cause. [11]

 

Key Takeaways

  • Diarrhea means three or more loose stools in one day. It can be acute or chronic.
  • Viruses, food poisoning, contaminated water or food, parasites, food intolerances and diseases of the digestive system can all cause diarrhea.
  • There are several effective natural remedies for diarrhea.
  • Many of the natural remedies for diarrhea are homeopathic. Some of the most effective include argentum, arsenicum, phosphorus, sulphur, and podophyllum.
  • Other natural remedies for diarrhea include apple pectin, probiotics, and digestive carminatives such as fennel, turmeric, coriander, and ginger.
  • If diarrhea persists beyond a few days, seek medical attention to rule out a more serious condition.

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