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Diarrhea is characterized by an increase in the liquidity and frequency of bowel movements. Diarrhea typically lasts for up to two days. The treatment for diarrhea involves liquid and ORS intake in order to prevent dehydration.
At-Home Treatment Measures for Diarrhea
Mild to moderate diarrhea can be managed at home with simple and easy remedies.
1. Use of probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that aid digestion and chiefly consist of lactic acid bacteria, which do not pose any adverse effects. Taking probiotics can provide quick relief from diarrhea.
Moreover, probiotics may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Therefore, identifying potential probiotic candidates and employing their use can help in preventing infectious diarrhea and reducing hospital stay. (1) However, the optimum dosage required for treatment has not been determined yet. (2)
Probiotic formulations contain bacteria similar to those present in the gut and, therefore, may help in alleviating diarrheal symptoms. Seek medical help if your symptoms do not subside.
2. Consumption of green bananas
More studies can help in understanding the role of green bananas in treating diarrhea and establishing its efficacy.
3. Intake of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar possesses antibacterial properties that can help manage diarrhea caused by bacteria. However, this is an anecdotal remedy whose effects have not been established by clinical studies yet.
How to use: Dilute 1 teaspoon of ACV in a glass of water and consume twice a day until the condition resolves.
4. Use of turmeric
Turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial curcumin, which can aid in diarrhea treatment. It has been used as an anecdotal remedy for diarrhea for long. (5)
How to use: Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric in hot water or tea and consume. You can also include turmeric as a spice in your meals. Turmeric supplements should only be consumed upon consulting a doctor.
Caution: Excessive intake of turmeric can cause gastrointestinal distress such as pain, acidity, ulcers, abdominal contraction, and even thinning of the blood. Therefore, it is recommended to consult your doctor about the appropriate dosage.
5. Intake of oral rehydration solutions
How to use: Mix ½ teaspoon of salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar in 1 L of water and consume.
6. Use of over-the-counter medications
Anti-diarrheal over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as loperamide and bismuth salicylate can help treat diarrhea. However, it is recommended to consult your doctor before using them as they have various side effects such as dizziness, constipation, and vomiting.
Caution: Avoid using OTCs for bacterial diarrhea or if you have an accompanying fever.
7. Zinc supplementation
How to use: Consume zinc-containing foods such as oats, nuts, fortified cereals, yeast, beans, and oysters. Supplements should only be taken after consulting a doctor.
Self-Care Tips to Help in the Management of Diarrhea
The following changes in diet and eating habits may help in alleviating the symptoms of diarrhea:
1. Increase your fluid intake
Consume 8–10 cups of fluids every day, including water, half-strength juice, broth, electrolyte replacement drinks, and chamomile or peppermint tea.
Infants with diarrhea should be given small amounts of water between feeds of formula or solid food, but only after consulting your pediatrician since water may not be advised depending on the infant’s age.
2. Modify your diet
The following dietary recommendations can aid treatment:
- Eat fiber-rich foods to help solidify your stool.
- Avoid high-fat, fried, or greasy foods.
- Avoid foods with high sugar content, such as chocolate milk, candy, regular soda, and undiluted fruit juice.
- Consume salty foods, such as soup and pretzels, and electrolyte-rich sports drinks.
- Eat foods rich in potassium, such as skinned potatoes, half-strength fruit juices, and bananas.
- Consumption of bland BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) foods may help manage the condition at the onset. However, these foods lack nutrients such as fat and protein. Therefore, this diet should not be continued beyond a couple of days.
- Do not force-feed yourself.
Taking the following steps toward maintaining hygiene and sanitation may help in the prevention of diarrhea:
1. Keep your hands clean
Wash your hands properly with warm water and soap for 30 seconds every time you use the bathroom, change diapers, or handle food to help avoid diarrhea-causing infections.
2. Get vaccinated
Timely vaccination against the rotavirus is vital for children. If you plan to travel out of the country, ask your doctor if hepatitis A or typhoid vaccines are needed, depending on where you are traveling.
3. Consume clean food
Store, clean, and cook food properly to avoid food poisoning or other foodborne illnesses. Make sure that you eat properly cooked food, especially meat. The heat from the cooking process helps eliminate potential contaminants, germs, or pathogens. Moreover, avoid consuming contaminated food or water.
4. Make dietary changes
Reduce your intake of sweet, spicy, or fatty foods. Instead, eat probiotic foods, such as yogurt, and starchy foods, such as bread, rice, and banana. Do not consume alcohol.
For the first 6 months to 1 year, feed your child with breast milk only, and avoid giving formula if possible. Moreover, avoid giving fruit juices to children as these may cause diarrhea due to their high sugar content.
Most-Asked Questions About Diarrhea
Can diabetes lead to diarrhea?
Diarrhea may occur in patients with diabetes as a side effect of medications, such as metformin, or the use of sugar-free sweeteners. It can also occur due to damage to the nerves in the intestines, called autonomic neuropathy.
The diarrhea is watery and painless, usually occurs at night, and may lead to fecal incontinence. Diabetic diarrhea may be intermittent with regular bowel movements or even constipation.
Is diarrhea fatal?
Diarrhea is responsible for 2,195 child deaths every day, which is more than the number of deaths caused by malaria, AIDS, and measles combined. It is the second most significant factor for the death of children below 5 years.
However, rotavirus vaccination, breastfeeding, improved water hygiene and sanitation, and the use of safe drinking water have been cost-effective measures toward preventing diarrhea. (10)
What do yellow and green stools during diarrhea indicate?
Generally, stools associated with diarrhea are brown due to the presence of bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cells that is formed in the liver.
Green stools may be due to the consumption of green leafy vegetables, iron supplements, or foods with green food coloring or the rapid movement of food through the large intestine, causing incomplete action on the bile pigments.
Yellow or bright-yellow stools may be symptomatic of a giardiasis infection, decreased production of bile salts, or a liver or gallbladder problem.
What causes black diarrhea?
The presence of digested blood causes your stool to appear black and may occur as a result of internal bleeding in your upper digestive tract (stomach or food pipe).
Black diarrhea can only occur if you bleed a minimum of 2 ounces of blood. Keep in mind that black stools may also be the result of medicines such as Pepto-Bismol, which can be helpful when you have diarrhea.
Can diarrhea and constipation occur at the same time?
Diarrhea and constipation are common problems; however, if both disorders co-occur, it may be indicative of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The quick fluctuation in symptoms from diarrhea to constipation and vice versa is characteristic of IBS-M (mixed type) and may occur due to various reasons, differing among individuals. (11)
How can a traveler’s diarrhea be prevented?
Traveling internationally, especially to developing countries, can expose you to different diarrhea-causing bacteria such as E. coli. The following steps may help in preventing traveler’s diarrhea:
- Drink only bottled water and beverages, and avoid intake of tap water.
- Do not use ice made from unfiltered water.
- Consume tea or coffee made from bottled or boiled water only.
- Do not eat pre-cut fruits.
- Avoid buying eatables from street vendors.
- Consult your doctor for steps to be taken, according to your place of travel and the period of stay.
Note: Washing your hands with antibacterial soap helps in removing harmful E. coli from your hands. However, it will not have a significant effect on reducing the risk of infection if you do not take other preventive measures.
Are diarrhea and dysentery different?
Diarrhea is the frequent passing of loose and watery stools. Dysentery, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in the intestines that may lead to severe diarrhea associated with mucus and blood in the stool.
Dysentery is commonly caused by an infection with Shigella species (bacillary dysentery) or Entamoeba histolytica (amebic dysentery).
Diarrhea, characterized by loose, watery stools, is a common digestive problem. It usually resolves in 3–4 days but it can also persist and can lead to dehydration.
Various natural remedies can help treat diarrhea. It is most important to eat right, consume fluids, and get proper rest to combat this condition.