9 Home Remedies for Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a sign that your body is trying to rid itself of something. Skip over-the-counter medicines and try these natural solutions instead.
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Everybody gets diarrhea
Whether it lasts a few hours or a few days, diarrhea is always uncomfortable and always inconvenient. Had plans to go to the beach with friends? Sorry, diarrhea just canceled the fun. Annoying as the condition is, it’s is rarely serious. “Most diarrhea is caused by a virus; the most common are rotavirus and norovirus,” says Christopher Drumm, MD, a family medicine practitioner at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia. We can be exposed to those viruses just about anywhere from public restrooms to our child’s classroom.
When to see a doctor
When diarrhea hits, the first goal is to replace the fluids your body is losing. If you feel that you’re not able to stay hydrated, it may be time to see your doctor. “A person with diarrhea should seek medical attention when they experience fever, severe abdominal pain, and/or bloody stools,” recommends Amesh A. Adalja, MD, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. It’s also important to see your doctor right away if you have recently traveled outside the country or are unable to keep fluids down. Also if you have any kind of chronic disease that affects your immune system, get checked out right away. If you don’t have a primary doctor, don’t miss these 12 insider tips for choosing the right primary care doctor. To help manage your problem, check out our top home remedies for diarrhea.
Make your own Gatorade
When diarrhea strikes, the first step is rehydrating. “Not a lot of people are aware that dehydration can also cause diarrhea,” says Nikola Djordjevic, MD, co-founder of MedAlertHelp.org. “On top of this, you lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes when you have loose bowels.” One of the best home remedies for diarrhea is to keep a water bottle with you and replace electrolytes with sports drinks like Gatorade. Dr. Djordjevic recommends making your own with six teaspoons of sugar, a half teaspoon of salt, and a liter of water.
Bind yourself with white rice
While you may not feel like eating, choosing something bland like white rice could bring relief. “White rice is an easy-to-digest food that won’t upset your stomach or intestines,” says Lisa Richards, a certified nutritionist, and creator of The Candida Diet. “It can help soothe your symptoms without causing any further irritation to your gut.” White rice is low in fiber, so it can slow down diarrhea and help bring your bowel movements back to normal consistency.
Avoid dairy and citrus
When you’re experiencing diarrhea, it’s not the time for a comforting bowl of ice cream. “Avoid all dairy products because enzymes for the digestion of dairy are usually flushed out or otherwise unavailable while experiencing diarrhea,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND. That means eating dairy can extend your misery; so can citrus and other acidic foods.
Reach for bananas
Bananas are easy on the stomach and help you to replace potassium. “It’s a very important mineral in our body because it helps regulate fluids, muscle tension, and nerve signals,” explains Dr. Djordjevic. When potassium levels become too low from a bout of diarrhea, you could start to experience muscle weakness and cramping.
Get your probiotics
Because diarrhea is usually caused by bad bacteria in our guts, replacing it with good bacteria is one of the fastest ways to get some relief. Research in Antibiotics found that taking probiotics for diarrhea, especially when caused by antibiotics, is safe and effective. Dr. Djordjevic recommends taking a probiotic supplement or finding a natural source like yogurt. Learn more about what probiotics can do for you here.
Add the BRAT diet
Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast: While experts no longer recommend only following the BRAT diet when you have diarrhea—it doesn’t offer enough nutrition for kids to recover—they do like the fact that these foods are starchy and low in fiber, and they will help to bind your stool. They’re also gentle on your stomach and should help you feel better fast.
Support your gut’s health by mixing up your own beverage made with the soluble fiber called psyllium. The main ingredient in Metamucil, it’s derived from the Indian herb Plantago ovata. “Take the powder or capsule form of psyllium to absorb the liquid contents from the intestines and bulk the stool,” recommends Dr. Dean. “Take one teaspoon shaken in a jar of water or two capsules twice a day with only a small amount of water.”
Try a new kind of hot chocolate
Another natural drink you can make at home might be a bit tastier than the others: Dr. Dean recommends stirring two teaspoons of carob powder into 6 ounces of water. The carob powder will have a subtle chocolate flavor and help to bind the stool and slow down diarrhea.
Up your zinc
During an episode of diarrhea, your body is losing vitamins and minerals. “Zinc supplementation may play a crucial role in treating and preventing acute diarrhea, particularly in children,” says Viquar Mundozie, MD, family physician at Mercyhealth Harvard Clinic-South. Foods rich in zinc include nuts, seeds, and eggs. Keep an eye out for signs that you’re not getting enough zinc.
- Christopher Drumm, MD, a family medicine practitioner at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia
- Amesh A. Adalja, MD, FACEP from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
- Nikola Djordjevic, MD, co-founder of MedAlertHelp.org
- Lisa Richards, CNC, a nutritionist, and creator of The Candida Diet
- Carolyn Dean, MD, ND
- Antibiotics: "Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"