Diarrhea is a frequent passage of loose, watery, soft stools often accompanying abdominal bloating, pain, pressure and cramps. Diarrhea has multifactorial causes; it can occur due to bacterial or fungal infection. Over the counter antidiarrheal medication, such as Imodium and Pepto Bismol, can decrease the frequency of passage of watery stools. There are also practical home remedies for diarrhea which can provide you systemic relief. Sipping on oral rehydration solution to compensate the lost electrolytes, drinking tea, eating certain vegetables like asparagus, carrot, carob fruits and berries, will help you combat the diarrhea episode and offer symptomatic relief. Let’s see how to stop diarrhea naturally at home in detail.
What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea can also occur because of parasites, intestinal diseases, drug reactions, food intolerance and allergies. If you had 2-3 times watery stools in a day, then you might be having diarrhea.
Acute diarrhea can be the indicator of your body defence system fighting against any temporary infection. Short-term diarrhea episode can banish out harmful substances from your body before they can cause any other complications.
On the other side, chronic diarrhea often last for a few weeks to several weeks depending on its severity. Here, the cure largely depends on your daily diet plan and lifestyle. Chronic diarrhea is difficult to get rid of in comparison with acute diarrhea.
An average adult is known to have one episode of acute diarrhea per year. Staying hydrated during a diarrhea is of utmost importance.
What causes diarrhea?
Viral infections are the most common cause of diarrhea. Viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu typically lasts from 3 to 7 days. Norovirus is the most common viral infection leading to diarrhea. Rotavirus is the common cause of diarrhea in newborns and infants (1). Adenovirus infection is common in all age groups.
Bacterial diarrhea usually occurs on consumption of infected food or drinks (2). Bacterial infection is often a severe condition and can cause bloody or pus-filled diarrhea known as dysentery.
Salmonella typhi which causes typhoid fever is the most common bacterial infection causing severe purging. Campylobacter and shigella organisms are also common causes for bacterial diarrhea. Escherichia coli, of the Shiga toxin producing variant, can cause acute diarrhea.
Protozoan infections, such as Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia Cryptosporidium species, Cyclospora cayetanensis and Isospora belli, mostly cause parasitic diarrhea.
Amoebiasis, which occurs due to toxins produced by Entamoeba histolytica, can lead to bloody diarrhea (3).
4. Irritated Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder which affects the large intestine (4). It can cause symptoms like cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Irritable bowel disorder is a chronic disorder and has a typical onset before 45 years of age.
5. Inflammatory bowel disease
The term inflammatory bowel disease is a collective term for a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (5). It occurs as a result of an immune reaction of the body against the intestinal tissue. Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which affects different parts of the intestine. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of your digestive tract, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.
Chronic stress can upset the stomach and cause bouts of diarrhea and related symptoms. Physical and emotional stress leading to anxiety can affect the enzymes of our gastrointestinal tract which process and metabolise the food irrevocably leading to diarrhea.
What are the risk factors?
Newborn, infants and older adults are usually at high risk since they have week digestive system. Consuming unhygienic food and contaminated drinks also increase the diarrhea risk factors. Some drugs such as antibiotics can also cause diarrhea.
Children under the age of five years, newborn, infants are at a higher risk of getting diarrhea. Elderly individuals also have an increased risk of diarrhea due to a weakened digestive system.
Contaminated food and water
Bacteria, virus and parasites, which causes diarrhea, mostly harbour and breed in contaminated food and water. Consuming food from street vendors, using contaminated ice cubes from the superstore, drinking unfiltered water, etc. can significantly increase the risk of diarrhea.
Improper hygiene and sanitation is the principal cause of the spread of diarrhea-causing organisms. Washing hands before meals with soap will reduce the risk.
People with leaky gut, kidney disease like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome are at risk for chronic diarrhea.
Chronic stress and anxiety cause an increase in cortisol levels in our blood. Our gastrointestinal tract is very sensitive to cortisol hormone and can cause nausea, heartburns and diarrhea.
Antibiotics, chemotherapy medications, a particular class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase the risk of diarrhea.
Common diarrhea symptoms are frequent loose stools, bloating, stomach pain, weakness, fever, etc.
- Loose and watery stools accompany diarrhea. Fever accompanies in the case of a bacterial or fungal infection.
- Stomach cramps can range from mild to severe.
- Bloating and gastritis are usually seen in association with diarrhea.
- General weakness, malaise occurs if the condition goes on for more than one day.
- Dehydration accompanying diarrhea if untreated can cause a severe complication.
- Incontinence usually occurs mostly in younger age group and elderly, though it can be seen in all age groups.
How to stop diarrhea? – Conventional treatment
Acute onset of diarrhea is addressed with oral rehydration therapy. Dehydration can be fatal in kids and elderly and hence should be given immediate attention.
A health care practitioner will prescribe anti-diarrheal medications such as loperamide and bismuth salicylate and kaolin-pectin suspension (6). These medicines give symptomatic relief for diarrhea.
If the diarrhea is because of a bacterial or parasitic infection, the line of treatment must be antibiotics and anti-parasitic medication.
In case of chronic bacteria, your doctor may advise you to eliminate several foods from your regular diet plan and include high nutrient-rich foods.
How to stop diarrhea? – Home remedies for diarrhea
1. BRAT diet
BRAT diet is a combination of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. All these constituents are bland and soothing and are low in protein, fat, hence easily digestible (7).
This diet is starchy and contains low fibre which encourages binding of loose and runny stools. Bananas and applesauce contain pectin, a starch which soaks up the excess fluid in your intestine and slows down the passage of stool.
Dehydration is a major consequence of diarrhea. Hence, it’s important to keep replacing your body’s supply of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride.
Mix up the one teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar into one litre of water. You can also add a little bit of orange juice, lemon juice.
The broth is an excellent choice for staying hydrated since it supplies your body with water as well as electrolytes from the salt. Consume these drinks and broth at regular intervals to replenish the electrolytic balance. If nothing then drink sufficient water.
Probiotics contain certain beneficial bacteria which can shorten the course of diarrhea (8). Bacteria that shows the most promising results for the treatment of diarrhea include Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus GG, and Saccharomyces boulardii and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics are effective in reducing the duration of diarrhea by twenty-four hours, while also decreasing stool frequency. These bacteria maintain the gut flora which gets disturbed during diarrhea.
Vegetables help balance the nutrition which can combat the weakness associated with diarrhea. Vegetables such as mushrooms, beets, asparagus tips, acorn squash, and zucchini are also a good source of fibres.
Carrots are an excellent source of pectin. Cook these vegetables until they’re soft, then drop them in a blender with a little water and puree into a semi-solid consistency. Eat this preparation quarter to a half-cup each hour.
Tea is an excellent remedy for nausea and acute diarrhea. Tea contains active ingredient tannins which act as astringent and helps reduce intestinal inflammation. The water helps with rehydration.
You can crush fresh ginger and incorporate it into the tea. Ginger can cure abdominal pains and nausea which can accompany diarrhea.
Blackberries and Raspberries are an excellent source of tannins and have long been used as home remedy for diarrhea. You can add one or two tablespoons of blackberries or dried blackberry leaves in two cups of boiling water for ten minutes, then strain. Sip on this tea several times a day till the symptoms are alleviated.
7. Carob fruits
Carob fruit contains active ingredient tannins that can normalise the bowel movements (9). It also helps in the cessation of vomiting and nausea that can accompany diarrhea. Consuming carob fruit can efficiently lessen the duration of diarrhea.
8. Goldenseal Herb
Goldenseal herb has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties owing to its active ingredient b berberine. The herb has a bactericidal effect on many of the bacteria, such as E. coli, that can cause diarrhea. Mix two tablespoon of dried goldenseal herb to boiling water and consume the drink thrice daily.
9. Psyllium seeds
Psyllium seed husk is considered an excellent source of fibres. Psyllium seeds husk soak up excess fluid in the intestine and aids in making stool bulkier (10).Take one to three tablespoons mixed in water each day till the symptoms of diarrhea subside.
10. Essential oil
Peppermint essential oil has active ingredients such as menthol which has anti-spasmodic properties. It can reduce the digestive tract inflammation and help in the reduction of loose watery stools.
Oatmeal is solid grain food to start with when your body is recovering from diarrhea. It helps retain liquids and prevents water loss from the body.
Oatmeal is also rich in soluble fibre that prevents the escape of electrolytes from our body and helps harden the stools. Add one cup of oatmeal to one cup of buttermilk and consume minimum twice till the watery stools entirely ceases.
Food to avoid during an episode of diarrhea
Whenever you ask someone how to stop diarrhea naturally, you get answers on the inclusion of healthy foods in your daily diet plan. But leaving out a few foods is equally important during diarrhea episode. Sugar, meat, alcohol, etc. are some food items that you should avoid if you are suffering from diarrhea.
Chocolates, sodas or carbonated drinks, candies, etc. can worsen the symptoms of diarrhea and hence can be avoided. Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and sucralose can cause diarrhea in some people.
Caffeine is a mild diuretic and can lead to loss of essential electrolytes and water from the body. Hence avoid the consumption of caffeinated products.
Meat and dairy products
Meat, milk, cream, cheese and other dairy products contain a high amount of protein which is difficult to digest and can cause additional stress on the stomach.
Alcohol is a potent diuretic and can worsen the dehydration accompanying diarrhea. It can also irritate the stomach lining and should strictly be avoided.
Final words on how to stop diarrhea
Diarrhea is a common condition and following a few home remedies can help give symptomatic relief. Staying hydrated is the key to combating diarrhea.
Always avoid contaminated food and drinks. Eating raw and undercooked food can cause an acute episode of diarrhea. Always wash your hands with soap before consumption of any meal. Kids are suggested to be vaccinated for rotavirus that causes acute diarrhea.
It is advisable to avoid the over the counter medication as it can dependency and addiction. Instead try and incorporate oatmeals, banana, kefir, pumpkin, to reduce the duration of diarrhea. If the symptoms of diarrhea persist over five days, then consult a healthcare practitioner as it can be a sign of some underlying infection.