Diarrhea is an acute illness that causes frequent loose or watery stools. People with diarrhea have a poor ability to absorb nutrients or water in the gut. If diarrhea persists, severe dehydration may result, requiring urgent medical intervention.
In most cases, diarrhea resolves on its own with minimal treatment. It could be that your body reacts to an infection or something you eat and just flushes toxins out of your system. Diarrhea may be considered protective in this case.
However, when diarrhea persists for more than a few days or recurs frequently, it can be a sign of a bigger problem that needs medical attention. Here are some tips for dealing with sudden diarrhea:
drink plenty of fluids
If you experience diarrhea, the first step is to drink plenty of fluids. Water is always the best choice, but any clear liquid will do. For milder cases, milk may be fine, but in some cases it may prolong or worsen diarrhea.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which both have diuretic (draining) effects. For moderate to severe cases, you may need to use electrolyte solutions such as Gastrolyte or Pedialyte to replace those lost with diarrhea. Avoid sports drinks like Gatorade, as their high sugar content can actually worsen diarrhea.
Eat the right probiotics
Bacterial cultures found in yogurt, kefir, and probiotic supplements can help relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of some types of diarrhea. This is especially true for people with antibiotic-associated diarrhea or acute gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”). However, not all probiotic cultures are effective in relieving symptoms.
According to a 2015 review Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardii is the probiotic strain that appears to provide the greatest relief from diarrhea symptoms.
While the exact mechanism of action is unknown, the researchers concluded that there is “strong evidence for the efficacy of probiotics as an aggressive treatment for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and acute gastroenteritis.”
When shopping for yogurt and kefir with probiotic benefits, be sure to choose products that claim they contain “live” or “active” cultures. Also choose regular or low-sugar varieties, as higher sugar levels may make your diarrhea worse.
How to choose the right probiotics
Consider the BRAT diet
BRAT is an acronym that describes the use of bananas, rice, apples (or applesauce), and dry toast to treat diarrhea, stomach flu, and other types of stomach problems. Also known as a light diet, it is known to be gentle on the stomach and promote the binding of loose or watery stools.
The BRAT diet used to be the standard treatment for childhood diarrhea, but it is now largely abandoned due to its lack of nutritional value.
Having said that, incorporating these foods into your regular diet can be very beneficial, especially during the first 24 hours of diarrhea. After that, it’s important to pursue a normal diet of healthy fruits, vegetables, meat, yogurt, and complex carbohydrates.
what to eat if you have diarrhea
When to see a healthcare provider
Staying hydrated and eating the right foods can help with mild diarrhea, but persistent or severe cases may require a medical instance. Here are some situations in which you are advised to seek urgent or urgent care:
- Vomiting or diarrhea in newborns younger than 3 months
- Child vomits for more than 12 hours
- Diarrhea lasting more than three days in adults or children
- bloody, black or oily stools
- Abdominal pain that does not improve after a bowel movement
- Symptoms of dehydration, including dizziness, headache, weakness, and low urine output
- High fever over 100.4 F
You should also see a healthcare provider if you have diarrhea after a recent trip abroad (“traveler’s diarrhea”), if diarrhea occurs at the same time as starting a new medication, or if your family members (or people with you) also have diarrhea By.
Diarrhea can be a nuisance for some people and a sign of serious problems in others. Therefore, if diarrhea symptoms are severe, persistent, recurring, or accompanied by other unusual symptoms, you should never ignore them.
If you decide to use an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication, first limit yourself to bismuth subsalicylate like Pepto-Bismol. Although loperamide can be very effective, it’s important to get your healthcare provider’s consent before taking it, as it can worsen some forms of inflammation or bloody diarrhea.
Antidiarrheals should never be used as a substitute for standard medical care. This is especially true if symptoms persist or recur, regardless of their severity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to stop diarrhea or let it run its course?
It depends on the reason. Diarrhea from food poisoning is a protective response that flushes toxins out of your body. Likewise, diarrhea caused by viral gastritis is your body’s way of removing viruses from your body. Generally, these disorders should be allowed to persist for a day or more.
Diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours or with signs of dehydration should be treated. If your diarrhea persists for several weeks or recurs frequently, see your doctor.
How do you treat diarrhea naturally?
Diarrhea can usually be treated with certain starchy foods. Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, also known as the BRAT diet, are often recommended for fixing loose stools.
Probiotics are also recommended for natural treatment of diarrhea caused by antibiotics or viral gastritis. Look for probiotic strains that are listed as live, active cultures.
It’s also important to stay hydrated if you have diarrhea. Be sure to drink plenty of water, herbal teas, or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Pedialyte. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen diarrhea.
What over-the-counter medicines can stop diarrhea?
There are two over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines available: bismuth subsalicylate (the active ingredient in Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol) and loperamide (the active ingredient in Imodium AD).
Causes and consequences of chronic diarrhea