Everyone has experienced diarrhea at some point in their lives. From painful stomach cramps to frequent and watery stools, the inconvenient symptoms that come with this condition typically emerge at the most inopportune times.
Diarrhea is the body’s way of managing disruptions in the stomach and intestines. Acute diarrhea only lasts around two weeks or less. It has a number of possible causes, including viral or bacterial infection, food poisoning, the use of antibiotics, or the intake of contaminated water.
When diarrhea strikes, it is a good idea to have an arsenal of remedies that can effectively manage the condition from its onset. To help you prepare for when that time comes, here are four ways you can ease diarrhea symptoms:
1. Use Probiotics for Better Gut Health
Probiotics are an example of an effective diarrhea treatment recommended for adults and children alike.
Good bacteria are naturally occurring, which means they have always been present in your gut. They live in the intestinal tract and are crucial in the undisrupted functioning of the gastrointestinal system. They also help protect the intestines against germs that can cause infection.
Imbalance occurs when you take antibiotics or if you have too much bad bacteria in your gut, both of which can lead to diarrhea. Probiotics offer much-needed relief from this illness by helping restore the balance in the gut environment.
To do so, you can supplement good bacteria by consuming more foods that are rich in probiotics. This includes aged soft cheeses, cottage cheese, dark chocolate, beet kvass, green olives, pickles, kimchi, kefir, miso, natto, and yogurt. Some probiotics can also come in pill or powder form.
2. Stay Hydrated
While this doesn’t necessarily halt your frequent trips to the bathroom, drinking plenty of fluids is crucial to avoid further complications like dehydration.
Diarrhea-caused dehydration can be fatal for older adults and younger children, so you must make sure that you drink lots of fluids. For infants, mothers must continue breastfeeding or formula-feeding them throughout the course of the illness.
Some over-the-counter hydration solutions made for kids can also be used to replace lost fluids from constant, watery stools. If necessary, use droppers to give small amounts of liquids to a child with diarrhea. Some hydration formulas also come in easy-to-consume popsicle preparations.
Research shows adults with mild diarrhea symptoms can effectively hydrate with over-the-counter rehydration solutions and sports drinks. However, experts strongly recommend avoiding milk, alcohol, soda, and other caffeinated or carbonated drinks because they might make the symptoms worse.
3. Take Over-the-Counter Medicine
Diarrhea is the body’s way of getting rid of toxins that have made their way into the digestive tract, the same way coughing works to expel foreign particles that irritate the throat. For this very reason, many diarrhea cases don’t require treatment.
But if the illness causes too much discomfort or inconvenience, you can try taking specific over-the-counter medication to get quick relief from diarrhea. There are two types of drugs made for this purpose:
- Loperamide – This medicine works to slow the movement and passing of food through the intestines, allowing your body to absorb more liquid and reduce watery stools.
- Bismuth subsalicylate – This type of drug helps balance out the movement of fluid through the digestive tract.
It is important to note, however, that these medicines only work to relieve diarrhea symptoms and don’t necessarily treat its underlying cause.
For chronic diarrhea, which lasts for more than two weeks, always consult a doctor first before taking any drugs.
4. Watch What You Eat
It might feel counterintuitive to continue eating if you have diarrhea, but keeping yourself hydrated and nourished is crucial for your quick recovery.
To make sure that your condition improves soon, choose the right kinds of food to eat. There are certain foods that not only supplement lost fluids but also help alleviate diarrhea symptoms.
Among the food groups you should eat if you have diarrhea are:
- Foods with high pectin content like fruits
- Foods rich in potassium, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, and bananas
- Foods and beverages that are rich in electrolytes, like sports drinks and miso soup
- Soft vegetables that are cooked
- Foods with an appropriate amount of protein
Keep in mind that having small but frequent meals is much better than eating your usual three big meals a day when you have diarrhea.
Some people might also get better faster with a strictly liquid diet during the first 24 hours from the onset of the illness to help the digestive system settle faster. This may include bland soups, salty broths, and rehydration beverages.
Of course, there are also certain foods that you must avoid at all costs when you have diarrhea.
Aside from caffeinated and carbonated drinks mentioned earlier, you must also steer clear of fried and greasy foods. Eating high-fiber foods like bran is also a bad idea when you have diarrhea. The same goes for fruits and vegetables that cause bloating.
Other foods and drinks you must avoid are:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables
- Peas and chickpeas
- Ice cream
- Green leafy vegetables
Diarrhea is the body’s way of helping the digestive system recover from any infection or conditions that may cause a disruption in its normal function. To help your body recover faster and avoid complications like dehydration, use this article as a guide in managing your diarrhea symptoms.