Diarrhoea can be inconvenient, but it can also cause dehydration and ill-health. Our expert, Ali Cullen, discusses ways to treat it including a range of home, natural and conventional methods.
Alison Cullen Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction) @AVogelUK Ask Ali
An introduction to the treatments for diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is the passage of loose or watery stools, usually associated with the need to go to the toilet more than four times in a 24 hour period.
If diarrhoea is the result of infection by bacteria or a virus, (generally a short-lived problem and shouldn’t last any more than two weeks), this is known as acute diarrhoea.
If you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or another long-term bowel condition, it is likely that your symptoms will persist. Despite this, it is common for the severity of symptoms to fluctuate and flare-ups of symptoms are common. This is known as chronic diarrhoea.
Depending on the type of diarrhoea and the primary cause, there are different approaches you can take to manage your symptoms.
There are a number of ways you can treat diarrhoea from home, including:
Drink plenty of water: This is crucial. You are at risk of dehydration when diarrhoea is present and it is important to put water back in to promote absorption. It is also useful to reintroduce electrolytes which are also being lost. You can buy ready-made electrolyte sachets or can try a homemade chicken broth which has found to be effective
Ginger: This can be useful, either in the form of a tea or just fresh, grated ginger and mixed with a little honey. Ginger is a natural anti-spasmodic which can be useful in instances of nausea, diarrhoea or both
Eat some bananas, rice or dry toast: These are bland and soothing foods which you can slowly introduce in very severe bouts of diarrhoea. Bananas contain a form of soluble fibre called pectin which will assist in absorbing excess water in the gut to begin firming up stools
Avoid trigger foods: In acute diarrhoea or a flare up of chronic diarrhoea, you should to try avoiding foods which can commonly trigger digestive complaints. This can include milk and dairy products (particularly if there is suspected lactose intolerance), spicy foods, caffeine, foods and drinks containing artificial sweeteners, fruit juices and other high fructose products, alcohol and very fatty foods. All of these foods are particularly heavy on or are likely to irritate the digestive tract.
There are some natural remedies which you may want to try to get diarrhoea under control:
Silicol gel: Silicol gel contains silicic acid which acts as a protective barrier for the digestive tract, soothing and calming the walls of the intestine as it synergistically binds toxins for excretion. This can be useful in episodes of acute diarrhoea
Tormentil: Consider using the herb Tormentil which can be used to help calm erratic contractions of the gut and maintain normal, rhythmic contractions. This can be useful in chronic diarrhoea flare ups for example in diarrhoea-dominant IBS
Prebiotics: Prebiotics such as Molkosan help to establish an environment in which our friendly gut bacteria can thrive; this can be useful in conditions involving chronic diarrhoea such as IBS, where an imbalance in gut bacteria (dysbiosis) may be apparent
Probiotics: Increasing your numbers of friendly bacteria directly can be achieved with probiotics. This is useful in cases where the bacteria have already been or are likely to become diminished. It can be particularly useful to take probiotics in the lead up to a vulnerable time, for example travelling abroad, or to incorporate during (antibiotic use) or after an event likely to upset the balance of bacteria (illness).
If self-help measures or natural remedies aren’t helping to control the diarrhoea, anti-diarrhoeal medication from your pharmacist or doctor is an option. This acts to slow down the contractions of the gut, allowing more water to be reabsorbed and stools to firm up.
Antibiotics or anti-viral medication can be taken if the cause of diarrhoea is an infection.
Want to improve your digestion? Get involved as our Digestion Advisor Ali Cullen takes you through her 5 step plan to improve your digestion and get problem symptoms, from bloating to acid reflux, under control.