Diarrhea is a common ailment of the digestive system caused by a mild infection or irritant. It can range from mild, temporary issues to more serious, chronic conditions. Fortunately, there are several ways to stop diarrhea quickly and safely and to prevent it from returning.
Causes of Diarrhea
Bacterial or viral infection
Both forms of diarrhea are painful and distressing, but they need to be treated differently.
In either case, if the symptoms prolong, talk to a doctor or your medical service. They may need to check that your condition is definitely caused by a bacterial or viral infection and not something else.
Depending on your diagnosis, you may then need to take antibacterial or antiviral medication, quite possibly in the form antibiotics, if there is a bacterial infection present. Your doctor will be able to advise you on what antibiotics are suitable for you, though always be clear to know whether you are allergic to penicillin, for example. This can be especially important if you are traveling and have a dose of diarrhea abroad, where your medical records to the med service in that country may not be available.
Some people have allergic reactions to penicillin, for example. Which can be very serious, so always know if you suffer from that particular allergy.
In addition, as part of getting better, increase your consumption of fiber, which is a great binding agent, and make sure to consume probiotics, and drink plenty of fluids.
These actions are, however, more preventative. Once you have diarrhea, they may not help treat a particular outbreak. But they should help make your gut healthier over time and kess susceptible in the future to outbreaks.
This is essentially when the body can’t properly digest a certain food or ingredient, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating and diarrhea. Depending on you, and your particular make-up, these symptoms can range from mild to severe, so you definitely need to be aware of this area of life.
If you suspect your diarrhea is caused by a particular food, try getting checked out for food intolerances. Taking the steps to identify any possible underlying food intolerances will help protect you from further doses of diarrhea.
It is important to be aware that some food intolerances can be very mild, but they can still make a difference to your lifestyle. Many people are sometimes unaware they have a minor intolerance to various foods, so it can be a very helpful process to have some checks done. Even cutting back on some food types, for example wheat or some forms of dairy, may make your gut and overall digestive system stronger and more regular.
Parasites, such as giardia
Giardia is a devilish parasite that does your gut no good. Symptoms of its presence include abdominal cramps, nausea and watery stools. If left untreated, giardia can even cause malnutrition.
You need medication if you have giardia, in order to kill off the parasites and stop the symptoms. Regular hand washing, as always, is also an incredibly important and effective way to prevent it from spreading.
Hygiene is incredibly important for all of us, but especially when we are handling food. As we know, the food chain nowadays is often complex and involves many people, and food traveling vast distances. Keeping a clean and hygienic environment as you eat will limit the chance of catching diarrhea.
Medication, such as antibiotics
If you decide with your doctor to take antibiotics, make sure to take them exactly as prescribed. Don’t skip doses, and don’t stop taking them without your doctor’s permission. Doing so could make your condition worse, or even cause further health problems.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common disorder that affects over 10 million people in the U.S. alone. And many more across the world. Unfortunately, there’s no single cause, but several factors may contribute to the symptoms.
The most common treatments are dietary and lifestyle modifications, such as reducing stress, avoiding certain foods, and exercising regularly. Exercise is often the solution to many health problems. Your gut health is also influenced by how well you exercise.
Additionally, your doctor may recommend probiotics, fiber supplements, and certain medications to help manage symptoms and reduce the severity of IBS episodes.
What works best for you will depend on what is causing your IBS. The important thing to remember is that there are options available and steps you can take to help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Stress or anxiety
Stress is a hazard of our modern age. We all suffer from it at some point or other in our lives, often in our daily lives. It can be a powerful disruptor to our body’s functioning well in the gut.
The first step is to identify sources of stress in your life and try to minimize them as much as possible. Hugely important, you could start by taking some time for yourself each day to relax and unwind, or consider joining a yoga class to help reduce stress levels.
Additionally, don’t forget the social! Talking to friends and family can be a great way to work through any underlying emotional issues that may be linked to the condition.
Poor diet, such as eating too much fat or sugar
Almost all of us will have noticed that after eating something really fatty or sugary, we can start feeling a bit queasy. In fact, a poor diet, such as eating too much fat or sugar, can lead very easily to diarrhea. It is often one of the most common causes.
This is because sugar and fat are harder for the body to digest than other types of food. Eating too much of either can cause your gastrointestinal system to become overwhelmed, leading to loose stools, cramping, and nausea.
In the section below, we look at dietary advice and at ways to make sure that what you eat and drink, when you eat and drink, and how you eat and drink, will impact positively on your body and reduce the risk of diarrhea.
Treatment with Diet
Drink plenty of fluids
Water, of course, is the best drink of all, so long as it is clean and suitable for drinking.
If you are traveling, which is often when we might catch a dose of diarrhea, make sure that you are in a part of the world where tap water is absolutely fine to drink before you take a drink from the taps in your hotel room, for example. Most of the developed world has excellent tap water, but there are still some countries where drinking bottled water is necessary.
This is sometimes difficult to accept, if we want to limit our use of plastics and single use items, but unfortunately there are still many places in the world where your health requires you to make the choice to drink only bottled water.
If you drink contaminated water, you will likely be ill with diarrhea and perhaps diseases that are even more serious.
Other drinks are also useful for your overall gut health and we look at these below.
World Health Organisation Recommendation
The World Health Organization recommends that adults drink 2 liters of water per day, and children 1 liter of water per day.
But water isn’t your only option. As we said, other clear fluids can help as well.
These include clear juices, decaffeinated tea, sports drinks, and broth-based soups. Avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks, and milk products, as these can make diarrhea worse.
Drinking extra fluids makes it easier for your body to absorb the excess liquid it’s trying to get rid of. So remember, when trying to stop diarrhea, drink lots of fluids.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
If you have been struggling to stop your diarrhea, one important tip is to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
This is because caffeine and alcohol are both known to speed up the digestive system, which can lead to more frequent and loose bowel movements.
But that’s not all. Alcohol can also cause inflammation of the intestines, aggravating an already existing bout of diarrhea. So, what should you do? Well, it really is wise to avoid caffeine and alcohol altogether when trying to stop diarrhea.
If you imagine two people with the same diarrhea condition, the person who carries on drinking beer and wine will have a more difficult time getting rid of the diarrhea than the person who drinks water and decaffeinated green tea, for example.
Avoid fatty, greasy, and spicy foods
You will possibly have noticed that when you eat something fatty, greasy, or spicy, you often end up with bouts of diarrhea? This is a common condition and occurrence, as these types of foods can be a trigger for diarrhea.
Avoid this scenario by paying attention to what you eat. Whenever possible, try to avoid fatty, greasy, or spicy foods. This will certainly help reduce the likelihood of developing diarrhea symptoms.
And if you do decide to indulge in more intense and rich dishes, make sure you only have very small portions. If need be, you can also supplement your meal with a healthy option, like a salad or some fruit. Doing so can help to counterbalance any potential negative effects that the fatty or greasy food may have on your digestive system.
For many of us who eat spicy and fatty foods and whose diets are not very healthy, this is really important advice. Your gut needs to be looked after.
Eat small, frequent meals
If you have diarrhea often, eating much less can be a great strategy. Eating small, frequent meals helps keep your digestive system from becoming overwhelmed and keeps your body nourished.
Some parts of the world are better at this approach to eating than others. In the western world, we tend not to eat like this, and have big meals at key times of the day. This is not necessarily unhealthy, but it is not as healthy as eating more moderately.
But how, you may ask, does this more moderate approach to eating help with diarrhea?
Well, by keeping your system stimulated, and eating several smaller meals throughout the day, your digestive system will process your food more efficiently, which can help reduce the symptoms of diarrhea. Bloating becomes much less likely.
Additionally, by eating smaller, more frequent meals, your body won’t be bombarded with a large amount of food all at once, which can trigger diarrhea in some people.
Avoid chewing gum
You may in the past have been told that chewing gum can help stop diarrhea. If so, it’s not true.
In fact, the truth is that it’s actually not recommended. Chewing gum increases saliva production and puts additional strain on the digestive system, which can make problems like diarrhea worse.
Prevention: Essential Tips
Here are a few tips to assist you in avoiding diarrhea episodes.
- Avoid sugary drinks and sodas
- Avoid high-fat and processed foods
- Don’t eat more than your body needs
- Drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes
Following these tips can help keep you hydrated and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to help reduce the risk of diarrhea. Unlike gum chewing, these approaches are actually wise!
Increase your fiber intake gradually
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you should increase your fiber intake gradually – not all at once. Eating too much fiber too soon can cause more irritation in the digestive system, which will worsen the problem. Fiber can be a potent food type.
That said, it’s very important to make sure that you’re getting enough fiber in your diet. Increasing your intake slowly but surely will allow your body to adjust and reduce your odds of having uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea.
Incorporating foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, such as bananas, which are fibrous, and vegetables is a very good place to start. Adding in just a few extra servings each day will, over time, help increase your fiber intake to get you the relief you need.
Nuts are also an important source of fiber, as well as having other excellent health benefits, but obviously if you have any nut allergies you need to avoid them and make sure to get your fiber from the other sources we mention.
Different people have different needs, so it is worthwhile checking to see how many daily grams of fiber are recommended by medics for a person of your age, gender or size. You will perhaps be surprised by how high the intake recommendations are.
Consume probiotics and yogurt
Nowadays, these products are very widely available and many of them are delicious, coming in a wide variety of fruit flavors. Increasing your use of probiotics is definitely one way to stop diarrhea. Probiotics are beneficial, live bacteria found in certain types of foods — like yogurt. The healthy bacteria can help balance out your gut’s microflora, and will help reduce symptoms of diarrhea.
They have other health benefits too, so do not merely take them to stave off a dose of diarrhea. They have strong preventative properties as they keep your gut healthy and more likely to fight off infections.
Plus, yogurt is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A and B12 — all nutrients that help keep your digestive system running smoothly and promote regular bowel movements. So if you’re trying to stop diarrhea, try including more probiotics and yogurt in your diet.
Get plenty of rest
Many people might not connect sleep with a healthy gut and intestinal system, but there is a link. Resting allows your body to conserve energy and focus on healing itself. When you’re well-rested, your digestive system can work better to break down food and absorb the nutrients it needs.
Plus, when your body is exhausted, it releases stress hormones that can worsen diarrhea symptoms. So, by getting enough rest, you can reduce your stress levels and help your body heal.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how many hours you should sleep per night – everyone is different. But try to get seven or eight hours a night, as that tends to be the sweet spot. If you find it difficult to get to sleep, try some relaxing activities like yoga or mindfulness.
If you are traveling across time zones and your body is dealing with the tiredness that comes from long flights, do all you can to get your sleep patterns back to normal as soon as possible. This will not just make your holiday better, but will make it likelier your gut stays healthy and that a dose of diarrhea does not interrupt your vacation or visit.
Take over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate
Do over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate, provide relief from diarrhea? Many people suffering from diarrhea ask this question.
The answer is clear – absolutely they do!
OTC medications are a great way to quickly reduce symptoms of diarrhea. Loperamide works by slowing down the contractions of your intestines, thus reducing stool outputs. Bismuth subsalicylate works to reduce the number of loose stools. It also acts as an antacid to help minimize stomach pain and upset.
However, please keep in mind that these medications should only be used as a short term solution, as they can cause constipation if taken for a long period of time – a small irony! It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any OTC medication, as they may be able to recommend something more suitable for your specific case.
But if you are in immediate need of medical aid with some OTC meds, these options are likely to assist in the short term with the discomfort of your symptoms.
Try a natural antidiarrheal
Have you ever considered trying a natural antidiarrheal? These exist and are often a really good way to go. As an approach, it can be an effective way to stop diarrhea. Natural remedies have been used for centuries, and many of them have proven medicinal benefits. Herbs like turmeric, ginger and fennel have been widely known across many dietary traditions to reduce diarrheal symptoms.
Other natural antidiarrheals include apple cider vinegar, yogurt, and probiotics. Apple cider vinegar is going through a renaissance in its popularity in the west, and many more people are aware of its benefits than was the case a decade or two ago.
If you are considering trying one of these natural alternatives, make sure to talk to your doctor first. Some herbs may interact with medications or cause other side effects. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you decide if the remedy is the right choice for you. Always remember that a pharmacist will also be able to advise you. Many pharmacies are absolutely excellent with highly qualified teams of staff who will willingly help you make the best decision.
If you are traveling, when we are often susceptible to gut disruption, it is likely the local pharmacy that will be your first place to go to if you are ill.
Make a peppermint tea
Peppermint tea is a great remedy for diarrhea.
To make it, you’ll need peppermint leaves and boiling water. Steep the leaves in the hot water for about five minutes, and then let the mixture cool until it’s drinkable.
What makes peppermint tea so beneficial is that it has antispasmodic properties, which can help reduce cramping associated with diarrhea. It also has menthol, a compound that has natural antiviral and antibacterial properties. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory qualities that can help soothe the gut.
You may have heard that consuming bananas can help stop diarrhea? In fact, it is one of the most commonly shared methods, and it works. This is because bananas are full of pectin, which helps to firm up stools.
Additionally, they are a great source of potassium, which helps replace the nutrients lost in diarrhea. Eating a banana can also provide much needed calories for those struggling with diarrhea-induced fatigue. As we saw above, they are also great fruits to help with fiber intake.
In other words: if you have diarrhea, grab a banana! It might just be what you need to provide quick relief and speed up your recovery time.
Try a herbal tea
Many people have found herbal teas to be a soothing and effective remedy for diarrhea. They can help to reduce inflammation and bring relief from pain. Many are truly delicious and they are nowadays widely available everywhere.
But what kind of herbal tea is best?
Well, chamomile tea is widely known for its calming effects and ability to soothe digestive issues. It’s also easy to make and naturally caffeine-free.
Other options include peppermint, fennel, and ginger teas. They all have anti-inflammatory properties that might help ease your diarrhea.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to speak with your health shop before self-treating with herbal tea. But if it’s the right remedy for your situation, you could soon be on the path to recovery.
Building herbal tea drinking into your lifestyle will also have wider long term benefits, so even if you start drinking herbal tea to treat diarrhea, you may find that it becomes a very pleasant part of your overall lifestyle.
Use activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is a popular home remedy for treating diarrhea because it absorbs toxic substances in the body. It works by binding the toxins in the digestive system and reducing their effects on the body.
But before you start using activated charcoal, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
While it can be an effective treatment option, it’s not suitable for everyone. For instance, it should not be used for people with blockages or bleeding in the intestines. Make sure to speak to your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for you.
When to See a Doctor
You may well have experienced abdominal pain alongside diarrhea. It can be very uncomfortable. To alleviate it, some people find that lying down and applying pressure to their abdomen helps. Others find that taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen can help.
If your abdominal pain is severe, you may want to consider talking to a doctor. In some cases, they may prescribe medication to help manage your symptoms.
Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body and do whatever you need to do to ease your discomfort.
Weight loss and diarrhea often go hand in hand — but why? It can often be very depressing to those on a diet to see that it is making them unwell.
The simple answer is that if you are losing weight quickly, your body may try to rid itself of excess water and electrolytes quicker than it usually would, resulting in diarrhea.
So how can we prevent this?
The answer is to lose weight slowly and steadily.
Create a diet that works for you and aim to shed one to two pounds per week. This will give your body time to adjust to the changes in your diet and not lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances, both of which can cause diarrhea.
Eating small, frequent meals may also help to regulate your digestive system and ease any digestive discomfort. If you lose weight with diarrhea, it will be a very unhealthy – and very short-term – way of doing so! Remember always to prioritize the overall workings of your body, even if you are dieting.
Fever is typically a sign of infection, and can be dangerous if not managed appropriately. But what can you do if you’re experiencing a fever, especially one that is also causing diarrhea.
First, it’s important to address the underlying cause. That could mean seeing your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis. If it’s a bacterial infection, antibiotics might be prescribed. For a viral infection, on the other hand, it may be more about symptom management.
It’s also important to stay hydrated, get lots of rest, and take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to help reduce your fever.
Finally, if your fever is high (over 103°F) and persists for more than 24 hours, it’s time to contact your doctor right away—this could be a sign of something more serious.
Black, tarry stools
Black, tarry stools can be an indication of gastrointestinal bleeding. This can be caused by a number of conditions, such as an ulcer, cancer, or other digestive issues.
If this is what you’re seeing in your stools, it’s important to consult with your doctor right away to determine the underlying cause and get appropriate treatment. Though these symptoms are quite rare, it is important to react to them and seek medical advice.
The diarrhea lasts longer than two days
Have you been dealing with diarrhea for more than two days? If so, you may want to consider seeing a doctor. Diarrhea that lasts for an extended amount of time can be a sign of something more serious, such as an infection or food intolerance. In addition to consulting your doctor, there are a few things you can do to try to stop the diarrhea.
For example, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. You should also try to get rest and eat small, frequent meals. Adding probiotics and fiber to your diet could also help improve your digestive system and provide relief. Of course, if the diarrhea persists longer than two days, it’s best to consult with a doctor or pharmacist.
Blood in the stool
If you have seen blood in your stool while suffering from diarrhea, it could be a sign of something serious that needs medical attention. It could be an ulcer, or something even more severe.
The causes may be various, but generally blood in the stool is an indication of inflammation in the digestive system. It can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of these can be very serious, like colorectal cancer, while others could simply be an irritated bowel. It’s very important to get checked out by a doctor to make sure nothing more serious is causing your symptoms.
Once the underlying cause is determined, your doctor will be able to prescribe treatment to ease the inflammation and help you stop the diarrhea. This could mean medication, dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, or other personal treatments suited to your particular condition. Taking action promptly can help you get your health back on track.
Never be afraid to take action by seeking medical advice if you are worried by what you see or feel.