First off, what you need to understand is that diarrhea is not a disease—it is a condition that is a side effect of a virus or bacterial reaction. In most cases, diarrhea goes away on its own after three or four days, without any treatment. However, those four days can be exhausting, irritating, painful and just unbearable. Some people like to reach for over-the-counter medicine, believing that is the best way to treat diarrhea.
However, there is always a way to stop diarrhea using natural and home remedies. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the symptoms and causes of diarrhea.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
Diarrhea is not harmful, and you cannot die from it, but it can signal a more serious problem, such as allergic reaction. The typical symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Watery and frequent loose stools
In some cases, diarrhea can also manifest as blood or pus in the stool, a fever of 120ºF, and severe rectal pain. In those cases, a visit to the doctor is mandatory.
Causes of Diarrhea
Before we get to the “how to stop diarrhea” section, we must take a look at the causes of the condition. Finding the cause is the best way to treat any disease and condition, including diarrhea. There are two kinds of causes: infectious and osmotic. Infectious diarrhea is the side effect of a viral, bacterial or amoebic disease. Some of the bacterial infections include E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter. Viral infections can be triggered by the herpes simplex virus, viral hepatitis, rotavirus, Norwalk virus and cytomegalovirus.
Osmotic diarrhea, on the other hand, is caused by the inability of our gastrointestinal tract to break down and absorb food that we have ingested. Some of the causes for osmotic diarrhea include intolerance to foods like lactose and artificial sweeteners, intolerance to medications, digestive disorders, high-dose radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgical removal of the gallbladder.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how to stop diarrhea.
When you are suffering from diarrhea, your body is rapidly losing fluids, causing dehydration and even more problems. The only way to counter this is by drinking lots of fluids and making sure to stay hydrated.
There are two types of fluids you need when you have diarrhea. The first are clear liquids, such as plain old tap water. The second type of fluids and liquids you can get include sports drinks. They make sense because of their salt and sugar content, both of which allow for more water to be absorbed. A teaspoon of salt to apple juice is more than enough to prepare your own homemade sports drink. Sports drinks in general contain lots of electrolytes, all of which you need to stay hydrated. There is a reason why athletes drink sports drinks to recover and rejuvenate during games and after.
The BRAT Diet
Popularly called the BRAT diet because of the first letters of the foods you need to eat, BRAT is actually a diet that includes lots of bland food. What you need to eat during diarrhea is: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, or put together, BRAT. Make sure to include a portion of each in your meals.
Some points to follow when you are on a BRAT diet: mix small portions of each product in each meal, mix rice in soups for a better taste, avoid putting butter on your toast to avoid dairy products, and prepare deserts with apple sauce and bananas.
Foods to Eat
Aside from following the BRAT diet, you should also include foods that your digestive system can tolerate during diarrhea. Those include boiled potatoes, cooked carrots, and cooked chicken.
We are now at the point where some unconventional home remedies can be used. Not many people consider ginger as a remedy for diarrhea, but a ginger remedy can be an effective asset in the battle to stop diarrhea. And as bonus points, ginger alleviates cramps and abdominal pain.
For the home remedy, you need ginger, honey, and a grater to make it all work. Start by grating the ginger until you get a fine powder. Add a teaspoon of honey, mix the two ingredients together, and then eat it. Even if the remedy feels strong, avoid drinking water afterwards to reap the maximum effects and benefits of ginger. If you do not have a strong stomach and cannot withstand organic ginger, use powdered ginger.
Peppermint, and peppermint oil, can be used for a number of problems in the household. But let’s talk about how to stop diarrhea and alleviate stomach problems with peppermint. You need some sprigs of mint and hot water. Clean the sprigs of mint while the water is boiling. Add the mint to the hot water, and let it stay there for few minutes, after which you can drink the solution.
Herbal teas in general are recommended during diarrhea, as they provide your body with fluids and prevent dehydration. Among herbal teas, chamomile is the best one, because aside from stopping diarrhea, chamomile also relieves the pain in your stomach.
Brew chamomile tea in hot water for few minutes, and then squeeze half a lemon in it.
Apple Cider Vinegar
As with many other ingredients on the list, apple cider vinegar is a household name in the area of home remedies. Apple cider vinegar helps by eliminating the root of the problem—the bacteria in your stomach. Don’t use apple cider vinegar if the cause of your diarrhea is something other than a bacterial infection.
For this remedy, you need just one glass of water and a teaspoon of vinegar. You may choose to mix the two ingredients together, or you can swallow the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and then drink a glass of water.
We mentioned earlier that carrots—cooked carrots especially—are beneficial foods to combat diarrhea. One way to use them is by preparing a carrot soup. During diarrhea, your body loses lots of fluids and healthy nutrients, all of which carrots can replace. This way, your body recovers faster from the diarrhea, and you’ll feel an instant boost of energy.
Cook the carrots in half a cup of water for several minutes. Add some salt (Himalayan or sea salt for a healthier choice), and then continue cooking for a few more minutes. Make sure to consume the simple carrot soup for a few days after the diarrhea has passed to help your body recover and rejuvenate.
When diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection, there is no better way to stop it than by fighting off the bacteria causing it. This is where probiotics come in handy, as they are essentially “good bacteria” that restore balance in your gut. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea—all of these are good probiotics. Alternatively, you can take some probiotic supplements.
Foods to Avoid
Aside from sticking to certain foods and liquids, there are also foods you shouldn’t eat when you have diarrhea. The reason is simple: certain foods can worsen the condition and/or trigger an allergic reaction.
The foods you need to avoid are fiber-rich foods such as broccoli, beans, peas, bran, brown rice, peppers, whole grains, chickpeas, and prunes. Alcohol and caffeine are off limits, since they cause even more dehydration. Avoid carbonated drinks and sodas, and replace them with tap water or some herbal tea. Food groups you should avoid include spicy and sugary foods. Last, but not least, avoid dairy products such as milk and cheese, as all of them can make your stool even more watery and loose.
An underrated aspect of how to stop diarrhea is rest. Going to the bathroom frequently will take its toll on your body, and you will naturally feel exhausted. Find a comfortable place to stay, and lie down for few hours. Don’t be afraid to go to bed, thinking that your diarrhea will prevent you from falling asleep. It’s all in your mind, so concentrate on falling asleep.
Sleep is also a precautionary measurement for diarrhea, as your body always needs sleep to relax, rejuvenate and refresh. If you ask 10 people how many hours sleep they get per day, half of them will tell you less than 6 hours.
If Nothing Else Helps, Try OTC Medication
Sometimes, home remedies and natural cures can’t help with diarrhea, or they take too long to be effective. In such cases, you can always reach for over-the-counter medications. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you need to instantly stop with the OTC medications for diarrhea as your stool improves. If taken too long, over-the-counter medications can cause constipation, and then you have another issue to address.