Treatment Options for Chronic Diarrhea and IBS-D

Chronic diarrhea can interfere with your ability to enjoy your life. Sometimes, a simple diet change or over-the-counter medication can quickly resolve the problem. Often, a combination of strategies that may include prescription medication and counseling can help relieve your symptoms. Diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) is a common cause of chronic diarrhea, and many of the strategies for managing this condition also apply to other types of chronic diarrhea.

Diet

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Food can make a big difference when it comes to managing diarrhea. Some foods are friendlier to the gastrointestinal (GI) system, while others can be irritating. Many people get a stomach upset and diarrhea after consuming dairy products. If you have a sensitive stomach, a heavy or fatty meal can cause diarrhea. And gluten is another common culprit.

There is a strong chance that you won't develop diarrhea from all of the foods that are commonly associated with diarrhea and that you are more sensitive to some than others. Consider eliminating one type of food from your diet at a time so you can pinpoint the problem.

As you are recovering from a bout of diarrhea, there are also foods you can eat while you are starting to feel better.

Self-Care Strategies

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If you experience recurrent diarrhea, you may be able to prevent some episodes, stay comfortable when you have them, and recover faster by adopting some lifestyle modifications.

Diarrhea can make you dehydrated. Try to stay hydrated by sipping on water, tea, juice, or an electrolyte replacement drink.

Managing abdominal pain with at-home techniques such as applying a warm pack can help you as you are getting over a flare-up. Relaxation techniques may be helpful because there is a link between stress, anxiety, and the GI system.

One of the most upsetting symptoms is urgency, the feeling that you have to go immediately. Techniques for dealing with urgency include deep breathing and emptying on a regular schedule.

Over-the-Counter Products

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Over-the-counter medications and supplements can be effective when it comes to managing diarrhea.

Some popular supplements used for diarrhea include calcium and probiotics, which can be used for prevention or for treatment of a flare-up. Slippery elm is an herb that has been used for diarrhea.

Medications that you can take without a prescription include Imodium (loperamide) and Lomotil (diphenoxylate). Be sure to talk to your doctor, because chronic use (even of over-the-counter products) can cause side effects.

Medication Options

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If you do not improve with at-home strategies and over-the-counter medications, your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength medication for you. Some of the prescription options used for chronic IBS include Xifaxan (rifaximine) and Viberzi (eluxadoline). Chronic diarrhea may also improve with muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, and bile-acid binders.

Counseling

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If medication isn't alleviating your symptoms (or if it causes you to have side effects), therapy and counseling can help. You may be reluctant to consider this option out of concern that your diarrhea symptoms will be viewed as "just in your head." But counseling and therapy can help reduce the symptoms of many true medical conditions.

Getting counseling for a medical problem can be effective as an adjunct to other treatments, such as diet, supplements, or medication.

Awareness of your physiological and hormonal changes can help you sense symptoms of diarrhea earlier, potentially avoiding triggers that can exacerbate them. Some people may also be able to lower anxiety caused by diarrhea or the anticipation of diarrhea. And experts agree that reducing anxiety and depression can help decrease the frequency of diarrhea for some people.

There are several types of counseling and therapy that can help in managing chronic diarrhea. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy have also been found to lessen the severity of IBS symptoms.

Coping

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Enjoying your life can be challenging when you have frequent episodes of diarrhea. Day to day activities such as dining out, traveling, working, going to parties, and going to school can all be tricky when you have chronic diarrhea.

Experiencing a disruptive symptom like diarrhea on a regular basis can make you feel like you should stay home near your own bathroom. That, however, is no way to live. With a little planning, it is possible to manage the needs of your body and lead a full, interesting life.

One of the most important aspects of coping is to figure out what you will do if the worst-case scenario—a bathroom accident—occurs. Many people who have chronic diarrhea spend so much time being anxious about this possibility. But pushing through the negative thoughts and moving forward to decide what you would do if you have an accident will provide you with more peace of mind than just thinking of this possibility as a problem without a solution.

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Article Sources

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