3 Effective Home Remedies for Diarrhea

You can get diarrhea from a virus or bacteria and it usually goes away on its own in two to three days.

Some people reach for Imodium (loperamide) the moment they have loose stool. But the drugs are meant for frequent or severe diarrhea rather than an occasional episode.

This article goes over ways that you can get rid of diarrhea without turning to medicine.

Young woman drinking a glass of water in a bedroom
Geri Lavrov / Getty Images 

Treating Mild Diarrhea Without Medicine

In some cases, taking an antidiarrheal drug will replace watery stools with constipation. Both are unpleasant. Try these helpful home remedies to treat a mild episode of diarrhea without using pills.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

One of the biggest problems with diarrhea is dehydration. This is what leads many people to the emergency room.

Diarrhea causes the body to lose a lot of water and electrolytes it needs to function normally. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that are needed for various bodily processes

It's important to treat dehydration properly. Otherwise, it can become dangerous, especially in young children.

To manage a mild bout of diarrhea, you need to replace the fluids and electrolytes you lost. Drink plenty of water, clear juices, clear broths, or an electrolyte-rich sports drink.

There are also things you should avoid when you have an episode of diarrhea. Avoid coffee, caffeinated drinks, prune juice, sugary drinks, sodas, and alcohol. These all have a laxative effect. It's also a good idea to avoid dairy products if you're lactose intolerant, which means you can't digest the main sugar in milk well.

Young children and babies with diarrhea need pediatric rehydration drinks. These are marketed under certain brand names, like:

  • Pedialyte
  • Enfalyte
  • Gastrolyte

Breastfed babies should continue to breastfeed. Children should continue eating their regular diet. Also, they should drink rehydrating fluids. This is better than putting them on a restrictive diet.

Some people want to avoid the artificial colorings or flavorings in some rehydration drinks. You can make a homemade rehydration drink with only salt, sugar, and water.

You can also buy oral rehydration salts over the counter at most drugstores. Follow the preparation instructions and don't use too much salt. That can be harmful, especially to children.

Eat a Bland Diet 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases doesn't recommend following a restrictive diet to treat diarrhea. But that doesn't mean all foods are the same. There are some foods you should avoid, as well as foods you might tolerate better.

The BRAT diet was a commonly-recommended food plan for easing digestive distress.

The diet is made up of four bland, low-fiber foods:

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

Bananas are especially useful. They help restore any potassium your body lost through diarrhea.

You can add other bland, easy-to-digest foods as your diarrhea symptoms start to get better. This includes:

  • Baked, skinless chicken breasts
  • Oatmeal
  • Baked potatoes
  • Chicken soup with saltines

Don't eat or drink foods or beverages that cause gas, such as:

  • Carbonated drinks, like sodas or seltzer
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower

If diarrhea lasts more than a couple of days, check the foods that you're eating. Diarrhea can get worse if you eat foods high in fiber (such as bran, whole grains, and brown rice) as well as greasy foods or those sweetened with sorbitol.

Use Probiotics

Taking probiotics in food or or as supplements might help shorten a mild bout of diarrhea. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are beneficial to your digestive system.

Diarrhea can cause you to lose a lot of the healthy bacteria in your stomach and intestines.

Probiotics can quickly replace these protective microorganisms and help restore normal bowel function. Some helpful probiotics include:

  • Lactobacillus bacteria
  • Bifidobacterium bacteria
  • Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) yeast

In particular, S. boulardii has powerful antidiarrheal effects.

It may be best to avoid some dairy products during diarrhea, but not all. Certain dairy foods, like yogurt or kefir with live probiotic bacteria, are extremely beneficial.

Other natural probiotic sources are fermented foods like:

  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Aged soft cheeses
  • Cottage cheese
  • Green olives
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tempeh

Kimchi is another popular fermented food. Some people even call it a "super-probiotic." But kimchi has hot spices that might make your diarrhea worse.

Side effects of probiotics, whether in food or supplement form, tend to be mild and may include an upset stomach, bloating, and gas.

When to Seek Medical Help

You should never ignore diarrhea. If you have tried the above-listed home remedies and still have loose stools, call your doctor or your pharmacist. They might recommend over-the-counter medicine that can help.

On the other hand, you should see a doctor right away if you or your child have persistent or severe diarrhea or show signs of dehydration, such as:

Adults
  • Diarrhea for three days or more

  • Severe stomach pain

  • Bloody or black stools

  • Fever over 102 F (39 C)

  • Little or no urination

  • Extreme weakness

  • Dry skin and mouth

  • Excessive thirst

  • Dark urine

Children
  • Diarrhea for more than 24 hours

  • No wet diapers in three hours

  • Fever over 102 F (39 C)

  • Dry mouth or tongue

  • Crying without tears

  • Unusual sleepiness

  • Black or bloody stools

  • Sunken cheeks or eyes

  • Skin that doesn't retract when pinched

Babies under 3 months old with diarrhea should be taken to a doctor or emergency room right away. Don't wait or try to treat the condition at home.

Summary

You might be able to treat diarrhea without taking medication. Try changing your diet temporarily, taking probiotics, and drinking lots of liquids. Talk to your healthcare provider if the diarrhea doesn't go away.

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8 Sources
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