Diarrhea Home Remedies

3 Ways to Treat Diarrhea Without Medication

Young woman drinking a glass of water in a bedroom

Geri Lavrov / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Most diarrhea is caused by a virus or bacteria and will go away on its own within two to three days. While many people will reach for the Imodium the moment a loose stool appears, the drugs are really more appropriate for frequent or severe diarrhea than an incidental bout.

In some cases, taking an antidiarrheal drug will slingshot you from water stools straight to constipation, an equally unpleasant event. To this end, try these helpful home remedies to treat a mild bout of diarrhea without the use of pills.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

One of the biggest problems with diarrhea, and what leads many people to the emergency room, is dehydration. Diarrhea causes the body to lose a lot of water and electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) it needs to function normally. If not treated appropriately, dehydration can become dangerous, especially in young children.

To manage a mild bout of diarrhea, drink plenty of water, clear juices, clear broths, or an electrolyte-rich sports drink. Avoid coffee, caffeinated drinks, prune juice, sugary drinks, sodas, and alcohol, all of which have a laxative effect. It is also a good idea to avoid dairy products.

Young children and babies with diarrhea should be given pediatric rehydration drinks, marketed under such brand names as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or Gastrolyte. Breastfed infants should continue to breastfeed.

If you want to avoid the artificial colorings or flavorings used in some commercial rehydration drinks, you can make a homemade version using only salt, sugar, and water. You can also purchase oral rehydration salts over the counter at most drugstores. Follow the preparation instructions as too much salt can be harmful, especially to children.

Eat a BRAT Diet 

The BRAT diet is the gold standard food plan for easing digestive distress. It is comprised of four bland, low-fiber foods that will help to firm up stools: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Bananas are especially useful as they help restore any potassium lost through diarrhea.

Other bland, easy-to-digest foods can be added to as the diarrhea symptoms begin to resolve, including baked skinless chicken breasts, oatmeal, baked potatoes, and chicken soup with saltines. Avoid foods and beverages that cause gas, such as carbonated drinks, beans, cucumbers, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. 

If diarrhea lasts more than a couple of days, check the foods that you are eating. Diarrhea can be exacerbated by 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 supplement form can 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 (which include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria and Saccharomyces boulardii yeast) can quickly replace these protective microorganisms and help restore normal bowel function. This is especially true with S. boulardii which exerts powerful antidiarrheal effects.

While dairy products should be avoided during diarrhea, yogurt or kefir with live probiotic bacteria are extremely beneficial. Other natural probiotic sources include fermented foods like miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, aged soft cheeses, cottage cheese, green olives, sourdough bread, and tempeh.

While kimchi is often cited as a "super-probiotic," it contains hot spices that may worsen diarrhea.

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

Diarrhea should never be ignored. If you have tried the above-listed home remedies and still have loose stools, call your doctor or speak with your pharmacist about over-the-counter medications that may help.

On the other hand, you should see a doctor immediately if you or your child experience persistent or severe diarrhea and/or develop signs of dehydration, as follows:

Adults

  • Diarrhea 3 days or more

  • Severe abdominal 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 3 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

Without exception, babies under three months with diarrhea should be taken to a doctor or emergency room immediately. Do not wait or try to treat the condition at home.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources