Diarrhea. We’ve all been there… but it never makes the experience any more pleasant, or any less embarrassing.
Though it can be triggered by many things, diarrhea is the result of foods and fluids passing too quickly through the colon. Because of this speed, your body isn’t able to absorb the fluid in time.1
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is most commonly caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses that we pick up from our food and water.2 That’s why you’re often warned not to drink the water, or eat any uncooked vegetables (washed in water), while visiting certain countries.
Medications can also bring on bouts of diarrhea, as can food intolerances and intestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Now, diarrhea is usually not considered serious — and it tends to go away within a few days on its own. However, most of us don’t have schedules that allow us to chain ourselves to the bathroom all day until it passes. So… what can you do in the meantime?
Thankfully, there are several natural remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea in a gentle-yet-effective manner. Here are a few easy ones you can try for yourself:
1. The BRAT Diet
The BRAT diet has become very popular in treating digestive disorders — and for good reason. BRAT is actually an acronym for:
As you can see, these are all foods that you can easily find in your kitchen. The idea of the BRAT diet is that it’s very bland and easy to digest, which means it won’t further irritate your system.
Furthermore, bananas contain a type of starch that may actually help your gut reabsorb water and nutrients. In fact, one study found that 80% of children who ate green bananas were alleviated of their diarrheal symptoms within three days.3
Rice has also been shown to have anti-diarrheal properties. In one study, patients who drank a rice-based rehydration solution no longer required intravenous fluids while receiving diarrhea treatment.4
Psyllium is a dietary fiber which comes from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It’s composed of about 70 percent soluble fiber — which forms a gel in your intestines and helps to slow digestion — and about 30 percent insoluble fiber that “bulks up” your stool and helps to stimulate its movement through the intestine.5
If you’re not familiar with psyllium, it’s actually the key ingredient in most store-bought fiber supplements. The interesting thing about psyllium is that it has shown to be helpful in both the treatment of constipation and diarrhea — two seemingly opposite conditions.
Psyllium helps with the absorption of water, which increases the size and moisture of stools. When you’re constipated, this can help create bigger and more easy-to-pass stools.6
When you’re experiencing diarrhea, psyllium once again absorbs lots of water — which can help dry up the watery bowel movement, create stool thickness, and slow down the passage of the stool.7,8
These days, yogurt is most famous for its probiotic properties — and that’s why it can be helpful if you’re experiencing diarrhea. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are known for their health benefits on human gut flora.9
Factors like antibiotics, poor diet, and illness can all upset the delicate balance of organisms that live in our gut — and once this balance is upset, bad bacteria are able to thrive. One of the symptoms of an upset gut is diarrhea.
Though you could take probiotic supplements, there’s an even easier way to get these benefits — and all of them are in your refrigerator! These naturally-fermented foods are great sources of probiotics:
- Kefir drinks
- Sourdough bread
Yogurt is made from milk that’s been fermented by varying strains of “good bacteria” — mostly lactobacillus and a Streptococcus species. It has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of various gastrointestinal disturbances, including diarrhea.10,11
4. Bentonite Clay
Clay has been used by many cultures for centuries, in the fight against health issues.
In Ancient Greece, “Lemnian earth” was used to counter the effects of snake-bites and poisons, as well as dysentery.12
Sudanese villagers along the Nile used local bentonite clay to purify the river’s murky water. As a consequence, they suffered fewer gastrointestinal issues than other nearby communities.13
Further experiments showed that viruses, parasites, and many types of bacteria are removed from the water by adding in clay.14,15,16
A study examining tribes in the high Andes of South America and central Africa, as well as Australian aborigines, showed that these ancient people used clay to avoid getting stomach aches, dysentery, and food infections.17
Recent research also cites the ingestion of dried clay as a treatment against chronic diarrhea, as it may help absorb and carry bacteria from your body.18
You can actually find bentonite clay formulas more easily than you might think — just check your local pharmacy, health food store, or online retailers.
Like bananas, carrots are fermented into short-chain fatty acids by your gut. But instead of being a resistant starch like bananas, they are what we call “pectin.”
Pectin has two great things going for it. First, as a short-chain fatty acid, it can ease the symptoms of diarrhea by helping to absorb liquid and firm up loose stools.19
Secondly, the pectin acts as a “prebiotic” because it stimulates the production of natural probiotics in your gut. And probiotics, as we know, can be effective in balancing gut flora as well as relieving discomfort.20
Finally… Don’t Forget to Hydrate!
The most important thing when you’re experiencing a bout of diarrhea? Hydration, hydration, hydration.
Because your body loses a lot of fluid during this time, the worst thing you can do is become dehydrated. So be sure to drink plenty of water and get as many electrolytes as you can.
The World Health Organization (WHO) even has its own homemade “electrolyte recipe.” Simply combine 1 tsp salt and 6 tsp sugar in 1 liter of clean water — then drink up! 21
In The End…
Diarrhea is, unfortunately, a fact of life — and it’s something most of us will experience at one point or another. Though you may not be able to prevent it, you can handle the symptoms. So be sure to nourish your digestive system with non-irritating foods, fill your diet with plenty of probiotics — and always remember to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”
13.Chapter 11.1 Clays and Clay Minerals For Pollution Control, GJ Churchman, WP Gates, BKG Theng, G Yuan, Handbook of Clay Science, 2006 Elsevier, edited by F. Bergaya, B.K.G. Theng, G. Lagaly