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Diarrhea Treatment and Remedies: How to Prevent Serious Complications

Story at-a-glance

  • If you think taking anti-diarrheal medication is the best way to stop diarrhea, you’re wrong — although taking these drugs will reduce the number of times that you need to go to the toilet, they can actually inhibit your body’s natural ability to address the cause of the problem
  • While waiting for diarrhea to run its course, your main focus should be to prevent dehydration

It is estimated that adults get one bout of acute diarrhea every year, and young children have an average of two episodes of this illness annually.1 While diarrhea often goes away on its own after a few days,2 there are simple remedies that can help you recover faster and prevent complications.

Beware of Anti-Diarrheal Drugs

If you think taking anti-diarrheal medication is the best way to stop diarrhea, you're wrong. Although these drugs will reduce the number of times that you need to go to the toilet, they can actually inhibit your body's natural ability to address the cause of the problem.

Contrary to what many people think, diarrhea is the body's deliberate response to manage disruptions in the gastrointestinal system. Large quantities of fluids are poured through the intestines to flush out disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites.3

Furthermore, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea are just some of the possible side effects of anti-diarrheal medication. Serious side effects, such as confusion, depressed breathing, necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious intestinal disease where the lining of the intestinal wall dies),4 and even death, may occur after taking these drugs.5

Safe Strategies to Address and Treat Diarrhea

If you're seeking methods on how to cure diarrhea, remember that solely relying on medication isn't the only option. There are natural treatments for this condition, but the primary focus is electrolyte6 or fluid replacement to avoid potentially life-threatening complications like severe dehydration.7

If vomiting accompanies diarrhea, rest your stomach by not eating or drinking anything for several hours.8 As soon as vomiting stops, sip small amounts of pure water or mineral-rich, homemade bone broth and gradually increase quantities if your body can tolerate these fluids.9 You can also try these other home remedies for diarrhea:

Coconut water — This may help replenish lost fluids and electrolytes and address dehydration.10,11 Because of these potential effects, coconut water may also be used as a treatment for traveler's diarrhea.12

While coconut water contains less sugar compared to other drinks, consume it in moderation to prevent unwanted health problems.13

If you're thinking of using coconut oil to treat diarrhea, don't. Consumption of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oils like coconut oil may worsen diarrhea and lead to other side effects such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.14

Probiotic foods — The good bacteria in probiotic foods can help your body fight off germs and bad bacteria that may cause diarrhea.15

Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration found that probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and other fermented dairy products, as well as probiotic supplements, can make diarrhea go away faster.16

Essential oils — You can try essential oils for diarrhea relief, provided that you consult with your physician first and take an allergen test to check for sensitivities or allergies.

Ginger, nutmeg, peppermint, cinnamon leaf and neroli essential oils are some of your best bets for treating diarrhea.

Zinc supplement — This can help ease diarrhea by reducing its severity17 and preventing it from occurring again.18

One study found that zinc was able to promote better intestinal absorption of water and electrolytes, assist with healing and restoring the health of your gut wall, raise quantities of enterocyte brush-border enzymes and promote better immune function against possible infections.19

While waiting for diarrhea to run its course, your main focus should be to prevent dehydration. However, if a bout of diarrhea persists for more than two days and causes severe dehydration, abdominal pain or dizziness,20 these symptoms may be due to a different underlying condition, so you should consult your doctor.21


Diarrhea: Introduction

What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea In Kids

Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Diarrhea Duration

Is Diarrhea Contagious?

Diarrhea Causes

Diarrhea Types

Diarrhea Symptoms

Diarrhea Treatment

Diarrhea Prevention

Diarrhea Diet

Diarrhea FAQ

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Diarrhea Symptoms

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Diarrhea Prevention

Sources and References

  • 1 EMedicineHealth, September 11, 2017
  • 2 Health In Aging, "Eldercare at Home: Diarrhea"
  • 3 “Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease E-Book,” May 3, 2010
  • 4 MedlinePlus, May 14, 2017
  • 5 Patient, March 1, 2018
  • 6 MedicineNet, January 31, 2018
  • 7 Medical News Today, November 28, 2017
  • 8 University of Michigan University Health Service, “Diarrhea and Vomiting”
  • 9 UWSP University Health Service, May 2000
  • 10 The New Zealand Medical Journal [01 Aug 1979, 90(641):98-100
  • 11 WebMD, 2010
  • 12 “VIVA Travel Guides Colombia,” 2008
  • 13 VeryWell Fit, March 18, 2018
  • 14 "Manual of Nutritional Therapeutics," 2008
  • 15 WebMD, December 11, 2017
  • 16 PubMed Health, May 4, 2016
  • 17 WebMD, “Zinc”
  • 18 World Health Organization, “Zinc Supplementation in the Management of Diarrhoea”
  • 19 “Metal Ions in Biological Systems: Volume 41: Metal Ions and Their Complexes in Medication,” March 26, 2004
  • 20 Mayo Clinic, January 11, 2018
  • 21 WebMD, May 22, 2017
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