In the U.S., 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 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.
Contrary to what many people think, diarrhea is the body's deliberate response to manage disruptions in the gastrointestinal system.3 Large quantities of water are poured through the intestines to flush out diarrhea-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites.4
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) and even death, may occur after taking these drugs.5,6
Safe Strategies to Address and Treat Diarrhea
Fortunately, medication is not the only treatment for diarrhea. There are natural treatments for this condition, but the primary focus is fluid and electrolyte replacement, to avoid potentially life-threatening complications from severe dehydration.7,8
If vomiting accompanies diarrhea, rest your stomach by not eating or drinking anything for three hours. As soon as vomiting stops, sip small amounts of pure water or mineral-rich, homemade bone broth for one to two hours. You can also try these other natural remedies for diarrhea:
• Coconut Water
This is a natural replacement for sports drinks that are usually high in sugar or contain artificial sweeteners. It helps replenish lost fluids and electrolytes to address dehydration. Remember to consume coconut water in moderation as it also contains some sugar.9,10
• Probiotic Foods
The good bacteria in probiotic foods can help your body fight off the germs that cause diarrhea. 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.11
Turmeric is known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Mixing a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of hot or cold water can be an effective tonic for your gastrointestinal system, as well as a remedy for infectious or inflammatory diarrhea.
• Zinc Supplement
This can help ease diarrhea in three ways: by improving the absorption of water and electrolytes, aiding the intestinal wall to regenerate itself, and helping your immune system fight infectious microbes (including those that cause diarrhea).12
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, this may be due to an underlying condition, so you may need to consult your doctor.13