4 Home Remedies to Make Diarrhea Go Away Faster

For that stomach bug going around or restaurant meal gone wrong, try these tips

Young woman drinking a glass of water in a bedroom
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We all know the feeling. A sudden rumble in the lower belly. Perhaps a little nausea. An urgent need to find the nearest bathroom. All of a sudden, you're not so sure about the restaurant meal that looked so good just hours ago. Or, maybe your children brought home a stomach virus and despite your best efforts to sanitize everything, you pick it up too. 

Most diarrhea is caused by viruses or bacteria, and will go away on its own in two to three days.

While it's no picnic to endure, several home remedies are known to ease symptoms and can even make a bout of diarrhea go away faster (unless you have one of the more serious causes of diarrhea, which I'll explain further below).

For a brief episode of diarrhea, follow these tips to make it through to the other side. 

Drink Plenty of Fluids

One of the biggest problems with diarrhea, and what leads many people to the emergency room, is dehydration. When it comes on suddenly, diarrhea causes the body to lose a lot of water and electrolytes, which can be dangerous if it persists—especially for children. Staying hydrated and getting salt back into the body is crucial.

For mild diarrhea, it is fine to drink water, juice, or sports drinks. Avoid coffee, soft drinks, juice drinks that are not 100% juice, and any drinks that may have a laxative effect such as prune juice. For severe diarrhea, avoid these as well, and use oral rehydration salts, which are available over the counter at drugstores.

It's also a good idea to avoid dairy products. 

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

If you want to avoid the artificial food colorings or flavorings that are in some commercial rehydration drinks, you can make a homemade oral rehydration drink using only salt, sugar, and water.

Go For the BRAT Diet 

The BRAT Diet is the gold standard food plan for easing digestive distress. It is comprised of bland, low-fiber foods that will help to firm up stools: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. Bananas are especially helpful given their high levels of potassium, which you lose during diarrhea. Other bland, easy-to-digest foods such as baked chicken breasts, oatmeal, potatoes, and chicken soup with saltines are great options for nourishment as well. 

You'll want to avoid foods and beverages that may worsen gas, such as carbonated drinks, beer, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, and spices until you feel better. 

Pop Probiotics

Taking probiotics in food or supplement form is a great tip to shorten your bout of diarrhea. While dairy should be mostly avoided, eating yogurt or kefir with live bacterial cultures can restore beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. You may also take an over-the-counter probiotic supplement such as Culturelle.  Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest food and keep your gut healthy. They may make diarrhea less severe or shorten the length of time you have diarrhea. 

Avoid Anti-Diarrheal Medication

Don’t take anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium (loperamide) unless your doctor tells you to.

The purpose of diarrhea is to rid your body of whatever is making it sick. Anti-diarrheal medicine is like putting a cork in a bottle; instead of curing the problem, it may make it much worse. 

Seeking Medical Help

Most diarrhea can be cared for at home, but sometimes it is a symptom of an underlying medical problem and not just a virus that comes and goes. Some causes of diarrhea that last for weeks or months can be food allergies or intolerances, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. There are also emergency conditions that can cause diarrhea.

When to Seek Medical Help for Adults

These symptoms require immediate medical care if you have them with diarrhea:

  • Signs of dehydration: dry mouth and tongue, dark or infrequent urination, dizziness, or lethargy
  • Bloody, black, or oily-looking stools
  • Fever above 101 degrees
  • Severe abdominal pain that does not improve after a bowel movement
  • Diarrhea with hives or other symptoms of severe food allergy or anaphylaxis

Call your doctor during normal business hours if you have any of these symptoms:

  • More than 6 loose stools a day
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days
  • Vomiting and diarrhea that lasts longer than 12 hours
  • Diarrhea after starting a new medication
  • You have recently traveled to a tropical country
  • People you shared a meal with have similar symptoms

When to Seek Medical Help for Young Children and Babies

Babies and children under the age of three can very quickly become dangerously dehydrated. These symptoms in babies or young children need immediate medical care:

  • The first signs of diarrhea for a baby under three months of age
  • Signs of dehydration: lack of tears when crying, sunken eyes, or no wet diapers for more than 3 hours
  • Bloody, black, or oily-looking stools
  • Fever above 100.4 degrees
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea with hives or other symptoms of severe food allergy

Call your pediatrician during normal business hours if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days
  • Vomiting and diarrhea that lasts longer than 12 hours
  • Diarrhea after starting a new medication
  • You have recently traveled with your child to a tropical country
  • People you shared a meal with have similar symptoms

 

Sources:

American Gastroenterological Association. Understanding Food Allergies and Intolerances. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/diet-medications/food-allergies-fructose-intolerance-and-lactose-intolerance

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidelines for the Management of Acute Diarrhea. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/dguidelines.pdf

Cleveland Clinic. Mom's Advice Is Still the Best for Treating Diarrhea. 2014 December. 

Medline Plus. Diarrhea. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003126.htm

Surawicz, Christina M., MD and Ochoa, Blanca, M.D. Diarrheal Diseases. American College of Gastroenterology. Accessed 11/7/2015. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/diarrheal.asp

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