1: Stay Hydrated
You can lose a lot of liquid in diarrhea, but you also lose electrolytes, minerals such as sodium and potassium that are critical in the running of your body. Here’s how to replace what you’re losing:
Drink plenty of fluids. Consume two quarts (eight cups) of fluids a day, three quarts (12 cups) if you’re running a fever. Plain water lacks electrolytes, but it’s a good, gentle-on-the-tummy option that can help you replace some of the fluid that you’ve lost. Other choices include weak tea with a little sugar, sports drinks such as Gatorade, flat soda pop (decaffeinated flavors such as ginger ale are best), and fruit juices other than apple and prune, which have a laxative effect.
Buy an over-the-counter electrolyte replacement formula. Pedialyte, Rehydralyte, and Ricelyte are available without a prescription from your local drugstore. These formulas contain fluids and minerals in the proper proportion.
Whatever you choose to drink, keep it cool; it will be less irritating that way. Sip, don’t guzzle; it will be easier on your insides if you take frequent sips of liquid instead of guzzling down a glass at a time.
2: Eat Yogurt
Look for yogurt with live cultures. These “cultures” are friendly bacteria that can go in and line your intestines, providing you with protection from the bad guys. If you’ve already got diarrhea, yogurt can help produce lactic acid in your intestines, which can kill off the nasty bacteria and get you feeling better, faster.
Live-culture yogurt (kefir) is also the best way to treat diarrhea caused by oral antibiotics. The antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria in the intestines, but live-culture products replenish those bacteria. Better still, use these from the time you begin the medication, and you may avoid the diarrhea altogether.
3: Get Rest
If you’re not very young or old or suffering from any chronic illness, it may be safe just to put up with it for a couple of days. After all, it’s often your body’s natural way of getting rid of something that shouldn’t be there to begin with.
Try resting in bed and sipping any broth, but have it lukewarm instead of hot, and add a little salt to it if it’s not already salty. A heating pad on your belly may also help relieve abdominal cramps.
4: Avoid Certain Foods
Avoid milk, cheese, and other dairy products (except yogurt, unless you don’t usually tolerate it well) while you have diarrhea as well as for one to three weeks after it stops. The small intestine, where milk is digested, is affected by diarrhea and simply won’t work as well for a while.
Just as it stimulates your nervous system, caffeine jump-starts your intestines. And that’s the last thing you need when you have diarrhea. High concentrations of sugar can also increase diarrhea. The sugar in fruit can do the same.
Lastly, steer clear of greasy or high-fiber foods. These are harder for your gut to handle right now. It needs foods that are kinder and gentler such as soup, gelatin, rice, noodles, bananas, potatoes, toast, cooked carrots, soda crackers, and skinless white-meat chicken.
5: Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is good for treating intestinal inflammation, and it has antispasmodic properties as well. You can brew yourself a cup of chamomile tea from packaged tea bags, or you can buy chamomile flowers and steep 1 teaspoon of them and 1 teaspoon of peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drink 3 cups a day. Also the tannins in ordinary black tea have an anti-diarrhea effect.
6: Eat Starchy Foods
Starchy foods, such as precooked rice or tapioca cereals, can help ease your tummy. Prepare the cereal according to the directions on the box, making it as thick as you can stomach it. Just avoid adding too much sugar or salt, as these can aggravate diarrhea. It’s probably a good idea to avoid oatmeal, since it’s high in fiber, and your intestines can’t tolerate the added bulk during a bout with diarrhea.
Potatoes are another starchy food that can help restore nutrients and comfort your stomach. But eating French fries won’t help. Fried foods tend to aggravate an aching tummy. Other root vegetables, such as carrots (cooked, of course) are also easy on an upset stomach, and they are loaded with nutrients.
Cooked white rice is another starchy food that can be handled by someone recovering from diarrhea.
7: Try Blueberries
Blueberry root is a long-time folk remedy for diarrhea. In Sweden, doctors prescribe a soup made with dried blueberries for tummy problems. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanosides, which have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, as well as tannins, which combat diarrhea.
8: Make Orange Peel Tea
Orange peel tea is a folk remedy that is believed to aid in digestion. Place a chopped orange peel (preferably from an organic orange, as peels otherwise may contain pesticides and dyes) into a pot and cover with 1 pint boiling water. Let it stand until the water is cooled. You can sweeten it with sugar or honey.