Almost everyone has diarrhea at one time or other. Diarrhea refers to loose, watery stools or an increase in stool frequency. Diarrhea may be short-term, due to food poisoning or infection with a bacteria or virus, or a more chronic problem. read more about anti-diarrheals »
Some intestinal conditions including inflammatory bowel disease can cause diarrhea. Some medications or food intolerances can also cause diarrhea. Lactose intolerance, due to a deficiency of an enzyme that breaks down lactose in dairy products, is a common cause of diarrhea, abdominal cramping and bloating. The symptoms typically occur with consumption of dairy foods. If your diarrhea lasts for more than two days, is bloody or black, accompanied by a fever or other symptoms like abdominal pain or vomiting, see your doctor for an evaluation since it can lead to potentially serious problems like dehydration and malnutrition or can be a sign of a serious medical condition.
Digestion and Health: Relieving the Symptoms of Occasional Diarrhea
Products with the ingredient bismuth subsalicylate are helpful for easing the symptoms of diarrhea. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bismuth subsalicylate in some over-the-counter medications for diarrhea may also reduce the risk of traveler's diarrhea, a common type of diarrhea among people who travel to other parts of the world where sanitation practices are different. Products with bismuth subsalicylate are available in liquid, caplet and in chewable form. They're sometimes helpful for relieving occasional indigestion too. Bismuth subsalicylate may not be safe for all people especially if you are pregnant, taking aspirin for another condition, or if you have bleeding problems. It may also cause side effects like darkening of the tongue and stool and rare cases of ringing in the ears so be sure to speak with your doctor first to decide if it is right for you.
Bismuth subsalicylate isn't the only ingredient that's helpful for treating the symptoms of diarrhea. Anti-diarrheal medications that contain the ingredient loperamide help to slow down the movement of the digestive tract. This reduces the frequency of bowel movements and makes stools less watery. Loperamide is a commonly used antidiarrheal medication but if you have a fever or bloody stools it may not be safe for you to take. Be sure to check with your doctor first especially if you have a medical condition. Some anti-diarrheals combine loperamide with simethicone to target intestinal gas AND diarrhea. These formulations offer multi-symptom relief.
Looking for a natural approach to keeping diarrhea in check? Manuka honey from New Zealand is rich in natural compounds called methylglyoxals (MG) which are thought to give this honey its anti-microbial activity. Manuka honey is marketed as a natural aid in relieving symptoms of diarrhea caused by infections although more research is still needed to determine if it is effective for this condition. There are also homeopathic formulations available for addressing the symptoms of diarrhea and tummy upset naturally - without medications.
Medicine and Health: Controlling Diarrhea at Home
In most cases, diarrhea will clear up on its own in a few days. When you have frequent diarrhea, you lose a lot of fluid and are at higher risk for dehydration. Make sure you're drinking lots of clear liquids. Although there is no food or group of foods that is best while you have diarrhea, you may want to avoid eating high fiber foods, dairy products, or high-fat or spicy foods since they may aggravate your symptoms. Anti-diarrheals that contain bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide can help to slow the frequency of diarrhea and may relieve some of the bloating and discomfort. If diarrhea persists beyond a few days, is bloody, or accompanied by a fever, or if you're vomiting or have abdominal pain, see your doctor.
This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication as they may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to your physician before taking these products. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.