Diarrhea is an unpleasant and embarrassing health condition characterized by frequent watery stools. It is a common disorder, and all of us have experienced it at some stage in our lives. There can be several symptoms associated with a bout of diarrhea such as stomach ache, cramps, frequent loose stools, bloating, etc.
Diarrhea can be acute or chronic and may trigger by a wide range of reasons such as contaminated water, antibiotics, viral infections, and food poisoning. While it is more common in children since they have a weak immune system, adults can also occasionally suffer from severe bouts of diarrhea.
Sensitivity to certain types of foods, or the body’s inability to synthesize a particular food ingredient, may also result in diarrhea. Such as in the case of intolerance to wheat (gluten intolerance) and milk products (lactose intolerance).
Did You Know!
What are the Symptoms of Diarrhea?
Diarrhea tends to weaken your immune system along with causing dehydration, and a shortage of fluid required by your body for optimal functioning.
Diarrhea can exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain or cramps in the abdomen
- Reduced or no bowel control
- Bloody stools
Herbal Remedies for Treating Diarrhea
Herbal remedies and dietary modifications are widely used for the treatment and prevention of diarrhea, particularly amongst children. These remedies are useful as well as safe and, therefore, do not induce any side effects as such.
Typically, the herbs for diarrhea that are considered the most effective in treating frequent watery bowel movements consist of one or more of the three natural ingredients discussed below:
Tannins(1) are astringent. Astringent tends to decrease intestinal inflammation. Also, it binds to the protein layer of swollen mucous membrane and helps thicken it. As a result, it slows down the absorption of toxins along with decreasing the production rate of secretions to help treat diarrhea.
Pectin is the main active ingredient in the most anti-diuretic Kaopectate available over the counter. Pectin is a useful soluble fiber that introduces bulk to your stool to reduce the symptoms of watery bowel movements along with soothing your intestinal distress. This way, pectin helps reduce inflammation and eases out the pain associated with diarrhea.
Mucilage also helps relieve intestinal discomfort and adds bulk to your stool by soaking water.Along with these herbs for diarrhea, there are several supporting herbs and herbal combinations that help provide symptomatic relief.
These herbal combinations help soothe the digestive fire, i.e., pitta, in the patient’s digestive system along with gently kindling the Agni.
Some of these herbal remedies can be prepared with common household spices:
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of ginger powder, 1 teaspoon of ghee, and ¼ teaspoon of natural sugar. Consume this herbal mixture 2 to 3 times daily for 2 to 3 days or till your symptoms of diarrhea subside.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of ginger powder with ½ teaspoon of fennel powder. Chew this combination 2 to 3 times daily till the symptoms subside.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk with 1 medium cup of plain, fresh yogurt (prefer homemade yogurt). Consume this combination before going to bed for 2 to 3 days or till the symptoms resolve. The psyllium has an excellent property to absorb excess pitta, thereby helping add bulk to the patient’s stools, while the plain yogurt provides a mild probiotic effect to the Agni.
Before adding these herbs for diarrhea to your treatment regime, you may want to consult your healthcare provider or a registered Ayurvedic practitioner since there can be added considerations depending upon your symptoms and overall medical history.
[Read: Natural Treatments for Diarrhea]
Other Essential Herbs for Diarrhea That Help Resolve the Symptoms Include:
1. Picrorhiza Kurroa
This herb should be administered in low dosages since a higher dosage can exacerbate diarrhea and lead to flatulence in some individuals.
As a bitter herb, it tends to stimulate your digestive process. Also, picrorhiza stimulates your immune system, including T and B cell activity along with activities of the white blood cells(2).
It has potent antimalarial properties and is used in the treatment of diarrhea, stomach ailments, and liver disorders.
Goldenseal exhibits a strong intestinal antibiotic effect and helps in reducing adhesive E.coli along with stimulating the immune system.
Berberine, a primary active ingredient in goldenseal, is effective in increasing the activity of macrophages that kills viruses and bacteria.
Barberry is also an excellent source of berberine, which exhibits strong anti-protozoic effects. Protozoic ailments, which cause diarrhea, include candida, cholera vibrio, giardia, and dysentery.
Barberry has both palmatine and berberine as its active ingredients and, therefore, exhibits potent antibacterial effects.
Agrimony is one of the most widely-recognized herbs for diarrhea to reduce inflammation, pain, cramps, and associated abdominal bloating, thanks to its high tannin composition. Several clinical trials have confirmed its use and effectiveness for common diarrhea.
Facts on Diarrhea
Here are some vital facts about diarrhea:
- Parasites, viruses, or bacteria cause most episodes of diarrhea.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can lead to chronic diarrhea.
- Some probiotic and nutritional interventions may prove handy in preventing diarrhea.
- Individuals with diarrhea triggered by infections may lose up to 20 liters of fluids a day, causing a severe case of dehydration that may need immediate medical supervision.
- A bout of diarrhea usually lasts for up to 2 days. However, some individuals can suffer from diarrhea that tends to last much longer, owing to a certain underlying health condition.Foods to Avoid During Diarrhea
When you have diarrhea, it is vital to understand what foods to eat. However, it is just as essential to know what foods you must avoid. The last thing you would want is to worsen your symptoms by eating something you should not.
Foods to Avoid During Diarrhea
Here is a list of foods not to eat during diarrhea:
1. Dairy Products
Diarrhea decreases the quantity of enzyme lactase, which is necessary for digesting the sugar found in milk products. If this sugar goes undigested, it can further worsen the symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, gas, and nausea.
2. Fatty Foods
Fatty foods such as fried, fast foods, greasy, and creamy foods tend to accelerate intestinal contraction, leading to a reaction to your digestive system that is already sensitive and weak. Therefore, the symptoms of diarrhea may aggravate.
3. Sugar-Free Foods
Sugar-free foods such as artificial sweeteners as well as sugar substitutes tend to exhibit laxative properties together with contributing to excessive intestinal gas and bloating. As a result, you must refrain from sugar-free foods while you have diarrhea.
4. Gas-Producing Foods
Excess of gas can aggravate the bloating, cramps, pain, and other symptoms of diarrhea. As a result, individuals with diarrhea must consider refraining from foods that lead to gas such as onions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and beans.
5. Caffeine, Alcohol, and Carbonated Beverages
Carbonated beverages, alcohol, and caffeine irritate your gastrointestinal tract, i.e., the lining of your intestines as well as the stomach, which can worsen your symptoms of diarrhea. Therefore, you must avoid these beverages when you have diarrhea.
[Read: Brat Diet for Diarrhea]
Ways to Prevent Complications During Diarrhea
Diarrhea, if not managed in an appropriate and timely manner, can lead to several complications such as dehydration, which can even be life-threatening and may need hospitalization. Consider preventing the complications from diarrhea through the following ways:
- Increase your fluid intake. Drink eight to twelve cups of fluid a day. Ask your nurse or doctor how much fluid you must be drinking each day when you have diarrhea. In the case of severe diarrhea, it is advised that you consume IV (intravenous) fluids for a short period.
- Consume small meals that can go easy on your stomach. Consider eating 6 to 8 small meals throughout the day, rather than the traditional 3 large meals a day. Foods high in sodium and potassium (minerals you usually lose while you have diarrhea) are excellent food options, for most individuals. Avoid or limit drinks and foods that can aggravate your diarrhea.
- Check with your nurse, doctor, or Ayurveda practitioner ahead of taking medications or herbs for diarrhea.
[Read: Best Drinks for Diarrhea]
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
Most cases of diarrhea resolve without any specialized medical intervention; however, it is imperative to seek a physician’s assistance.
Infants of up to 1 year of age must be taken to a physician if they have had six or more episodes of diarrhea or three or more episodes of vomiting in a day.
Children older than 1 year must be taken to a physician if they have had six or more bouts of diarrhea in a day, coupled with vomiting.
Also, for adults, it makes sense to solicit medical consultation in the following cases:
- Persistent vomiting
- Significant weight loss
- Pus in the stool
- Persistent diarrhea
- Blood in the stool
Diarrhea can be painful and unpleasant. While prescription drugs are available to help manage the condition and resolve the symptoms, people looking for natural alternatives can resort to Ayurvedic herbs for diarrhea.
With the herbs discussed above, you will have plenty of options that help subside the symptoms of diarrhea.
If you have a severe bout of diarrhea for 3 or more days, accompanied with fever, and/orpus or blood in your stools, consult a physician immediately to rule out other critical underlying cause.