Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously. Patient Comments FAQs

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users.

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient:Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver

Enter your Comment

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!

I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

What medications are used to treat diarrhea?


Absorbents are compounds that absorb water. Absorbents that are taken orally bind water in the small intestine and colon and make diarrheal stools less watery. They also may bind toxic chemicals produced by bacteria that cause the small intestine to secrete fluid; however, the importance of toxin binding in reducing diarrhea is unclear.

The two main absorbents are attapulgite (a naturally occurring complex mineral) and polycarbophil (a fiber) both available without prescriptions. Psyllium, another absorbent has been used for mild diarrhea, but is primarily used for constipation.

Examples of products containing attapulgite are:

  • Donnagel,
  • Rheaban,
  • Kaopectate Advanced Formula,
  • Parepectolin, and
  • Diasorb.

Examples of products containing polycarbophil are:

  • Equalactin,
  • Konsyl Daily Fiber Therapy,
  • Mitrolan, and
  • Polycarb.

Products containing polycarbophil have been used to treat both diarrhea and constipation. Attapulgite and polycarbophil remain in the intestine and, therefore, have no side effects outside of the gastrointestinal tract. They may occasionally cause constipation and bloating. One concern is that absorbents also can bind medications and interfere with their absorption into the body. For this reason, it often is recommended that medications and absorbents be taken several hours apart so that they are physically separated within the intestines.

Anti-motility medications

Anti-motility medications are drugs that relax the muscles of the small intestine and/or the colon. Relaxation results in slower flow of intestinal contents. Slower flow allows more time for water to be absorbed from the intestine and colon and reduces the water content of stool. Cramps, due to spasm of the intestinal muscles, also are relieved by the muscular relaxation.

The two main anti-motility medications are loperamide (Imodium), which is available without a prescription, and diphenoxylate (Lomotil), which requires a prescription. Both medications are related to opiates (for example, codeine) but neither has the pain-relieving effects of opiates.

Loperamide (Imodium), though related to opiates, does not cause addiction.

Diphenoxylate is a man-made medication that at high doses can be addictive because of its opiate-like, euphoric (mood-elevating) effects. In order to prevent abuse of diphenoxylate and addiction, a second medication, atropine, is added to loperamide in Lomotil. If too much Lomotil is ingested, unpleasant side effects from too much atropine will occur.

Loperamide and diphenoxylate are safe and well-tolerated. There are some precautions, however, that should be observed.

  • Anti-motility medications should not be used without a doctor's guidance to treat diarrhea caused by moderate or severe ulcerative colitis, C. difficile colitis, and intestinal infections by bacteria that invade the intestine (for example, Shigella). Their use may lead to more serious inflammation and prolong the infections.
  • Diphenoxylate can cause drowsiness or dizziness, and caution should be used if driving or if tasks that require alertness and coordination are required.
  • Anti-motility medications should not be used in children younger than two years of age.
  • Most unimportant, acute diarrhea should improve within 72 hours. If symptoms do not improve or if they worsen, a doctor should be consulted before continuing treatment with anti-motility medications.

Bismuth compounds

Many bismuth-containing preparations are available around the world. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) is available in the US. It contains two potentially active ingredients, bismuth and salicylate (aspirin). It is not clear how effective bismuth compounds are, except in traveler's diarrhea and the treatment of H. pylori infection of the stomach where they have been shown to be effective. It also is not clear how bismuth subsalicylate might work. It is thought to have some antibiotic-like properties that affect bacteria that cause diarrhea. The salicylate is anti-inflammatory and could reduce secretion of water by reducing inflammation. Bismuth also might directly reduce the secretion of water by the intestine.

Pepto-Bismol is well-tolerated. Minor side effects include darkening of the stool and tongue. There are several precautions that should be observed when using Pepto-Bismol.

  • Since it contains salicylate, a chemical related to aspirin (acetyl salicylate), patients who are allergic to aspirin should not take Pepto-Bismol.
  • Pepto-Bismol should not be used with other aspirin-containing medications since too much aspirin may be ingested and lead to aspirin toxicity, the most common manifestation of which is ringing in the ears.
  • The salicylate in Pepto-Bismol, similar to aspirin, can accentuate the effects of anticoagulants, particularly warfarin (Coumadin), and lead to excessive bleeding. It also may cause abnormal bleeding in people who have a tendency to bleed because of genetic disorders or underlying diseases, for example, cirrhosis that also may cause abnormal bleeding.
  • The salicylate in Pepto-Bismol can aggravate stomach and duodenal ulcer disease like asiprin.
  • Pepto-Bismol and salicylate-containing products should not be given to children and teenagers with chickenpox, influenza, and other viral infections because they may cause Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a serious illness affecting primarily the liver and brain that can lead to liver failure and coma, with a mortality rate of at least 20%.
  • Pepto-Bismol should not be given to infants and children younger than two years of age.
Return to Diarrhea

See what others are saying

Comment from: Lrd, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 15

I suffered from extreme diarrhea as a child and now at age 61, I am still suffering. For years while I was on pain medicines for MVA (mosaic variegated aneuploidy), my gut healed. Now that I am off of those, I suffered a full 6 weeks of diarrhea with low grade temperature and lost 38 lb on my small frame. Since that time 18 months ago, I still cannot stop the diarrhea and cannot gain any weight. I am 5 ft 7inches and weigh 113 lb. Diarrhea is constant if I eat anything. If I have any vegetables or oils, or garlic, I spend the entire night in the bathroom. I cannot eat fast food or restaurant food, I live on bland foods. Even after 3 weeks of diarrhea, I went to the emergency room and they said that it was gastroenteritis and to drink fluids; which only made it worse. I was drinking only green tea at that time for over two months. I tried supplements, probiotics, Ensure, no fiber, with fiber, and nothing helps, even 18 months later. No insurance, so no doctor will see me. I am under treatment for severe hot flashes, and anxiety.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: JDK, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 24

I was found to have collagenous colitis, after 2 colonoscopies and a CT scan. Entocort and Apriso work, but you can only take them for 8 weeks. They are great while taking but within a week the diarrhea returns.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: bumblebeegees, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: October 21

I have had chronic diarrhea for years. It's almost constant, and usually starts after I eat. I went to a specialist and had a colonoscopy. He told me he was going to give me something to take care of this problem. He prescribed cholestyramine powder, one scoop mixed with a liquid of your choice every day. It works really well but you will have to skip it if you get constipated and you probably will start again once the diarrhea starts again. No cure, but very good treatment and relief. I think it's the same thing as Questran, which is a cholesterol medication, but it really works for diarrhea too.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors