Though many over-the-counter and prescription medications can successfully help with a bout of diarrhea, there is no harm in trying some home remedies initially. It is prudent to remember that the remedies may not always help treat bouts of diarrhea. It is better to consult a doctor if it is severe or when a child or an elderly individual has loose stools.
Here are a few home remedies that may help control diarrhea.
- Bananas (high in potassium, prevents cramps)
- Rice (gives energy without irritating the gut)
- Applesauce (sugar)
- Toast (carbs)
Gradually add oatmeal, boiled or baked potatoes (peeled) or baked chicken without skin to your diet when your appetite returns. One week after a bout of diarrhea, fleshy fruits, such as avocado, pumpkin, canned fruit (packed in water, not heavy syrup) and melons can be added to the diet. Steamed carrots, potatoes, squash, saltine crackers, cream of wheat and oatmeal work, too.
Probiotics: Good bacteria residing in the gut provide immunity to the gut. A bout of diarrhea often kills these good bacteria. Hence, episodes of loose stools may be present even after the infection subsides. Adding curd, yogurt and kefir to the diet will help stop the bouts of cramps and gas. Probiotics are also available as capsules or liquids.
Oral rehydration solution: A liter of boiled and cooled water with a spoonful of salt, a fistful of sugar and a dash of lemon sipped every hour will help replenish lost fluids and heal the damaged gut lining. Gatorade or the newly formulated oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution, containing lower concentrations of glucose and salts, are available at the supermarket and will work better. ORS therapy is known to reduce bouts of diarrhea in adults and children.
Zinc supplementation: Adults can take the over-the-counter zinc tablets daily for 14 days. Zinc supplementation is a WHO-approved treatment for loose stools that decreases the length and severity of diarrhea. Zinc is important for the immune system and will help the body ward off new episodes of diarrhea for the next two to three months after treatment. It improves appetite as well. Give children zinc only after consulting the doctor.
Turmeric: A pinch of turmeric in a glass of warm water may help combat loose stools. Turmeric has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure not to overdo this home remedy though because turmeric can react with many prescribed medications and worsen symptoms.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is also an effective antidiarrheal. Have a pinch with some warm water and lemon juice.
Nutmeg: Eastern medicine suggests a pinch of powdered nutmeg given with a spoonful of clarified butter (ghee) as a treatment for loose stools and cramps.
These home remedies may not always be effective. If you notice any danger signs or there is no relief from symptoms, it is better to visit a physician.
Signs to look out for
- Diarrhea in kids, especially those younger than six months of age
- Blood in stools
- Severe episode of diarrhea, passing stools more than four times in one hour
- Severe dehydration (sunken eyes, inability to drink or eat, not passing urine)
- High fever (more than 101 °F)
- Excessive lethargy, dizziness or decreased alertness
- History of poor immunity (HIV affected, organ transplant recipients)
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