7 Home Remedies for Diarrhea

Staying hydrated and eating the right (bland) foods can help you weather this unpleasant episode.

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You have diarrhea if you have loose, watery stools (bowel movements) three or more times a day. Americans have a bout of acute diarrhea­ (diarrhea that lasts a short time) about once a year, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Diarrhea is usually caused by food poisoning or another passing infection. Chronic diarrhea is often related to a long-standing health condition like Crohn's disease.

The NLM advises that you see a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea for more than two days, if you are an adult. For children, contact the provider if it lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Severe pain in your abdomen or rectum (for adults)
  • A fever of 102 degrees or higher
  • Stools containing blood or pus
  • Stools that are black and tarry

But for less severe, passing diarrhea, there are plenty of things you can do at home that will see you through the unpleasant episode.

01 of 07

Drink Plenty of Fluids

One of the essential steps to treating diarrhea is replacing fluids, says the NLM. Adults with diarrhea should drink water, fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, and salty broths.

Are you drinking enough water each day? According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women.

With the tips in this video from Holley Grainger, RD, getting enough water is easier than you think.

02 of 07

Eat a BRAT Diet

Eating some food–and digesting its nutrients–can help you absorb water better and help you stay hydrated, said Sean Drake, MD, a general internist at Henry Ford Health System in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The problem is that many cases of diarrhea accompany nausea and vomiting, making eating the last thing you want to do.

Many people find the so-called BRAT diet–bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast–doable at times like this. The American Academy of Family Physicians describes the BRAT diet as a bland food diet recommended for adults and children.

Bananas are loaded with potassium, which diarrhea can deplete. None of these foods sits for long in the stomach, either.

In general, it's a good idea to avoid most dairy products, as they can make your diarrhea worse or cause gas and bloating, according to Medline Plus. An exception is probiotic yogurt, according to the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP), which may reduce the duration and severity of all-cause infectious diarrhea.

Stay away from greasy, fatty, and spicy foods and alcohol, says Medline Plus. Try eating several smaller meals a day instead of three big ones until you feel better. Bananas, rice, and ginger can be easier on your digestive system.

03 of 07

Avoid Exercise

Your workouts, especially strenuous ones, could dehydrate you even more. "This is not the time to start training for a marathon," said Dr. Drake. "Your body needs some rest. You can do daily activities, but don't expend a lot of extra calories."

And–let's face it–you may not want to be too far from a bathroom.

There is such a thing as "runner's diarrhea," which happens during or after a run, but this usually only happens to people running long distances. No one is sure what causes runner's diarrhea exactly, though it may have to do with blood being diverted from the intestines or even with internal organs being shaken up by the pounding of your legs. It's a good idea to avoid high-fiber, gas-producing foods like beans and fruit before a run and to drink plenty of fluids if you're prone to runner's diarrhea, per Mayo Clinic.

04 of 07

Drink Tea

Some people swear by chamomile tea as a simple remedy for diarrhea, but the evidence is spotty. One 2014 study published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology found that combining chamomile flower extract, myrrh (a tree resin), and coffee charcoal helped with acute diarrhea.

Lemongrass tea, on the other hand, may indeed benefit stomach ailments, said Dr. Schiller, who is also program director of the gastroenterology fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "It can calm your gut. It doesn't necessarily affect diarrhea, but it can help with cramps."

05 of 07

Try Ginger

People have turned to ginger for thousands of years as a remedy for all kinds of stomach problems, according to a 2016 study published in Integrative Medicine Insights. It's commonly used in food, tea, and supplements to alleviate motion sickness, pregnancy-related queasiness, and nausea after surgery or chemotherapy.

"Ginger is good medicine if you have an upset stomach," but it probably won't help diarrhea much, said Dr. Schiller.

Some people find that ginger can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues like gas or heartburn. According to a 2019 review published in Food Science and Nutrition, ginger can cause mild gastrointestinal side effects such as heartburn, belching, and gastrointestinal discomfort. However, this is rare.

Ask your healthcare provider about using ginger if you are on blood thinners. Pregnant people should always consult a healthcare provider before taking new medications or supplements.

06 of 07

Consider Supplements

Probiotics are live bacteria widely available in over-the-counter supplements to help with various ailments, including diarrhea.

In theory, it's a great idea: You're adding good bacteria to your gut to restore a healthy, balanced environment in your digestive system. A 2021 study published in Translational Pediatrics found that probiotics can help reduce a bout of diarrhea by about a day.

In general, when it comes to digestive issues, "Lactobacillus is your friend," said Dr. Drake. According to Medline Plus, Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) is a probiotic found in the human gut, mouth, and vagina and in certain foods. It is known as a "good bacteria."

But you may not need a supplement to reap the benefit of this strain. "It's in a lot of yogurt," added Dr. Drake. "Rather than taking a pill, I suggest taking some yogurt."

Other foods that contain probiotics include some juices and soy drinks, sauerkraut, miso, and some pickles.

Some people claim they've found diarrhea relief by taking digestive enzymes or glutamine powder, though there's little evidence to support this, according to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

07 of 07

Try Over-The-Counter Medications

Your nearby supermarket or pharmacy shelves may be stocked with over-the-counter medications that effectively alleviate diarrhea.

"For most people without a fever or blood in their stool, something like loperamide works pretty well," said Dr. Schiller. Loperamide, which slows down intestinal movement, is sold under the brand name Imodium, among others.

One word of caution from Dr. Drake: Loperamide can sometimes make things worse, especially in severe cases of diarrhea. However, you should see a healthcare provider if your diarrhea is severe or long-lasting.

Other non-prescription medications may also help, notably those that contain bismuth subsalicylate, such as Pepto-Bismol. If you're in pain, Dr. Drake said acetaminophen (Tylenol) might help, but you should avoid anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, as they can be hard on your stomach.

There's one other thing that's not a supplement or a drug that will help more than anything, even though it may be difficult to stomach, so to speak. "Time is your best friend for acute diarrhea," said Dr. Drake. "Let it run its course." (And drink plenty of fluids.)

However, that doesn't apply to chronic diarrhea (which by definition lasts longer than two to four weeks, according to the Medline Plus), diarrhea with blood in it, or if a fever or severe tummy pain occurs, too. In those cases, don't wait; seek medical care.

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