Acute diarrhea is a classic example of a poisoned, infected, or irritated digestive sys- tem. When the body is exposed to a toxic substance, its ﬁrst priority is to expel that substance, and the digestive system has two basic strategies for performing the task. First, it secretes extra ﬂuid to the intestines; second, it produces an unusual number of very strong intestinal contractions. As a result, loose watery stools of increased vol- ume and frequency help propel the toxins out of your body.
Most often, the toxin that needs to be expelled is a bacteria or a virus, although par- asites can deﬁnitely be the cause as well. These invaders can enter your body through contaminated food or water or through contact with an infected person. Diarrhea may also be your body’s response to certain foods. An inability to digest milk and dairy products, called lactose intolerance, is a frequent cause of diarrhea, but many other foods can cause problems as well. You may also have diarrhea as a result of dietary overindulgence in general, even when the foods eaten do not usually give you trou- ble. In addition, anxiety and stress often play a role in all kinds of diarrhea.
While diarrhea is a useful and necessary response to poisoning—you certainly wouldn’t want the toxins to remain in your body—it is often very uncomfortable and disruptive. However, for most cases of acute diarrhea (unless directed otherwise by your doctor), you should resist the temptation to take over-the-counter antidiarrhea medications, as they will only suppress the poisons and force your body to ﬁnd some other way to get rid of them.
When it comes to most episodes of acute diarrhea, the best thing to do is allow your body to do its work. While no one enjoys the discomfort and the inconvenience, the symptoms usually run their course in a day or two. The main concern is that your intes- tines may be passing too much ﬂuid, as well as vital nutrients like sodium and potas- sium, so you’ll want to stay hydrated with plenty of ﬂuids and electrolytes. Natural therapies can make you more comfortable and can reduce the intensity and the length of the illness.
Sometimes diarrhea can be a warning sign of a far more serious illness, such as bacterial enteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism, parasites, or even cancer. Call a doctor right away if your stools are bloody; if abdominal pain and cramping are not relieved by passing stools; or if the urge is so forceful that you fear incontinence. You should also seek medical help if the episode lasts longer than three days or if it recurs over a period longer than one week. Diarrhea in children under six always requires a doctor’s attention.
• Watery, loose stools of increased volume and frequency
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Viral infection
• Contaminated food or water
• Food allergy or intolerance
• Drug toxicity
• Bacterial or parasite infection
• Anxiety and stress
• Medications (such as antibiotics)
• Electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
Although there are several important dietary strategies for diarrhea, the most critical
are those to help you stay hydrated.
While the attack is at its most acute, do not try to take in solid foods. Instead, focus on staying hydrated by drinking two cups of liquid every waking hour. Try water, diluted fruit and vegetable juices, electrolyte drinks, and broths. If you have a dry mouth or suddenly wrinkled skin that does not snap back when gently pulled, you may be on your way to severe dehydration. Drink a large glass of water or fresh vegetable juice immediately.
Food to Avoid
During the most intense stages of diarrhea, you will probably not feel much like eat- ing. Do not force yourself to take in solid food during this time (although you should drink plenty of ﬂuids).
The following tests help assess possible reasons for diarrhea: Comprehensive stool analysis—bacterial and parasitic infection, ﬂora
Food allergy/sensitivity testing—blood or electrodermal
Celiac disease testing for chronic cases—blood testing
As you feel better and regain your appetite, you should stay away from dairy prod- ucts, fats, and oils, which will only upset your stomach again. If you do not have an intolerance to any of these foods, reintroduce them to your diet slowly.
Avoid sugar, especially if you have a bacterial infection. Bacteria feed on it. Even if a bacterium isn’t the cause of your problem, keep sugar out of your diet; it promotes inﬂammation, which discourages healing.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are too stimulating to the digestive tract.
If the cause of the problem is not clear, determine whether your diarrhea is caused by a food allergy or an intolerance. Once you feel better, use the elimination diet on page 253 to identify troublesome foods. Many cases of diarrhea can be traced to gluten intolerance, so make a special effort to examine the effects of wheat and seeds on your digestive system.
As you feel better, eat basic, simple foods that are easily absorbed. Soups, cooked fruits and vegetables, and brown rice are all good choices. Apples, bananas, carrots, and potatoes tend to taste especially good at this time, and for an excellent reason. They all contain an ingredient, pectin, that has a gentle binding quality.
One study has shown that roasted carob powder reduces the duration of diarrhea. Try a few tablespoons in some water.
Diarrhea is your body’s method of self-detoxiﬁcation. It’s generally a good idea to fast on liquids for the ﬁrst day; most likely, you will not want to eat solid foods anyway. See the dietary recommendations for details.
Tips for Travel
More than 50 percent of travelers to developing nations develop diarrhea from the microorgan- isms that are present in food and water. You can decrease your risk by taking the following steps:
• Prepare your body before you leave home. Six weeks before you leave, begin to eat lots of fresh garlic for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. You should also consume cultured products—live unsweetened yogurt, keﬁr, sauerkraut, and so on—to encourage the pres- ence of friendly bacteria in your gut.
• When you arrive, continue eating garlic from your own supply, or take garlic capsules. We also recommend a probiotic supplement.
• This book generally recommends a diet that emphasizes raw plant foods. However, it may be wise to temporarily change your eating
habits while traveling. Fried or chargrilled meats are often your best guarantee of thorough cook- ing. Avoid salads and raw foods, including fruits and vegetables, except those that have a thick outer skin, such as bananas and papayas.
• Use only bottled water, not just for drinking but also for brushing your teeth. Do not add ice to your drinks, unless you’ve made the ice yourself with bottled water.
• Don’t eat at any restaurant or other establish- ment that is obviously unclean. Street food ven- dors are best avoided.
• When eating a food that is new food to you, try just a little at a time. Even if it is clean and free of microorganisms, your digestive system may not be able to handle large quantities of
unusual foods right away.
Super Seven Prescriptions
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathic Combination Diarrhea Remedy
For acute diarrhea, take a dose of a combination diarrhea remedy four times daily for twenty-four hours. If you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy unless symptoms return. If your symptoms do not improve within twenty-four hours, then pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms under Homeopathy in this section.
Super Prescription #2 Ginger (Zingiber ofﬁcinale)
Drink a fresh cup of ginger tea, or take 500 mg in capsule form or 2 ml of tinc- ture every two hours. Ginger reduces intestinal inﬂammation and lessens the effects of food poisoning.
Super Prescription #3 Probiotic
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms two to three times daily. It contains friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and biﬁdus, which aid digestion and ﬁght infection. Studies also show the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardi to be effective for diarrhea, especially for diarrhea associated with antibi- otic use.
Super Prescription #4 Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Take 1 ml of the tincture form or 300 mg in capsules four times daily. It helps improve diarrhea that is related to an intestinal infection.
Super Prescription #5 Enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules of a full-spectrum enzyme with each meal. Enzymes aid in
the breakdown and the absorption of food.
Super Prescription #6 Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil
Take 500 mg of the capsule form four times daily or as directed on the container. Oregano oil has powerful antimicrobial effects.
Super Prescription #7 Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
This is an excellent treatment for chronic diarrhea. It has an astringent effect and improves digestion. Take 500 to 1,000 mg or 3.5 ml of a tincture two or three times daily. Do not take astragalus if you have a fever.
Activated charcoal binds toxins in the digestive tract. Take 2 tablets three times in one day or as directed on the container for acute diarrhea.
Colostrum has been shown in studies to be effective for diarrhea. It also helps to heal the digestive tract. Take 500 mg three times daily.
Marshmallow (Althea ofﬁcinalis) is soothing to the digestive tract. Take 500 mg in capsule form or 3 ml of the tincture three times daily.
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is high in mucilage, which has a soothing effect on the intestines. Drink 3 to 4 cups each day. You can also use 5 ml of the tincture or 500 mg in capsules three times daily.
Cranesbill (Germanium maculatum) has an astringent effect on the colon for acute diarrhea. Take 3 to 5 ml of the tincture or 500 mg in capsule form three times daily.
L-glutamine is an amino acid that repairs the digestive tract. It is most useful for conditions associated with chronic diarrhea. Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg three times daily.
Lactase is an enzyme that digests milk sugar (lactose). If you are lactose intolerant and want to eat lactose-containing foods, take 1 to 2 lactase enzymes with each meal.
A study in the Journal of Gut reported that live pro- biotics interact with intestinal cells to pro- tect them from the harmful effect of the bacteria Escherichia coli (EIEC 029:NM). Researchers found that these good bacte- ria prevented the E. coli from adhering to the cells and invading the body.
A randomized, placebo-con trolled trial looked at the effect of probiotics on acute diarrhea in children from a day- care center. Probiotic supplementation was effective in reducing the duration of the diarrhea. The earlier the probiotics were begun, the more effective the results. In addition, a review of three double-blind clinical trials of diar- rhea, which included
242 children, ages 6 months to 5 years, found “that individu- alized homeopathic treatment decreases the duration of acute childhood diarrhea.”
Vitamin A and zinc have been shown to be helpful for children in Third World coun- tries who suffer from infectious diarrhea. Take as directed by a doctor.
Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) tea has historically been used for diarrhea. Drink 4 cups daily to reduce intestinal inﬂammation. If you prefer to take capsules, spread a dosage of 5 to 10 grams evenly throughout your day. Chamomile and peppermint teas are also good options.
Aloe Socotrina is helpful when the diarrhea is characterized by rumbling and gurgling in the abdomen, followed by gushing stools. There are often yellow, mucus-ﬁlled stools.
Argentum Nitricum is for diarrhea that comes from anticipation anxiety before a stressful situation or event. It is also used for diarrhea that results from sugar ingestion.
Arsenicum Album helps when diarrhea and vomiting occur together. The person is anxious, restless, and chilly. It is good for diarrhea caused by food poisoning. There may be blood in the stool, and the person may feel better from sipping warm drinks.
Chamomilla (Matricaria chamomilla) is for green/yellow diarrhea that accompa- nies teething in infants.
China Ofﬁcinalis helps when there is extreme exhaustion and weakness from diarrhea.
Ipecacuanha (Cephaelis ipecacuanha) is for diarrhea that is accompanied by nausea. Mercurius Solubilis or Vivus is for burning and bloody diarrhea. The person often
has extreme sweating and spasms of the intestines.
Phosphorous is for a watery stool. The person feels anxious and craves cold drinks.
Podophyllum is helpful when there is rumbling, gurgling, and cramping in the abdomen, followed by diarrhea. The diarrhea is painless, yet explosive, and is often worse in the morning.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for diarrhea that results from eating greasy foods or fruits. The person feels better in the open air and worse in a warm room.
Sulphur is for burning, explosive diarrhea that wakes a person up in the morning. The stool has a very foul smell, like rotten eggs. The anus is red and excoriated. The person has a great thirst for cold drinks.
Veratrum Album is for painful, profuse diarrhea that resembles rice water. The per- son is very cold and desires drinks with ice.
• Spleen 16 will relieve abdominal cramps associated with diarrhea.
• For diarrhea accompanied by gas, use Conception Vessel 6.
• Large Intestine 11 strengthens the colon.
• Stomach 36 is an excellent general toner that also strengthens the digestive
system and improves the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
You may want to try a gentle self-massage of your abdomen. Lie down with your knees bent, and stroke the skin gently but ﬁrmly. For extra antispasmodic and soothing effects, use the essential oils recommended later in this entry.
Work the areas corresponding to the colon.
If your diarrhea is brought on or made worse by tension, also massage the area con- nected to the solar plexus.
Several oils have antispasmodic properties that will help relieve abdominal cramps. Chamomile, lavender, peppermint, and lemon balm are some good choices; in addi- tion to soothing cramps, all these herbs will ease stress. Use any of these oils by them- selves or in any combination in an abdominal self-massage.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massa- chusetts, has discovered that patients with chronic nervous diarrhea improve greatly after learning meditation techniques. Meditation and other stress-reduction techniques, including biofeedback, can be helpful for people who are prone to diarrhea.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
For diarrhea brought on by an acute case of nervous tension, use Rescue Remedy. If you are often fearful and anxious, Mimulus can have a calming effect.
Vervain is the remedy of choice for people who take on projects, especially char- itable ones, with great zeal but who also have trouble keeping events in perspective. This difﬁculty often leads to great stress and tension.
• Constitutional hydrotherapy can be helpful for acute and chronic diarrhea.