Diarrhoea is classified as watery, loose stool. They become this way when fluid is not able to be absorbed from the food in your bowel, or extra fluid leaks into the bowel. This can occur for many different reasons.
It is quite common to experience an acute episode of diarrhoea, meaning that it lasts for a few days. This is generally due to a viral or bacterial infection.
However, if it comes and goes regularly, or lasts for a longer period of time, this is chronic diarrhoea. In this case, the diarrhoea is a symptom of an underlying problem. Some conditions that can cause diarrhoea are:
• Coeliac disease
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Chron’s disease
• Food allergy/intolerance
These problems require medical attention, so diarrhoea must be investigated. But there are some natural things you can do while you are suffering to help with your recovery.
The main concern with diarrhoea is dehydration, as you are not absorbing any fluids and also releasing too much. So the most important thing to do while you are experiencing diarrhoea (aside from seeing your medical practitioner), is to make sure you have enough fluids. Oral rehydration fluid preparations such as Hydralyte and Gastrolyte contain electrolytes, which replace the minerals your body is losing, and should be frequently sipped on.
However, drinks like Gatorade and Powerade will NOT help, as they are the wrong osmolarity – meaning that the ratio of salt to sugar is not suitable for rehydration due to diarrhoea.
Water, broths and herbal teas are also helpful. It is really important to keep trying to drink, even if it is difficult. Dehydration can be very serious, so definitely watch that one.
If the diarrhoea seems to come and go regularly, then it is a good idea to investigate possible food allergies or intolerances. Keeping a diet/symptom diary is a good start. I do offer food intolerance testing which I find helpful because it narrows down the foods you need to avoid.
While you are suffering from diarrhoea, you should avoid aggravating substances like caffeine, soft drinks and alcohol – these also dehydrate you. Dairy, fatty, greasy foods, processed foods with added preservatives, spicy foods and foods that are hard to break down such as raw vegetables can also make the diarrhoea worse. Try and eat slow cooked foods, soups, stews and broths while you are suffering.
Another natural remedy which can help is to take slippery elm bark. This coats the lining of the intestines to soothe and protect them from inflammation, and it adds bulk to the stool to help reduce watery diarrhoea. The dose is 1 teaspoon mixed in water twice per day.
A very common cause of diarrhoea is dysbiosis, which means that there is an imbalance in the gut bacteria. An overgrowth of certain types of bacteria can cause diarrhoea.
An important note with probiotics is that they are strain specific – meaning that you need to take the right strain for your particular condition. Otherwise, they may not be very effective.
Look for a product which includes Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 and Lactobacillus casei Shirota (needs to have the whole name).
Having diarrhoea is quite stressful, so it might be hard to tell if you were stressed before it started. Your gut actually has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system. Stress triggers the release of adrenaline, which causes movement in the large intestine and this is what can lead you to the toilet.
90% of serotonin, your happy, feel-good hormone, is made in the gut. When there is altered serotonin signalling – meaning that too much stays in the gut – this can cause diarrhoea.
It is easier said than done to ‘relax’ while you are suffering from diarrhoea! But do try to take some deep breaths, maybe listen to some guided meditations, do some yin yoga and rest if you can. Stress and gut symptoms are so closely related, so it all does help.