Normally, as food goes through your digestive tract, the large intestine soaks up extra water. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t, and you get rid of the fluid in your stool—a bothersome problem we call diarrhea.
What you can do for diarrhea
• It’s important to keep replacing your body’s supply of water and electrolytes, which include sodium, potassium and chloride. Mix up the perfect electrolyte drink by stirring a half-teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar into a liter of water. Add a little bit of orange juice, lemon juice or salt substitute for potassium. During the day, drink the full amount.
• Start by eating only foods that are see-through, like chicken broth and Jell-O. Broth is an especially good choice, since it supplies your body with water as well as electrolytes from the salt. Stick with these “clear foods” for a day or two.
• Avoid fruit juices. Large amounts of fructose can be hard to digest.
• Spoil yourself with the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. All are bland and soothing, and the bananas and applesauce contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that soaks up excess fluid in your intestine and slows down the passage of stool. (Avoid apple juice, however, which can make diarrhea worse.)
• Carrots are another soothing source of pectin. Cook some carrots until they’re soft, then drop them in a blender with a little water and puree into a baby-food consistency. Eat a quarter to a half-cup each hour.
• Avoid foods that are rich in roughage, which can be hard to digest. That means no beans, cabbage or Brussels sprouts.
• Eat yogurt containing “live cultures” like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. These help to restore healthy levels of the helpful bacteria in your intestine.
A natural boost for diarrhea
• Drink black tea sweetened with sugar. The hot water helps with rehydration and tea contains astringent tannins that help reduce intestinal inflammation.
• Tannin-rich blackberries have long been used as folk treatments. Make blackberry tea by boiling one or two tablespoons of blackberries or dried blackberry leaves in 1 1⁄2 cups water for 10 minutes, then strain. Drink a cup several times a day. Raspberry tea is also said to be effective.
• Capsules of dried goldenseal appear to kill many of the bacteria, such as E. coli, that cause diarrhea. The key compound in the herb is berberine. Take the capsules daily until the diarrhea improves.
• Ground-up psyllium seeds soak up excess fluid in the intestine, making stool bulkier. They are the key ingredient in Metamucil and in many other natural-fibre products. Take one to three tablespoons mixed in water each day.
Adapted from 1,801 Home Remedies, Reader’s Digest