The Fastest Way to Relieve Diarrhea, According to a Dietitian
Diarrhea, which is defined as having three or more loose, watery stools a day, can be very uncomfortable and incredibly annoying. While it can come on for a whole host of reasons, you might experience diarrhea after eating a spicy meal, or a high-fat meal or something more involved, like a bacterial imbalance, a virus or a digestive disorder, like lactose intolerance, Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome. And sometimes medications, like antibiotics, can also trigger diarrhea.
Most people can treat it at home and it usually passes within two to three days. That being said, sometimes two to three days feels like way too long to wait for relief! Thankfully there are a few dietitian-approved strategies you can try to help tame the runs as quickly as possible.
1. Try the "BRAT" diet
Sometimes also referred to as the "white diet", due to the plain color to the food, the BRAT diet stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and white toast. These foods are low in fiber, bland, starchy and provide nutrients to help firm-up your stools and replace nutrient losses. Other foods that are usually well-tolerated include oatmeal, boiled or baked potatoes, skinless chicken, white fish (like cod), egg whites, soft tofu, cottage cheese and smooth yogurt.
Follow this type of diet while symptoms are at their worst, then start including more foods as your stools harden and the duration between diarrheal episodes increases. Even though this is restrictive, it may help ease intestinal discomfort fast.
2. Have some plain yogurt or kefir
Yogurt is a source of "good" bacteria, also called probiotics, that work in your intestinal tract to create a healthy gut. Even though it's usually best to avoid eating too many dairy products when you have diarrhea (the lactic acid can sometimes be harsh), the one exception is yogurt or kefir. Aim to have 1 cup of kefir daily or a small bowl of plain yogurt to help restore the healthy bacteria that your body flushes out with diarrhea.
3. Stay hydrated
Hydration is very important when you have diarrhea. Drink at least one cup of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement. Water, fruit juices, caffeine-free soda and salty broths are good choices. Salt helps slow down the fluid loss, and sugar will help your body absorb the salt.
4. Avoid foods that will make the diarrhea worse
If you are experiencing diarrhea, it is best to avoid foods and ingredients that could make your diarrhea worse. This includes caffeine, alcohol, prune juice and dried fruits, sugar replacements or substitutes, fatty foods, fried foods and spicy foods.
5. Consider trying rice water
Rice water provides your body with fluid to prevent dehydration and the starchiness helps bind stools and lessens the duration of diarrhea. Boil 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes, or until the water becomes cloudy. Then strain the rice and keep the water for consumption. You can add salt or sugar to help replace some electrolytes lost with the watery stools.
Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own within a few days without treatment. But the thought of dealing with diarrhea for a few days can be daunting! Try these dietitian-approved tricks for halting diarrhea as quickly as possible. If you've tried home remedies for diarrhea without success, your doctor might recommend medications or other treatments.