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Ten easy cures for diarrhea

I recently came home from an amazing overseas trip only to find myself riding the “porcelain express” for days with a bad case of traveller's diarrhoea (TD), so I decided to research some healthy, easy remedies for the annoying symptoms of diarrhea. If you're like most Americans, you'll suffer a bout once or twice this yea: frequent, watery bowel movements that may be accompanied by cramps or nausea. To help you cope with this uncomfortable and unpleasant distraction, try these ten easy home cures:

10  cures for diarrhea
getty images

1: Stay Hydrated
You can lose a lot of liquid in diarrhea, but you also lose electrolytes, minerals such as sodium and potassium that are important for your body. Over-the-counter electrolyte replacement formulas like Rehydralyte are available without a prescription, or simple sports drinks like Gatorade can be used. Some juices are good, but stay away from prune, apple and pear juices because they can make your condition worse. Make sure to consume at least 8 cups of fluids, including water, to replace fluids you lose. Avoid coffee or alcohol! Caffeine jump-starts your intestines, and that’s a definite no when you have diarrhea.

2: Take OTC Medicine
Stopping the runs with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication isn’t the best thing for your body, since the diarrhea usually is body is trying to rid itself of a nasty bug. If you do feel it's necessary, Pepto-Bismol is probably the safest OTC antidiarrheal medicine and it seems to have a mild antibacterial effect. Another OTC medicine that works faster and longer is Imodium A-D (Loperamide), which slows down the gut. It provides quick, temporary relief by reducing muscle spasms in your gastrointestinal tract, slowing the transit time through your digestive system. Absorbents like Loperamide can bind medications and interfere with their absorption into the body so take several hours before taking your vitamins or meds. You shouldn’t take these more than 48 hours. After that, call you doctor, since antidiarrheal medication will stop your body from performing it’s own natural defense mechanism and will often lead to a prolonged illness and a weakening of your body’s defenses.

3: Eat Yogurt
Millions of friendly bacteria (probiotics) reside in our intestines to assist digestion. A bout of diarrhea upsets the normal balance of these valuable organisms. Many yogurts with live cultures provide you with protection—make sure to check the labelling. If you've already got diarrhea, yogurt assists in the production of lactic acid in your intestines, which can kill off the nasty bacteria and get you feeling healthier, faster. You can also find these in dairy drinks supplemented with probiotic organisms, as well as capsules, powders, and liquids like kefir.

4: Avoid Certain Foods
Avoid dairy products (except yogurt) while you have diarrhea as well as for a week after it stops. The small intestine, where milk is digested, is put in overdrive by diarrhea and simply won't function as well for a while. Also avoid sweets, both with sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stay away from fried foods or high-fiber foods. These are nearly impossible for your tummy to handle right now. It's probably a good idea to avoid oatmeal, since it's high in fiber, and your intestines can't tolerate more bulk during a bout with diarrhea.

5: Eat Starchy Foods
Starchy foods, such as white rice or tapioca cereals, can help ease your gut. The thicker the better. Just avoid adding too much sugar, syrup or salt, as these can aggravate diarrhea. Potatoes are another starchy food that will restore nutrients and comfort your stomach. That doesn’t include French fries since fried foods tend to aggravate an aching tummy. Other root vegetables like carrots (cooked) are also easy on the tummy, and loaded with nutrients. A yummy alternative is to eat boiled sweet potatoes.

6: Drink Tea
Chamomile tea, used to help you sleep, is great for treating intestinal inflammation because of its antispasmodic properties. A 2009 study, chamomile was found to inhibit the growth of a species of bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni (one of the most common causes of enteric infections resulting in severe diarrhea). Brew yourself a cup of chamomile tea from packaged tea bags and steep some peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drink 3 cups a day. Orange peel tea is another folk remedy that is believed to aid in digestion. Place a chopped orange peel (preferably from an organic orange, as peels otherwise may contain nasty pesticides) into a pot and cover with 1 pint boiling water. Let it steep until the water is cooled. You can lightly sweeten it with sugar or honey. Ginger tea can stop cramps and pain. Or take ginger in capsules. If you don’t feel like leaving the house to buy these teas, just grab some regular black tea. The tannins in ordinary black tea have an anti-diarrheal effect.

7: Get Rest
Try resting in bed and just veg out in front of the TV or with a good book. Your body should rid itself of the diarrhea in three days or less and the added rest will help boost your immune system and get you up back and running. A heating pad on your tummy may also help relieve abdominal cramps.

8: Try Blueberries or Carrots
Dried blueberries have been used as a folk remedy for diarrhea for ages. Blueberries contain anthocyanosides, which has antioxidant as well as antibacterial properties as well as tannins, which combat diarrhea. In Sweden, doctors prescribe a soup made with dried blueberries for stomach ailments. Carrots naturally contain beneficial electrolytes and minerals that are lost during diarrhea. Nibbling on fresh carrots may lessen the symptoms and speed up the recovery time.

9: Squeeze some lemons
Said to soothe irritation in the intestines, lemon juice is an easy home remedy. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice n a large glass of water three to five times a day will kill off the pathogens causing the diarrhea. For prevention in case there is a stomach virus going around, take 1-2 tablespoons of juice before meals.

10: Take Fenugreek Seeds
Because of the high mucilage content found in the fenugreek seeds it is considered a useful natural cure for diarrhea. The seeds husks absorb water resulting in bulkier stool. Mix 1/2-teaspoon fenugreek seeds with water and drink up.

With these safe home remedies, you should be able to significantly reduce the severity and discomfort of diarrhea. If you have chronic, or long-term, diarrhea that comes on suddenly and stays for weeks, you may have a more serious condition, so be sure to see a doctor.