Diarrhea is the passing of large volumes of unformed, often liquid stool. It happens when the intestines haven't absorbed enough liquid from the feces or have added more fluid. It can be a symptom of eating contaminated food or an intestinal disorder, among other things.
Herbal Medicine for Diarrhea
Several herbs can offer relief from diarrhea and may also prevent future bouts. The alkaloid substance berberine, found in some herbs, may weaken the microorganisms that often cause short-term diarrhea. Goldenseal and barberry are used for this purpose; they can be taken as a tea or a tincture. People traveling to countries where the food or water may be contaminated can use these herbs in capsule form.
Robert's Formula, a naturopathic herbal remedy, is often prescribed to offer relief from diarrhea that's caused by intestinal irritation, such as irritable bowel syndrome or colitis. It contains goldenseal, as well as slippery elm, marshmallow root, echinacea (purple coneflower), and other herbs.
Other herbs, such as chamomile, peppermint, or fennel, can be taken as teas to soothe the digestive tract.
Homeopathy for Diarrhea
Homeopathic medicine works to treat diarrhea by giving highly diluted doses of a natural substance that would produce diarrhea if given in full strength to a healthy person. The remedy stimulates the body to overpower whatever is causing the diarrhea.
A homeopath questions the patient on details of the diarrhea and assesses the general state of physical and emotional health. Using these clues, the remedy is then individualized to the patient.
The following are some diarrhea characteristics a homeopathic physician might consider:
- How does the stool look and smell?
- Does vomiting, stomach pain, or fever accompany the diarrhea?
- Is the diarrhea better or worse at certain times of the day?
Homeopathic remedies require an evaluation by a professional practitioner. The following are common homeopathic remedies for diarrhea:
- Arsenicum album for diarrhea from bad food (especially fruit) or water; characterized by chilly, burning pains, restlessness, weakness, and anxiety; and is worse between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m.
- Chamomilla for diarrhea accompanied by extreme irritability, peevishness, cramping, and sensitivity to pain; resulting in greenish stools; and occurring in children or colicky infants.
- Podophyllum for copious, painless, often mustard-yellow diarrhea in infants and children, usually during the summer months.
- Sulphur for diarrhea that drives the patient from bed in the early morning (5:00 or 6:00 a.m.); causes burning pains and a red, irritated anus; makes the patient hot and prone to perspire; and has the odor of rotten eggs.
Nutritional Therapy for Diarrhea
Nutritional therapy recognizes that diarrhea may be caused by eating too much of a particular food or by eating something the person cannot tolerate. In addition, certain supplements can help the body recover from diarrhea. Indulging in too many servings of fresh fruit, for example, leads to loose bowel movements. A food allergy or intolerance to lactose (found in milk and most cheeses) may be to blame for diarrhea that returns again and again.
People with chronic diarrhea may want to keep a food diary, which can point to a particular item that triggers an attack. Doses of the normal intestinal organism Lactobacillus acidophilus (best taken between meals on an empty stomach) may be recommended to restore any "good" intestinal bacteria that was lost during a bout with diarrhea; this is especially important if antibiotics were prescribed recently. Vitamin and mineral supplements (including potassium) may also be needed. Electrolyte formulas are available over the counter, but homemade broths such as miso soup or carrot broth with salt can also be effective.
Other Diarrhea Therapies
- Acupuncture for Diarrhea -- Certain techniques can redirect the energy flow that relates to the spleen, stomach, and intestine. Burning moxa in the navel area can be very helpful.
- Aromatherapy for Diarrhea -- Diarrhea can be treated by massaging certain diluted essential oils into the skin.
- Meditation for Diarrhea -- Relaxation techniques can reduce stress (stress may trigger diarrhea).
- Yoga for Diarrhea -- Yoga can also be used to ease stress.
For more information on diarrhea and alternative medicine, see: