Dealing with diarrhea can be so uncomfortable and unpleasant that many people are tempted to try anything for relief. But the best answer isn’t the quick fix: commonly prescribed antibiotics or drugs that slow the movement of the intestinal tract. Instead, I suggest the following natural remedies to treat diarrhea. Doing so will ultimately result in a healthy intestine that's rich with beneficial bacteria, which leads to more normal bowel movements.
Feed the Friendly Bacteria
Healthy intestinal tracts have more than 400 different species of micro-organisms living there. The beneficial bacteria that reside in your bowel do constant battle with germs and harmful, disease-causing bacteria that threaten them on a daily basis.
Diarrhea often occurs when the disease-causing bacteria begin to overwhelm the beneficial bacteria in your system. So to restore the proper bacterial balance in the bowel and stop diarrhea, you need to supply your intestinal tract with more beneficial bacteria. A great all-natural way to help friendly intestinal bacteria grow is to include more cultured and fermented foods in your diet.
In particular, yogurt has been used for centuries to treat diarrhea. A study at a New York hospital confirmed that between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of ordinary yogurt stopped severe infant diarrhea twice as fast as the standard anti-diarrhea drug Neomycin Kaopectate. It works so effectively at preventing diarrhea that it is routinely used for that purpose in hospitals throughout Russia, Japan, and Italy.
But the type of yogurt you eat makes a difference. The label of any yogurt you buy should say it has "active cultures." Some companies pasteurize the product after it's been made, and this kills off the remaining beneficial bacteria, making it useless. Other cultured foods that benefit the digestive tract by providing beneficial bacteria include buttermilk, cottage cheese, whey, and kefir. And my favorite fermented food (besides unpasteurized beer) is homemade sauerkraut. It provides one of the widest varieties of beneficial bacteria that are known to protect against all kinds of bowel problems, including diarrhea.
During those times when you're not home or don't have access to homemade sauerkraut or other fermented and cultured foods, I recommend the use of a commercial probiotic supplement to help encourage the growth of friendly bacteria. Look for one that can maintain viability without refrigeration.
Lactic Acid Yeast Wafers
When it comes to stopping diarrhea and helping to re-establish the presence of beneficial bacteria in the lower bowel, I’ve never found another supplement to be as effective as a product called Lactic Acid Yeast wafers made by Standard Process Laboratories. These wafers work the same way as lactic acid–fermented food products do in helping to promote the growth of friendly bacteria in your bowel. Two wafers with each meal for adults will stop diarrhea, often within the same day.
Close Your Ileocecal Valve
Diarrhea can sometimes be caused by an ileocecal valve that isn't working properly. The ileocecal valve, which is located between the small and large intestine, serves two purposes. First, it acts as a block that prevents the toxic contents of the large intestine from backing up into the small intestine. Second, it keeps the food products in the small intestine from passing into the large intestine before the digestive processes have been completed. When this valve stays open when it shouldn’t, it results in diarrhea.
There are a few common reasons why the ileocecal valve doesn't always work right, which causes diarrhea. Sometimes spicy or roughage-type foods will irritate the valve and cause it to get stuck. Stress and emotional trauma can also cause the valve to malfunction. And I've personally found that those who have had their appendix removed seem to have more problems with the valve than others. Luckily, there are a couple of simple things you can do to close up an ileocecal valve that is stuck open and causing diarrhea:
- Massage your ileoceal "reflex" points. By doing so, you can unstick the valve to stop diarrhea. The areas should be massaged with firm pressure for about 10 to 20 seconds each. (It is not beneficial to rub the points any longer than that. In fact, it may negate the effect.)
- Hold the ileocecal valve shut for several minutes. Place your hand over the valve (which is located about halfway between the belly button and the right "hip bone") and while pushing in, pull up toward the left shoulder. You can also place an ice pack made of cold water or ice over the valve for about 15 to 20 minutes. This process can be repeated if necessary.
- Modify your diet to help stop diarrhea. Eliminate spicy foods, alcohol, cocoa, chocolate, and caffeinated products for a week or so. And it's also helpful to eliminate all roughage-type food for a short period of time until the diarrhea ends.
Try Clay: Nature's Anti-Diarrheal
Clay has a long history of being used internally, and various clays have proven very effective in the treatment of diarrhea. One study from the 1960s involved 35 different individuals whose diarrhea was being caused by food poisoning, food allergy, viral infection, spastic colitis, or mucous colitis. Two tablespoons of smectite clay (montmorillonite) were given with distilled water three times a day. (In the food allergy cases, six tablespoons of clay per day were used.) In 34 of the 35 individuals, the diarrhea was stopped in an average of 3.8 days, and bowel movements reduced to an average of 1.8 per day. Food allergy–induced diarrhea proved to be the most difficult cases, whereas those from viral infections resolved the quickest.
More recent studies have shown similar positive results. In one that involved 804 children with acute diarrhea, researchers concluded, "Smectite reduces the duration of diarrhea and prevents a prolonged course. It may therefore consistently reduce the costs of gastroenteritis."
Here are some things to consider when using clay to treat diarrhea:
- At the dosages mentioned in the first study, simply mix clay powder with juice or water. Make sure the water is either spring water or distilled if possible. When you mix clay, never let it come into contact with metal. To avoid any possible reaction with metal, always use wood utensils and glass, clay, or ceramic containers.
- Since clay has such strong absorptive and adsorptive properties, it is best not to take it with your vitamins or at the same time you take prescription medications. I would suggest taking it on an empty stomach and then waiting at least four hours before taking any necessary medication.
- Without medical supervision, ingesting clay isn’t recommended if you have high blood pressure or an intolerance for iron.
One source of clay that I highly recommend is Pascalite, Inc.