Diarrhea

a bathroom stall indicating men and women

Diarrhea is a common, yet potentially serious manifestation of the bowel and large intestines. Most of the time, it lasts only a day or so. However, occasionally, diarrhea can be a sign of serious illness.

Diarrhea develops when the large intestine fails to reabsorb water from the feces. This produces frequency and loose or watery stools. Dehydration is a serious complication of diarrhea. Drink plenty of fluids to replace vital electrolytes that may be lost over time. Diarrhea can be the cause of a potentially serious underlying problem. Always see a physician if diarrhea is persistent and not subsided by common remedies.

CAUSES

The possibility of an underlying disease such as celiac disease, irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, HIV, or bacterial or viral infection coincides with severe or intermittent diarrhea. If blood appears in the stool, ulcerative colitis is possible. Certain antibiotics such as tetracycline, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins and/or clindamycin induce diarrhea, and always should be taken concomitantly with probiotics.

Other causes include use with antacids or vitamin supplements that contain high amounts of magnesium or vitamin C. Viral and bacterial infections can induce diarrhea. Extreme stress is a common culprit. Nutritional deficiencies (low zinc) can cause diarrhea, as can excessive amounts of caffeine, magnesium, laxatives, or contaminated water. 

Food allergies and sensitivities (i.e. dairy products, sugar, spicy foods and white flour) are frequent causes of irritable bowel over time (including intermittent diarrhea.)

DIET

For dietary treatment of diarrhea, drink plenty of liquids, such as a hot carob drink or green drinks. Avoid drinking very hot or cold liquids (which can overstress the intestinal tract). Prolonged loss of fluids as a result of diarrhea can result in electrolyte loss and dehydration. Replace electrolytes which are vital elements (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium.) Most pharmacies stock electrolyte products that can prevent deficiencies when patients have diarrhea (Infalyte, Pedialyte, Kao Lectrolyte, Revital Ice).

Avoid high-fiber foods, which may stress the digestive tract, instead eat easy-to-digest foods, such as cooked potatoes, bananas (mashed for children), rice, applesauce and/or toast. Do not consume any dairy products (they are highly allergic) except consuming a small amount of cultured yogurt may prevent diarrhea when taking antibiotics. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or spicy foods.

SUPPLEMENT PROTOCOL 

  1. ACIDOPHILUS and PROBIOTIC SUPPORT
    Probiotics may help to restore bowel flora to normal levels. They are critical in normalizing the stool, especially when diarrhea is induced by antibiotic use. Dosage: Take 2-4 capsules daily until loose stools subside, then decrease gradually. 
  2. ZINC
    Supplementing with zinc appears to sharply curtail the duration of diarrhea in digestive tract and enhances immune response. Zinc also aids in the repair of damaged tissue from continual loose stools.  Children with prolonged diarrhea, especially if they need rehydration, can greatly benefit from zinc supplementation. Dosage: 5-35 mg daily.
  3. NON-PRESCRIPTION ANTIDIARRHEAL AGENTS
    Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, and Kaopectate may be helpful. Follow directions on package or see your pharmacists for instructions. Charcoal tablets absorb toxins from the colon and bloodstream and aids in stool formation. Limit 3-day use. 
  4. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (FLAXSEED and FISH OIL)
    Supplementing with omega-3,6 essential fats can help aid in forming more solid stools. Dosage: 1,000-3,000 mg daily. Children may take fish or flax oil, as directed.
  5. DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
    Digestive enzymes (also made for kids) are needed for breaking down proteins, increasing gastric emptying, and improving overall digestion.  Enzyme therapy (short-term) can play an essential role in treating diarrhea. Dosage: Take 1-2 capsules 10-15 minutes before meals, or as directed.
  6. JACKASS BITTERS TINCTURE
    A common herb from Central America (with a very bitter taste) that is used for severe diarrhea, amoebas, and dysentery. This mechanism of treatment was discovered by indigenous peoples. (Call 1-877-289-7478 for this product) 
  7. DRAGON’S BLOOD (SANGRE DE DRAGO)
    A plant that grows throughout the Western Amazon region. The red, viscous latex from the plant is used indigenously to treat severe and moderate forms of diarrhea. Made in America as a preparation called
    crofelemer by Napo Pharmaceuticals Inc. This product is known to be a novel mechanism for the treatment and management of diarrhea, and has been brought to the West by indigenous knowledge.  Dosage: As instructed on package. 
  8. GREEN TEA
    Green tea has a high concentration of tannins and may help normalize bowel function. Dosage: 1-2 cups daily.
  9. PSYLLIUM SEEDS
    Ingesting foods or supplements containing pure psyllium seeds, helps to provide the bulk that aids in forming a normal, solid stool. Dosage: As directed on package.
  10. MCT (MEDIUM-CHAINED TRIGLYCERIDES)
    Supplementation demonstrates significantly decreased stool number, stool fat, and stool weight. Any form of diarrhea, regardless of etiology, and documented fat malabsorption may benefit from MCT.  Dosage: As directed on package.
  11. B-COMPLEX
    Supplementing with B vitamins is necessary for digestion and absorption of nutrients, which may benefit in the relief of diarrhea. Dosage: 25-100 mg daily.
  12. CALCIUM CITRATE
    Studies show that diarrhea caused by
    E. coli infection of humans is inhibited by dietary calcium. Supplementing with calcium can be constipating, which may help alleviate loose stools.   Dosage: 500-1,500 mg daily.
  13. BERBERINE (GOLDENSEAL)
    Studies have shown that berberine inhibits bacterial diarrhea by reducing intestinal secretions of water and electrolytes induced by cholera toxin. Berberine may inhibit
    E. coli and V. cholera while reducing smooth muscle contraction and intestinal motility. Dosage: Up to 200 mg orally 4 times a day. 
  14. HOMEOPATHY
    Clinical trials by hospitals in Central America showed that homeopathic treatment shows benefit in childhood diarrhea. Dosage: As instructed.
  15. ROSES
    A rainforest remedy that Dr. Rosita Arvigo of Belize uses entails picking three red roses (not sprayed with insecticides) and boil each with 6 inches of stems and leaves in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Steep tea until cooled at room temperature. Take one half cup every 2 hours throughout the day if necessary. 
  16. BILBERRY
    This fruit is rich in tannins, which helps to firm the stool to help curb incessant sugar cravings. Dosage: As directed.

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Purcell, K. New Anti-Diarrhea Medication Produced from Amazonian Tree. Herbalgram #68. P. 2005.

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Wanke, CA, Pleskow, D, Degrirolami, PC, et al. A Medium Chain Triglyceride-based Diet in Patients with HIV and Chronic Diarrhea. Nutrition, 1996. (12): 766-771.

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