What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is defined as frequent (more than three a day) loose, watery, unformed, often urgent bowel movements. What causes diarrhea? Diarrhea can be caused by a single factor or by a combination of factors, including:
- Food allergies or intolerances
- A damaged mucosal lining (thin, delicate tissue lining the intestine)
- Impaired digestion and absorption, resulting in very rapid food transit times through the gastrointestinal tract
- Infection by pathogenic microorganisms – diarrhea is one of the ways your body expels pathogens or poisons as quickly as possible
- A colon that is incapable of absorbing water and fluid from stool
- Prescription drug use
- Lack of “good”, beneficial bacteria in the gut
- Tense, spasming intestines
NOTE: If your child has diarrhea, then check out the section for Toddler Diarrhea (and spastic colon).
Natural Remedy For Diarrhea
Diet and Diarrhea
If you’re having more than five bowel movements per day, use the following Reduce Diarrhea Diet (described in more detail in Chapter Three of my book Listen To Your Gut) until you are down to three or less bowel movements per day. Then switch to the Minimize Gas and Bloating Diet (also in Chapter Three) for as long as necessary. If your bowel movements increase after switching to the Minimize Gas and Bloating Diet, then switch back to this Reduce Diarrhea Diet for another three months.
The Reduce Diarrhea Diet
ELIMINATE: Alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, citrus, dairy, acidic or fermented foods, spicy or spicy hot foods, tomatoes, beans and lentils, cabbage family vegetables (including broccoli), raw vegetables, onion and garlic, processed foods, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, margarine, fibrous foods like raw vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fried food.
EAT: Ripe bananas, watermelon, mango, papaya, cantaloupe and pears (alone – not with other foods); squash; carrots; mushrooms; avocados; asparagus; artichokes; cucumber; pumpkin; potatoes and yams; pasta; eggs; lean or non-oily meat, chicken and seafood; whole grains; dry curd cottage cheese; a small amount of butter and cold-pressed, non-hydrogenated oils. All foods should be organic.
DRINK: At least eight to ten glasses of room temperature spring water a day; weak green, rooibos, or honeybush, or decaf English tea; diluted non-acidic fresh juice.
Natural Treatments for Diarrhea
NOTE: If your child has diarrhea, then check out the section for Toddler Diarrhea (and spastic colon).
If you tend to get attacks of cramping where you have to run for the toilet and then sit there for the next hour or two because every time you try to get up you have another bowel movement, then a Colonic Massage will be a big help to you. You can give yourself this colonic massage while sitting on the toilet to help reduce frequent loose bowel movements:
Probiotics are one of the remedies that will address the cause of your diarrhea to resolve it long term. Other remedies may produce fairly quick results, but they largely address the symptom, not the cause.
Ingesting probiotics, or good bacteria, improves digestion, absorption and elimination of food. Certain strains of bacteria help produce digestive enzymes, peptides, amino acids and B vitamins for your body’s use. They also inhibit or eliminate pathogenic microorganisms, like yeast, fungus, parasites, and bad bacteria. See the section on Probiotic Supplementation in Chapter 2 of Listen to Your Gut for in-depth information on probiotics. However, if you suspect that an intestinal infection is the root cause of your diarrhea, then you don’t need the comprehensive treatment guidelines in Listen To Your Gut, my eBook Jini’s Healing Guide: Natural Treatments for Gut Infection may be all you need.
Okay, getting back to probiotics: Currently, I only recommend Natren brand probiotics as they are the only company we know of that meets the basic standards for probiotic quality and effectiveness. You need to take the full spectrum of probiotics (Megadophilus, Bifido Factor, Digesta-Lac) in powder form only. Do not take probiotics in capsule form to treat diarrhea, as diarrhea causes rapid transit time through the gut and the capsule may not have a chance to dissolve and disperse properly.
Ideally, and for fastest relief, begin probiotic supplementation with Jini’s Probiotic Retention Enema (also in Chapter 2 of Listen To Your Gut or in my eBook Natural Treatments for Gut Infection). Then follow with oral supplementation: Take 1 tsp. of each powder mixed together in 8 ounces of room temperature filtered or spring water (no tap water!) 3 times per day on an empty stomach (15 to 20 minutes before food, or 2 hours after food), until you no longer have diarrhea.
Depending on your health, you’ll see improvements fairly soon, but complete elimination of chronic diarrhea may take up to 6 months of supplementation. After your diarrhea improves, take 1 to 2 times per day for the next three months. Then take as needed, letting your bowel movements be your guide – if your stools start getting loose again, start taking probiotics once a day (or more as needed).
While waiting for your gut flora to improve, you can also use the remedies below for quick relief – but keep in mind that the goal is to heal the root cause(s) of diarrhea so that you can pass normal stool without having to use a supplement for years and years. You don’t want to just take L-glutamine or bentonite clay for the rest of your life.
NOTE: Be sure to get my Free eBook: What You Need To Know About Probiotics by signing up below for lots more information on probiotics.
This is simply dry cottage cheese without the milky liquid, and it works well for mild diarrhea. Eat some for breakfast and you’ll notice it begin to take effect within 24 to 48 hours. A good way to eat it is with a ripe banana (which also helps lessen diarrhea). You can still eat this dairy product if you have a lactose intolerance, as it contains virtually no lactose.
This is one of the best remedies to stop diarrhea that I have found. However, while it resolves the symptom, it does not completely address the cause of diarrhea – for that, you also need to take the probiotics.
Glutamine is well known as a key to the metabolism and maintenance of muscle. It can be considered (along with other amino acids) as a primary energy source for the immune system. L-glutamine is of particular interest to people with digestive disorders because it’s the primary nutrient for the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract. It’s an important nutrient for the large bowel and helps maintain normal functioning of the mucosal cells that line the colon.
One of L-glutamine’s primary effects is the increased transport of water from the inside of the colon back into the body. This lessens the loss of electrolytes and water from the intestines that usually occurs with diarrhea. However, it’s important to keep in mind that L-glutamine only has this effect when taken on an empty stomach. If you have problems with constipation, make sure you don’t take glutamine on an empty stomach. Always mix it with other foods, or put it in a protein or elemental (pre-digested) diet shake.
In a trial conducted at the Mayo Clinic, patients with recurring pouchitis (inflammation of a j-pouch) who put 1/4 teaspoon of L-glutamine in their pouches twice a day showed a much greater reduction in inflammation and infection than the control group.
Recommended L-Glutamine Dosage: From 1 to 6 teaspoons of glutamine per day (in typical concentration, 1/4 teaspoon equals 1 gram of glutamine), mixed in cold or room temperature water or non-acidic juice. It’s best to break the dosage down as much as possible (e.g. 1 teaspoon, 6 times per day). You can buy it in powder form, and the great news is it’s practically tasteless and odorless. Take it on an empty stomach. Store your glutamine in a cool, dry place, but do not refrigerate.
The glutamine takes effect very quickly and within a few days your stool will be formed and semi-solid. If you’ve had diarrhea for a long time, your rectal canal and other parts of your colon will have grown used to only soft, watery stool passing through.
Expect a bit of an uncomfortable period as your colon learns to adjust to a new type and process of passing stool. It’s best to take it slowly, and give your colon plenty of time to adjust gently to the changes. Some may experience pain as the harder, larger stool passes through a colon that had grown used to only soft bowel movements. Anal fissures may open as the rectal canal is quickly stretched wider than it is accustomed to. If that occurs, you can use FissureHeal to heal them quickly.
My recommendation is to start with only 1/4 teaspoon of glutamine per day for the first two weeks. If your colon is handling that dosage well, then increase it to 1/2 teaspoon per day – if not, stay at 1/4 teaspoon until your bowel has adjusted. Gradually increase the dosage by 1/4 teaspoon at a time as your colon adjusts to the firmer stool, until you’re up to a dosage that works well for you.
L-glutamine purchased at a bodybuilding supplement store can be a lot cheaper than glutamine purchased at a health food store/pharmacy. However, the more expensive pharmaceutical grade L-glutamine powder is usually more finely ground, and dissolves better in water. If you have chronic renal failure (kidney disease) or liver disease, you should not take L-glutamine.
You can buy finely ground (powdered) psyllium seed in a health store. Some grocery stores carry it in their bulk bin section as well and it’s very cheap. Or you can buy a commercial product that contains psyllium seed (like Metamucil), but make sure it has no artificial ingredients or sweeteners.
Start with 1 teaspoon mixed in 4 ounces of non-acidic juice, like apple, pear or mango (many find the taste is too strong to just mix in water) and then increase the dosage as needed, up to 3 times per day. It’s best to take it on an empty stomach, just before a meal. People with short bowel syndrome sometimes find psyllium works better for them than L-glutamine.
Some people find they prefer bentonite clay to psyllium seed, and some find the reverse to be true. The easiest thing is to test both and see which works best for you. The bentonite has the blander taste of the two – it’s easily drinkable just mixed in water. Bentonite clay is a volcanic ash containing many minerals, and it has the added benefit of being a good detoxification agent.
Montmorillonite (the active ingredient in bentonite) has the ability to adsorb (not absorb) many times its own weight and volume in a liquid medium. Bentonite’s structure enables it to attract and soak up toxins and contaminants on its exterior wall, and then draw them into the interior center of the clay, where they are held and then excreted out in your stool.
However, montmorillonite has been shown in studies to also draw bacteria out of the intestines. If your bacterial flora is unhealthy, this is a good thing. But if you’re supplementing with probiotics trying to implant a healthy intestinal bacterial flora, then you certainly don’t want to be ingesting a substance that’s going to pull all these good bacteria out of your gut! Therefore, only use bentonite clay short-term, and then get yourself on the high dose probiotic supplementation that will address the root-cause of your diarrhea.
Start with one teaspoon mixed in 4 ounces of spring or filtered water, once a day on an empty stomach. Increase the dosage and/or frequency as needed. If you’ve been on drugs or been living a toxic lifestyle (i.e. a normal western diet and environment!) then go slowly as you don’t want to detox too quickly or you’ll make yourself sick (nausea, headaches, bloating, etc.). If you’re also taking probiotics, then take the bentonite clay first. For example, take the bentonite clay upon waking, wait 15 to 20 minutes, and then take the probiotics, wait another 15 to 20 minutes, and then have breakfast.
*CAUTION: With all stool bulking agents – like psyllium, bentonite, etc, be very careful if you have an intestinal obstruction or stricture. In that case, start with a very small dose (1/2 tsp) and build up very gradually to test for tolerance prevent plugging up your stricture or narrowed section.
Pregnancy/Breastfeeding/Babies: I have used George’s Aloe Vera, Natren probiotics, L-glutamine and Emergen-C while pregnant and breastfeeding. I also gave them periodically to my kids as babies (give babies ONLY Life Start – B. infantis – probiotic) and toddlers. There are no known contraindications for psyllium seed, flax seed, or bentonite clay. Avoid giving babies any cow’s milk products.
Some Final Tips for Dealing With Diarrhea
If your bum is getting sore and irritated from frequent diarrhea, then:
- Gently wipe your anus with 2-ply plain tissues (no added softeners like aloe or vitamin E, etc.) moistened with warm tap water after each bowel movement (don’t use commercial wipes – they can be irritating). You do not need soap (soap can dry and irritate the area), just warm water and plain tissues.
- Wear only 100% cotton underwear and natural fabric pants, shorts, etc. This allows your skin to breathe properly and prevents chemicals and xenoestrogens from leaching into your skin.
- Make sure your sheets are 100% cotton.
- Sleep bare-bum at night.
- If the soreness persists, then apply comfrey salve to all sore areas. If you suspect some infection, use diluted wild oregano oil (6:1 dilution with olive oil) applied on and just inside your anus – see Chapter Two of Listen to Your Gut for detailed dilution and application instructions.
DIARRHEA TREATMENT SUMMARY
- Take the full spectrum of Natren brand probiotics (Megadophilus, Bifido Factor, Digesta-Lac) in powder form only. Begin with Jini’s Probiotic Retention Enema. For detailed guidelines and information, see the Probiotic Supplementation section in Chapter 2 of Listen to Your Gut.
- Take 1/4 teaspoon of L-glutamine powder per day in half a glass of cold or room temperature water, on an empty stomach, for the first two weeks. Gradually increase the dosage by 1/4 teaspoon at a time as your colon adjusts to the firmer stool, until you’re up to a dosage that works well for you.
- Take 1 to 3 tsp. of psyllium seed powder mixed with apple juice, 1 to 3 times per day, on an empty stomach, just before food. OR: Bentonite clay, 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. mixed with water, 1 to 3 times per day. Go slowly to avoid too rapid detoxification, and don’t use for longer than two weeks.
- If you suspect infection is the root cause of your diarrhea (C. difficile, colitis, Crohn’s, MAP, etc), then check out my eBook Jini’s Healing Guide: Natural Treatments for Gut Infection.