Diarrhoea, or a running stomach, is one of the most common intestinal problems that we all face several times in life. In most cases it just goes away on its own within a few days but sometimes it can persist for longer and need medical treatment. Diarrhoea is a symptom of some underlying problem and should always be evaluated by a doctor. Proper medical treatment is advisable rather than trying to manage diarrhoea on your own without medical advice. Even with treatment, there are several ways that you can help to ease diarrhoea while the medication you are using is taking effect.
The tips provided in this article should be correlated with the advice given by your doctor. Never stop using the medication that is prescribed. Always ensure that you keep yourself rehydrated at all times with oral rehydrating solutions.
1. Avoid Fruit Juices
Fruit juices may draw out water into the bowels and worsen diarrhoea in some cases. Although a person who has diarrhoea needs to constantly rehydrate themselves by increasing their fluid intake, fruit juice should not be the first option. Oral rehydrating solutions (ORS), like Rehidrat in South Africa, are available from pharmacies and most supermarkets. When mixed with clean water, it has the optimal balance of electrolytes to prevent dehydration but not worsen diarrhoea.
2. Stay Away from Milk
Even if you are not lactose intolerant, milk and other dairy products can exacerbate diarrhoea. Depending on the cause of diarrhoea and the duration for which it persist, some people develop what is known as secondary lactose intolerance for short periods. This means that the bowels do tolerate diarrhoea very well. Although you may want to use live culture yoghurt to restore your good bowel bacteria, it can worsen the situation by aggravating the diarrhoea.
3. Eat Small Meals
If you had the gastric flu and the vomiting has stopped, you should return to solid foods as soon as possible to prevent nutritional deficiencies and other complications. However, eating solid food again may initially worsen the diarrhoea. The key is eating many small meals rather than a few large meals in a day. Remember that the stretching of the gut wall speeds up movement through the bowels and large quantities of food in the gut can hasten the passage in the already irritated bowels.
4. Bland Foods are Better
You may be able to tolerate hot and spicy foods, but when you have diarrhoea you should try to keep it simple with bland foods. Any spice, not only chilli and pepper, can irritate the bowel lining. Even salty and processed foods may worsen diarrhea, not by irritating the bowel lining like spices, but by drawing water into the bowel and causing watery stools. Try to keep it simple with fresh vegetables that are either partially cooked or steamed. Small amounts of meat for protein and fats are also necessary but in moderation.
5. Use a Probiotic
The good bacteria in your bowels (normal intestinal flora) is important for regulating bowel health and habit. It is often disturbed with infections of the bowel, severe illness and the use of antibiotics. When live culture yoghurt is worsening your diarrhoea due to secondary lactose intolerance, you should look at a commercial probiotic.
However, not all probiotics are the same and you should speak to your doctor and pharmacist. Probiotics which contain the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii and the bacteria Lactobacillus casei are often the better choice. A widely used and effective probiotic in South Africa is Interflora which is available at most pharmacies.