What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea refers to an increase in frequency, fluidity, and volume of bowel movements. Diarrhea is a common symptom that usually indicates a mild, temporary event. However, it may also be the first suggestion of a serious underlying disease or infection.
What causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is divided into four major types: osmotic, secretory, exudative, and inadequate-contact.
- Osmotic diarrhea can be the result of carbohydrate malabsorption (e.g., lactose intolerance); magnesium salts; and excess vitamin C intake.
- Secretory diarrhea can be the result of toxin-producing bacteria; hormone-producing tumors; fat malabsorption (e.g., lack of bile output); laxative abuse; and surgical resection of the small intestine
- Exudative diarrhea can be caused by inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis); pseudomembranous colitis (a post-antibiotic diarrhea caused by an overgrowth of a bacteria [Clostridium difficele]); and bacterial infection.
- Inadequate-contact diarrhea is the result of surgical removal of sections of the intestine.
What dietary factors are important in Diarrhea?
Here are the key dietary recommendations typically given for people with any of the four types of diarrhea:
- Don’t eat solid foods. During the acute phase of diarrhea, no solid foods should be consumed. Instead the focus should be on liquid.
- Replace water and electrolytes by consuming herbal teas, vegetable broths, fruit juices, and electrolyte-replacement drinks. An old naturopathic remedy is to sip a drink made of equal parts of sauerkraut and tomato juice.
- Avoid dairy products. Acute intestinal illnesses, such as viral or bacterial intestinal infections, will frequently injure the cells that line the small intestine. This results in a temporary deficiency of lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting milk sugar (lactose) from dairy products. Avoid dairy products (with the possible exception of live-cultured yogurt) while experiencing diarrhea.
- Avoid food allergens. Food allergy is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea. The ingestion of an allergenic food can result in the release of histamine and other allergenic compounds from white blood cells, known as mast cells, that reside in the lining of the intestines. These allergenic compounds can produce a powerful laxative effect.
- During the chronic phase, help solidify stools, pectin rich fruits and vegetables, such as pears, apples, grapefruit, carrots, potatoes, and beets may offer some benefit. Also, fresh blueberries have a long historical use in treating diarrhea because of their tannins, which firm up a loose stool.
- Carob has been used medicinally as a treatment for diarrhea for centuries, and recent clinical studies have confirmed its clinical effectiveness, particularly for treating infants with diarrhea. Add 1-2 tsp of carob to applesauce or other food 2-to-3 times daily.
- Mango has been shown to afford protection against as well as eliminate parasites that can be encountered while traveling. Vegetable broths and dilute fruit and vegetable juices should be consumed to maintain electrolyte levels.
What nutritional supplements should I take for Diarrhea?
Foundation Supplements. There are three products from Natural Factors that I think are critical in supporting good health:
- MultiStart (age and gender specific multiple vitamin and mineral formulas). Follow label instructions.
- Enriching Greens – a great tasting “greens drink” containing highly concentrated “greens” like chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass juice, barley grass juice, etc., and herbal extracts. Take one serving (one tablespoon) in 8 ounces of water daily.
- RxOmega-3 Factors – A true pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement. Take two capsules daily.
RevitalX from Natural Factors is a powdered drink mix that provides targeted nutritional support for the intestinal tract. The development of the product was spearheaded by Michael Lyon, MD. RevitalX is specifically designed to soothe the stomach, intestines and colon. Take two servings daily.
Probiotic products can help establish the proper intestinal flora. Take 5-10 billion live live bacteria daily. Amounts exceeding this may induce mild gastrointestinal disturbances, while smaller amounts may not be able to colonize the gastrointestinal tract.
Parasite Formula from Natural Factors provides a blend of herbal compounds that exert action against a wide range of bacteria and yeast including berberine, an alkaloid, found in various plants including goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and barberry (Berberis vulgaris). Take 1-2 capsules three times daily with meals.
How do I know if the recommendations are working?
Although most acute cases of diarrhea are self-limiting, I have some important guidelines for you to follow. If any of the following apply, a physician should be consulted immediately: diarrhea in a child under six years of age; severe or bloody diarrhea; diarrhea that lasts more than three days; and significant signs of dehydration (sunken eyes, severe dry mouth, strong body odor, etc.).