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Diarrhea: One Symptom with Many Causes and Effects - Part 2

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Helpful Tips for Diarrhea

Acute Phase

man in toilet with diarrheaThe help for acute diarrhea is often focused on supporting the body through the illness. The causes for this are so innumerable that you may never know what really happened. The primary focus is preventing dehydration. Even though it is never fun, this is actually the body’s way of defending itself. Just as you wash your hands with lots of water and soap to get rid of the dirt, your bowels are flushing out the problem as well.

It is best to slowly add fluids into your diet instead of gulping down a large amount of water. For those who do not have vomiting, it is helpful to drink one ounce of liquid every 15 minutes. This can be a weak, honey-sweetened, decaffeinated tea or an organic sports drink that does not have artificial sweeteners or preservatives. It is best to avoid grape and orange juices, colas, and coffee, as the acid present in these can upset your stomach even more. As the diarrhea lessens, you can slowly increase your liquid intake to two ounces every 15 minutes until you are back to your regular consumption.

Foods to avoid with diarrhea

You need to avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, fatty, and overly acidic when experiencing diarrhea. In the early phase, also, you need to avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables because these make the stomach work harder and worsen the diarrhea.

Foods to eat with diarrhea

One way to work with this is the B.R.A.T. diet. It can easily be remembered using the mnemonic of the initials and explained like this:
B - Bananas
R - Brown Rice
A - Applesauce, unsweetened
T - Toast or crackers

probiotics can help diarrheaAs you feel better, you also can have a couple, scrambled organic eggs to eat. A piece of baked or grilled plain chicken (seasoned only with salt). A plain baked potato or sweet potato can also be very comforting to a hungry, but not yet completely happy, stomach. Over the next few days, you can slowly start integrating cooked vegetables and tender meats back into your diet until you feel like your normal self.

Probiotics can be helpful as well to get the digestive tract back to normal. These are present in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and in various supplements from your healthcare provider.

Lastly, it is helpful to pause for a few moments and see if you can figure out what caused you to be ill. If it was something like drinking water that wasn’t clean or playing with a recently sick child, then use this as a moment to remember proper cooking procedures for foods and hand washing.

Chronic Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is defined as greater than three months of loose stool. One such issue can be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with diarrhea, which is also called IBS-D. The gut is irritated and hypersensitive to changes in the diet, an increased presence of inflammation, and difficult emotional stimuli.

For all people, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to send signals to control the motility of the intestines, secretion and absorption of fluids, and response to inflammation. Both of these work together to create the right balance within the gut and to deal with any disturbances within the ANS. The SNS is typically associated with speeding everything up (similar to the “fight or flight” reaction), and PNS is for slowing the body down. However, in the digestive tract, the PNS works differently. It releases acetylcholine which changes the tone of the smooth muscles to create peristaltic waves. The slow and gentle waves allow the body to absorb the excess water causing the stool to form as it should.

For those suffering from IBS-D, the PNS is prolonged and drives the effect of diarrhea. The harsh and fast peristaltic waves overcome the large intestines, and they do not absorb excess fluid. This causes nausea, bloating, abdominal cramping, and sudden urges to defecate watery stools. Expulsion of diarrhea may not bring relief, as the body is still creating the peristaltic waves, but nothing is coming out.

Treatment for chronic diarrhea becomes complicated because eating plain chicken and potatoes can get old very quickly, and it is a very unhealthy diet. You may be racking your brain trying to figure out what is causing the frequent problems and coming up empty.

In these situations, it is helpful to keep a food diary to track what you are eating and what symptoms you are having. You may want to speak to your provider to see if you should be avoiding certain foods such as dairy, gluten, and certain proteins to ensure a healthier gut. Also, make sure you note if something stressful happened that day. It doesn’t have to be a long diary entry, just a few words to remind you. As you do this for several weeks and months, you may begin to see a pattern of causes in your life.

What else can help with diarrhea

As you can find healing for your gut, you can obtain rest for your mind and body. Some of the great ways to help with balance are

  • Mind Relaxation Techniques - meditation, breath awareness, guided imagery, music therapy, and hypnosis.
  • Body Relaxation Techniques - Swedish massage, lymphatic drainage massage, abdominal massage, tai chi, Yin yoga, and craniosacral therapy.

When considering a massage therapist, you need to make sure you have someone who is certified in the different modalities and appropriately trained in eastern styles of massage versus just those who are working in spas. The mind and the digestive tract do not respond well to painful deep tissue modalities. The body’s energies should be focused with the right amount of knowledge to bring about the best kinds of healing.


happy woman with no diarrheaHippocrates once said, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” The more you can take the opportunity to protect yourself with proper hand washing, eating correctly cleaned foods, drinking sanitized water, and avoiding those who are sick, the more you can avoid the common causes of diarrhea and keep a proper balance of the NEM Stress Response.

For those who struggle with long-term problems, the remedy is focused on the cause of the disruption of the energies of the body. To allow yourself to heal mentally through painful situations is very important. Lastly, you can lower the inflammation of your digestive tract through reducing stress and ameliorating the causes of your illnesses. So that way, the body can receive the nutrients that it needs and produce the right amount of hormones and cortisol to prepare you for the future.

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© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

You need to avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, fatty, and overly acidic when experiencing diarrhea. In the early phase, also, you need to avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables because these make the stomach work harder and worsen the diarrhea.

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