Wherever you look for advice on diarrhea treatment you'll come across a huge list of do's and don'ts, but are they myths or facts?
For example, should you let your bowel rest after a bout of diarrhea and go only on a liquid diet? Do you need to drink only clear liquids? How about pepper? Is it true that it can promote diarrhea?
In other words, what is the best proven treatment for diarrhea?
This piece of advice is found in most diarrhea treatment manuals and websites.
But the truth is, you're more likely to recover faster from diarrhea if you keep eating - even though you don't feel like it, says William B. Greenough III, MD, professor of medicine, John Hopkins University and president of the International Child Health Foundation.
"Don't stop eating" he urges. "Simply shift to foods that will shorten the diarrhea - high-bulk foods such as rice or carrot soups, tapioca puddings, and not too much sugar." Eat frequently and slowly, gulping down food can promote nausea.
The so-called BRAT diet - from the initials of banana, rice, applesauce and toast - is fine, says Dr. Greenough.
Encourage children with diarrhea to eat frequently as much as they want - about five to seven times a day or every three to four hours, he advises. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against letting youngsters with acute diarrhea fast for more than 24 hours.
This is another common piece of advice that you hear in relation to diarrhea treatment. Well, apparently, this too is wrong.
Contrary to popular opinion, confining yourself to insubstantial broths, teas and other beverages while your colon is weaned gradually back onto a solid diet is generally needless, restricts nutrients (which are important in growing infants and children) and prolongs diarrhea, according to recent findings.
Most clear liquids contain too much sodium (for example, beef and chicken broths) or not enough sodium (soft drinks and tea). Other home remedies lack critical potassium (Gatorade and Jell-O) or are too high in sugar (juices and sugary soft drinks).
According to Dr. Greenough, soft drinks, sweetened fruit juices or sports drinks given to infants and young children can make the diarrhea worse.
The major villain in many home remedies seems to be sugar. "Sugar passes right through you and draws water and salts out of the body, leading to vomiting", he warns. In fact, solutions with excessive sugar have caused deaths in infants with diarrhea.
Additionally, sugar-based solutions do not cut the duration of diarrhea, as cereal-based solutions do, he says.
Diet drinks are even worse, because they contain no nutritional value and but a single calorie. Thus, they leave the child starved at a vulnerable time when he needs nourishment to fight the diarrheal disease.
The best cure for diarrhea is a starchy fluid. A thick soup or drink made from any starchy food, such as rice, corn, wheat or potatoes, is therapeutic.
Such foods have long been used in many cultures as antidiarrheal remedies. Favorites around the world are lentil soup, rice porridge, carrot soup, tapioca pudding, coconut juice and chicken noodle soup.
Starchy liquids, unlike sugary ones, tend to diminish vomiting, reduce the amount of fluid lost and speed recovery time.
The following remedy can cut your diarrhea short. For best results take it as soon as signs of diarrhea appear.
In cases of extreme diarrhea, this cereal soup could reduce diarrhea by 50% in about three hours, says Dr. Grenough. "In ordinary cases, the diarrhea might stop in two day instead of three or one day instead of two."
Indeed, tests confirm this cereal "soup" is just as effective in curtailing diarrhea as commercial oral rehydration formulas, he adds.
So here it is:
Another remedy that has been very useful in diarrhea treatment is fenugreek. The seeds of this herb contain up to 50% mucilage, a type of fiber, which absorb water in the intestine and swells.
For adults, not children, 1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds with water three times a day often produces quick and "marked" relief, usually after the second dose, says Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava at Odense University in Denmark.
Fenugreek, a spice used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, has long been a natural medicine for diarrhea and gastrointestinal spasms, he notes.
More is not always better: don't use more than 2 teaspoons of fenugreek at a time, or you may experience abdominal distress.
Both popular and medical dogma have long warned people with bowel problems, including diarrhea, away from eating pepper.
The theory is that red and black pepper aggravates diarrhea by speeding up peristalsis, the rhythmic bowel movements that propel contents along.
According to knew research by gastroenterologists at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, this doesn't seem to be true.
In fact, they found that pepper tends to slow down a tendency to bowel movements. This doesn't mean you should take pepper to relieve diarrhea, but neither does it appear to be harmful.
Swedish doctors have long prescribed dried blueberries, usually made into a soup, to treat childhood diarrhea.
Blueberries are rich in anthocyanosides, which kill bacteria, including E. coli, a common cause of diarrhea. The common therapeutic dose: about 1/3 of one ounce of dried blueberries.
Black currents are also rich in this antidiarrheal compounds. In fact, a black currant extract made from the dried skins is sold in Sweden under the name Pecarin as an antidiarrheal drug. It has proven effective in human tests in combating gastrointestinal infections.
When researchers Drs. Dennis Savaiano and Michael Levitt of the University of Minnesota put yogurt cultures in test tubes with the number one instigator of traveler's diarrhea - various strains of E. coli bacteria - the infectious bugs either died or did not grow. But they thrived like crazy in ordinary milk or broth.
But make sure you eat yogurt with active cultures of beneficial bacteria.
If your diarrhea is a side effect of antibiotics, which kill both good and bad bacteria, it's especially important to replenish the "good guys".
Choose one of the pages below to find out more about the best treatment for diarrhea.
Diarrhea Diet where you find a list of foods that can causes diarrhea as well as foods to include in your diarrhea treatment.