Naturopathic Physician Questions Diarrhea

How is diarrhea treated with natural medicine?

How is diarrhea treated without medications? Is it advisable?

9 Answers

Naturopathic medicine is individualized medicine. There are acute treatments for diarrhea that happens as a result of food poisoning or a short term infectious agent. There are different treatments for chronic diarrhea- IBS and IBD. There are so many options for treatment that there simply isn’t enough room here to list a third of them. I am biased, by the many patients I have treated, that it is extremely advisable. I do not shy away from using pharmaceuticals when necessary, but with diarrhea it is rarely necessary.
The only advisable way to treat diarrhea is to find and treat the cause. Treatment is cause specific and will likely involve a combination of nature medicine, dietary modifications, and rehydration. It is unadvisable to use anti-diarrheal medication long term as it doesn’t address the cause and therefore the cause will persist. Short-term use of anti-diarrheal medication has its place for use while you work to understand and treat the cause.
For diarrhea, getting to the root cause is important. Root causes could be things such as food sensitivities, SIBO, parasites, stomach acid deficiency and many others. We test for these things at
- Dr. Diane Mueller
Great question! The natural treatment would vary based on whether the root cause is infectious or inflammatory. Further testing is the first step.
A naturopathic doctor would always seek to identify the cause of the diarrhea. This is especially important because if a person takes pepto bismol or something to stop the diarrhea, they could be working against the body's need to expell an infection, if that would be the cause of the diarrhea. I would do a blood test and a stool test to determine what is going on. I may give herbs and nutrients while we await test results. Then adjust the plan as needed based on the test results. It is important to be sure the person is hydrating well and, if they can't keep food down or don't eat a lot of vegetables, then supplementing with an electrolyte drink or supplement would likely be helpful. Children can dehydrate very rapidly so if it is a child who has diarrhea, give fluids in any form they will take them - water, 100% juice popsicles (I usually recommend whole fruits rather than fruit juices, but since the risk of dehydration is high in kids, it may be necessary to give fruit juices until they are better), etc
We treat diarrhea by identifying the cause. My first assessment would be understand nutrition and gut health. Many things interfere with healthy digestion like antibiotics, steroids, stress, processed foods, alcohol and anything that can interrupt the integrity of our microbiome (healthy bacteria). We use GI testing as well as food allergy testing outside of educating on healthy nutrition. We do use supplements to support optimal digestion as well as medications as needed if it is caused by an infection.
Diarrhea in a prior healthy person due to ordinary contamination of food/drink, even including salmonella, shigella is ideally treated without antibiotics or chemotherapeutic agent. Fluid and electrolyte and diet is the prime principle. And, most important, looking at your gut health with good enate gut immunity and bacterial flora is what we all should strive for. Be prepared, they say.
It would depend on the cause of the diarrhea, but the most important thing is to keep your fluids up, so drinking filtered water, herbal teas such as peppermint, ginger and chamomile are helpful
It is important to figure out the cause of the diarrhea. Taking a thorough history is vital. Were you exposed to spoiled food? Did is start with stress? Did is start after traveling abroad? A thorough history is important to identify the cause. There are also functional medicine tests such as a stool test I use frequently with my patients that rule out bacteria, candida and parasites by identifying the organism causing the problem. In order to effectively treat the diarrhea you have to determine the cause first. Once you do that you can treat with medication, herbs and /or homeopathy or a combination. Remember the most effective medicine is when you treat the cause of your symptoms.