Diarrhea, Dysentery & IBS

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What is Diarrhea/Dysentery

Diarrhea/Dysentery is actually one of the most common health problems; the average person experiences about 4 episodes of diarrhea each year. Passing loose and liquid stools many times during a day is the main symptom of diarrhea. It may be associated by cramps while passing stool or otherwise, wind and distention in the abdomen, weakness, mild fever and dehydration.

However, if your diarrhea is unusual in its intensity or duration, or if it is occurring more often than very occasionally, it is also important that you consult with your primary health care provider. If your symptoms are due to a more complex disorder such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease, you might benefit from these medicines.

What Causes Diarrhea?

Loose or watery stools occur when the intestines push the stools through the bowel to be eliminated before excess water can be reabsorbed. Often, diarrhea is the body’s natural defense mechanism against a harmful virus or bacterium, an ingested toxin, or a food that disagrees with the digestive system. Diarrhea can also occur as a result of an inflamed bowel wall, which allows excess fluid to leak into the stool, as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Or, diarrhea may be the side effect of prescribed medication or an indicator of a more serious illness.

When is Diarrhea Serious?

Diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal bloating, cramps, nausea, vomiting, or an urgent need to have a bowel movement. While these symptoms are unpleasant, they usually clear up with the diarrhea. More serious symptoms include:

  • 10 or more watery stools within a 24 hour period
  • Signs of dehydration (e.g. dark, scanty urine; dry, sticky mouth; extreme thirst; loss of skin elasticity – skin doesn’t rebound when it is pinched into a fold)
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Worsening symptoms

These signs and symptoms can be an indicator of a more serious problem and, if any of them develop, it would be a good idea to contact your doctor.

Avoiding Dehydration

One of the most serious dangers of prolonged diarrhea is dehydration. Taking small sips of fluid throughout the day is one of the best ways to support hydration during episodes of diarrhea. Water (you can add a pinch of salt, lime juice, and natural sugar, if you like).

The Ayurvedic Perspective

According to Ayurveda, diarrhea occurs when the digestive fire is weakened, usually by excess pitta. Absorption and assimilation slow, and the movement of food through the digestive system is accelerated – causing liquid stools. The remedy is to pacify pitta and to gently kindle agni. The following strategies specifically counter pitta’s hot, sharp, liquid qualities and can be very helpful in supporting the return of normal bowel movements.

Home Dietary Remedies

When we suffer from diarrhea, the desire to eat a supportive diet is almost instinctual, and actually the diet is one of the most effective ways to treat diarrhea. Begin by eating a pitta pacifying diet, focusing on simple, grounding, nourishing foods. It is also important to avoid hot, spicy foods, especially salty foods, intensely sour foods, alcohol, caffeine, and fermented foods, as they can further aggravate pitta. In addition, steer clear of sugary drinks since these substances actually draw more water into the intestines and can intensify diarrhea.

Fortunately, there are also some specific food preparations that can help to curb an acute case of diarrhea rather quickly. Choose the one that sounds best to you:

  • Stewed Apples
    Peel and slice or chop 1-2 apples. Place in a small saucepan with about ½” of water, 1 teaspoonGhee, and a pinch each of: Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg, and Natural Mineral Salt. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer (if you need to add a bit of water, please do). This dish is delicious and easy to digest. The apples are gently astringent and help to bind the stools.
  • Spiced Bananas
    Boil & make mesh of 1-2 ripe bananas & mix it with a pinch each of: Cinnamon (Dalchini), Cardamom (Elaichi), Nutmeg (Jaiphal) & salt. This dish is delicious and nourishing. The potassium in the bananas helps to bind the stool.
  • Cooked Rice or Khicdee with Yogurt
    Start with one cup of cooked Basmati Rice. Add ¼ cup plain, fresh (ideally homemade) yogurt. Mix together and enjoy. This dish is soothing, grounding, and nutritive, and the probiotics in the yogurt help to restore the strength of agni.
  • Lassi (Diluted Yogurt)
    If something lighter sounds best, blend ½ cup of fresh, plain yogurt (ideally homemade), ½ cup of water, and  drink. This probiotic drink is easy to digest and it gently kindles agni.

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