In some cases, medicines that stop diarrhea may be a helpful form of diarrhea treatment. Diarrhea medicines that are available without a doctor's prescription include loperamide (Imodium®) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol® and Kaopectate®). Stop taking these medicines if symptoms get worse or if your diarrhea lasts more than two days.
Healthcare providers do not recommend using these medicines when the diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection or parasite. Stopping the diarrhea in such cases traps the organism in the intestines, prolonging the problem. Instead, healthcare providers usually prescribe antibiotics for diarrhea treatment in these cases.
Be sure to call your healthcare provider before you start any medications for diarrhea, including over-the-counter medicines.
The key to treating chronic diarrhea is to determine its cause. If chronic diarrhea is caused by an infection, it may be treated with antibiotics (if it is caused by bacteria) or other medicines. Diarrhea not caused by an infection is more difficult to diagnose and treat. Long-term medication (such as steroids) or surgery may be required. For people with lactose intolerance, celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea treatment may involve modifications to the diet. If your chronic diarrhea is not the result of an infection, you should discuss specific treatment options with your healthcare provider.
Similar to acute diarrhea, treatment for chronic diarrhea also involves staying well hydrated. Serious health problems can occur if you don't maintain your body's proper fluid levels. Diarrhea may become worse and hospitalization may be required if dehydration occurs.
Other important treatment suggestions for chronic diarrhea include the following:
- Do not drink beverages containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks.
- Do not drink alcohol; it causes dehydration.
- Maintain well-balanced nutrition. Doing so may help you recover more quickly.