Diarrhea Home > Diarrhea Treatment

For many people with diarrhea, treatment may only require replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. However, if the diarrhea is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be necessary. While some over-the-counter medications may help with many cases of diarrhea, they can actually prolong diarrhea caused by bacteria or a parasite. When conditions such as celiac disease are responsible, treatment involves making changes to one's diet. When recovering from diarrhea, it is wise to avoid dairy products, fried foods, sweet foods, and foods high in fiber.

How Is Diarrhea Treated?

There are two types of diarrhea: acute diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. Treatment options for each type will vary.

Acute Treatment for Diarrhea

In most cases, the only acute diarrhea treatment necessary is replacing lost fluid to prevent dehydration until symptoms improve. In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend certain medicines for treating diarrhea.
Many people think that drinking fluids during bouts of diarrhea will worsen their condition. This is not true. In fact, drinking fluids is very important during bouts of diarrhea to prevent dehydration, which is the loss of vital fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Proper hydration is especially important in children with diarrhea because they can die from dehydration within a couple of days.
Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes. Good choices to help maintain electrolyte levels include broth or soups (which contain sodium), and fruit juices, soft fruits, or vegetables (which contain potassium).
Another good replacement option is an 8-ounce glass of fruit juice with a pinch of table salt and a half-teaspoon of honey (or a tablespoon of sugar) added to it. You may also try soft drinks without caffeine that have been allowed to sit so that they lose their carbonation. If you try either of these options, be sure to follow it with a glass of water containing one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda to replace the lost electrolytes.
For children, doctors often recommend a special rehydration solution that contains the nutrients children need. You can buy this solution in the grocery store without a prescription. Examples of such rehydration solutions include Pedialyte®, CeraLyte®, and Infalyte®.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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