So you can *finally* get off the toilet.
In a perfect world, everyone’s poops would pop out resembling a smooth, soft sausage and snake around the toilet bowl (you know, according to the famous Bristol Stool Chart).
But the world isn’t perfect—and neither are your poops. Of course, you already knew that; a quick look in the toilet on any given day and you can see a variety of shapes, colors, and consistencies—the most undesirable of which? Diarrhea.
Yes, when your poop looks more liquid than solid, it could be for a number of reasons, like bacteria growing in your gut or something you ate the night before just not agreeing with you. That, unfortunately, makes it hard to diagnose.
“Diarrhea can often be challenging to even define,” Amir Masoud, MD, a gastroenterologist at Yale Medicine, tells Health. “Some people regard a change in stool consistency to mean that they have diarrhea when the actual medical diagnosis depends on the frequency of stool.” (According to the US National Library of Medicine, you have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day.)
Dr. Masoud points out that most cases of loose stool are self-limiting and that they stop spontaneously. However, others can point to an infection or inflammation. “Worrisome causes should always be considered and ruled out but are usually accompanied by other alarming features,” he adds. The most common of these is blood in the stool. Other associated symptoms to look out for are fevers/chills, abdominal pain, tenesmus (aka, the constant feeling like you have to go poop), mucous in stool, or weight loss. In the case of infections, most are viral—and even most bacterial cases resolve without the need for treatment.
But if nothing else seems off and you think you just have a bad case of diarrhea, there are a few treatments—both medication and home remedies—that may help stop the flow. Here, gastroenterologists weigh in on their favorite ways to stop diarrhea—fast.
1. Try some over-the-counter medications.
If you are suffering from run-of-the-mill diarrhea and there are no obvious concerning findings or complaints, you might want to try heading to the drug store for some over-the-counter relief. “Some simple strategies can help reduce the discomfort associated with loose stool or diarrhea,” says Dr. Masoud.
He suggests over the counter remedies such as pink bismuth (Pepto Bismol) and medications such as loperamide (Imodium). “They may useful in reducing the frequency of stool and may relieve cramping,” he says.
2. Follow the BRAT diet.
Remember mom’s remedy for all your childhood tummy aches? The BRAT diet—an acronym standing for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast —is an old dietary go-to that has sustained the test of time. “Dietary strategies are aimed at bowel rest and therefore following a bland diet can be helpful,” says Dr. Masoud.
3. . Or at least skip dairy and fried foods for a while.
If you aren’t willing go hardcore BRAT, staying away from dairy—except probiotic-rich yogurt—and heavy fatty foods is almost always a useful strategy, offer Dr. Masoud.
4. Drink your water.
One of the most important tactics with diarrhea is making hydration a priority, points out Rachel Franklin, MD, Medical Director, OU Physicians Family Medicine, in Oklahoma; that’s because having diarrhea can be extremely dehydrating.
Consume as much fluid as you can, but avoid dehydrating beverages with sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or prunes—all of which can have a laxative effect and make your bathroom habits worse.
5. Gulp down a sports drink
Most people think of Gatorade as a sports beverage, as it replenishes electrolytes after a workout, helping restore hydration. It works the same way when you have diarrhea. “If the volume and frequency of watery stool is significant, steps must be taken to avoid dehydration,” Dr. Masoud explains. “The most important thing to remember is that with fluid losses also come electrolyte depletion.”
6. Snack on saltines.
In addition to drinking a sports drink, Dr. Masoud suggests munching on a mildly salty crackers. “Saltines are a good choice given the low residue and salt content,” he says. Of course, he warns that if you have high blood pressure or on a salt restricted diet, you should do this in moderation.
7. Consider a probiotic or other good bacteria.
Since diarrhea often involves a whole lot of bad bacteria in your gut, replacing it with good bacteria can be beneficial, according to Dr. Masoud. “Some probiotics have been shown to be helpful in certain cases with the two most studied being lactobacillus and saccharomyces boulardii,” he says.
But it’s not just drugstore probiotics—adding good bacteria and probiotic rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut can also help inspire balance in your sour stomach.
Still, if your symptoms are severe (i.e., more than five or six watery bowel movements a day, and last more than two days), Dr. Masoud urges you to call your physician ASAP. Any cases with blood in stool or fever should be evaluated without delay.“In general it is important to never minimize or brush off symptoms,” he says. “It’s never a bad idea to contact your primary care physician for direction if you develop a change in your bowel habits.”
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This article was medically reviewed by Roy Nattiv, MD. Dr. Roy Nattiv is a board certified Pediatric Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Nattiv specializes in a broad range of pediatric gastrointestinal and nutritional illnesses such as constipation, diarrhea, reflux, food allergies, poor weight gain, SIBO, IBD, and IBS. Dr. Nattiv graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and received his Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel. He then completed his pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Nattiv went on to complete his fellowship and training in pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He was a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) fellowship trainee and was awarded the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) Fellow to Faculty Award in Pediatric IBD Research.
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Antibiotics can kill good bacteria in your gut along with the bad bacteria causing your illness, meaning you can experience diarrhea as a side effect. Ask your doctor about medications you can take, such as probiotics or an anti-diarrheal. You can also feel better by eating a bland diet, avoiding dairy, and staying hydrated. Eating well while you are taking antibiotics can get your digestive system back on track and have you feeling better in no time.
Diarrhea is your body’s natural way of responding to infections that affect the digestive system or to foods that just don’t sit well in your body. So, even though the word “diarrhea” might sound ugly on the surface, it’s actually a beneficial response.
Although diarrhea is usually a spontaneous thing, you can actually induce it whenever you want. This sounds like a crazy thing to do, but sometimes you just need to flush your gut to feel better.
How to Cause (Fake) Diarrhea Whenever You Want
In this post, you’d learn some safe but not-so-failproof tips on how to cause “fake” diarrhea on purpose — for whatever innocent reasons you might have.
Note, however, that inducing diarrhea when your body is absolutely normal can cause serious problems ranging from electrolyte imbalances to coma.
With all of the above in mind, let’s dive right in!
1. Use a laxative
Ordinarily, laxatives are used to induce bowel movements in people with constipation. But in any case, they flush the digestive system, sending all food particles and fluids to the outside. Magnesium sulfate and magnesium citrate are good examples.
Most laxatives work by attracting lots of fluids from your body into your bowels. This makes for an easy flushing process. And provided they are used occasionally, laxatives are not very dangerous.
After taking a laxative, bowel movements start within the next 20 minutes to 3 hours.
2. Take coffee (a lot of it)
Caffeine is not just a diuretic, but it’s also a proven laxative. So, caffeine-containing foods or drinks have the potential to cause diarrhea. Since coffee is the most widely consumed caffeine-containing drink, it’s your best option. Taking more than 2 or 3 cups of coffee daily will most likely cause diarrhea.
Alternatively, you can take caffeine-containing tea. Even decaffeinated drinks have been found to retain the chemicals that loosen stools and cause diarrhea.
Note, however, that excessive amounts of caffeine can be dangerous, especially when taken consistently. So, it’s strongly recommended that you try thing for just one or two days.
3. Take (drink) honey
Honey contains fructose, a natural sugar that packs some calories. When taken in large amounts, fructose can cause diarrhea. So, if you take a lot of honey or fructose-rich fruits, expect an aggressive clearance of your bowels within some minutes to a few hours.
Interestingly, honey is also used to treat diarrhea — the type associated with gastroenteritis and caused by bacteria. It’s also effective when used as part of oral rehydration therapy.
So, its safe to conclude that taking a lot of honey when you’re absolutely fine can help induce diarrhea whenever you want that.
4. Do a “vitamin C flush”
One of the safest ways to induce diarrhea is doing what is a called a “vitamin C flush”. This involves taking a specified dose of vitamin C (ascorbate) powder on an empty stomach early in the morning. The powder is first diluted in water or juice, and the mixture is taken at intervals until bowel movements start.
There’s a lot more to the vitamin C flush method than this post can cover. So, you can check this document for more details on the procedure.
Alternatively, you can simply take lots of vitamin C-rich fruits such as oranges, pineapples, mangoes, and so on.
5. Use Senna
Senna, also known as sennoside, is a natural laxative used to treat constipation. It helps to empty the large intestine within a very short period, and this is why it’s widely used for bowel emptying prior to surgery.
Ordinarily, senna would induce normal bowel movement. But if diarrhea is what you really want from it, then you’d have to take in higher doses than normal.
As with most other laxatives, senna can cause impaired bowel function and electrolyte imbalances when used for too long. So, don’t turn it into a daily-use medication.
6. Take castor oil
Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, a substance that stimulates a strong laxative effect. This explains why castor oil is one of the most effective solutions for relieving constipation.
While small doses of castor oil are just enough to cause its laxative effects, larger doses will make it “go the extra mile” by clearing the bowel in a faster and more aggressive way. And that’s diarrhea. Note, however, that castor oil can also cause abdominal cramps and nausea.
7. Take foods known to cause diarrhea
Some certain foods cause you to visit the toilet shortly after taking them. These foods vary from individual to individual, but some are just notorious for stimulating bowel movements.
Examples of foods that have been widely reported to cause diarrhea include:
- Foods garnished with monosodium glutamate
- Food containing chili peppers
- Very hot and spicy foods
- Frozen yogurt (lots of it)
- Green peppers or foods containing them
- Grape juice
- Milk and other dairy products (for people with lactose intolerance)
Start by thinking of foods that induce diarrhea whenever you take them, and those are your best options since you’ve experienced their effects. But if you can’t think of any, you may want to try out some of the foods listed above.
I wouldn’t know why anyone would want to fake diarrhea, but if you’re sure it’s something just have to do, some of the “tricks” in this post should work for you. But once again, remember that this isn’t absolutely safe, as it might tip your body into some nasty developments that can get really fatal.
About The Author
Abass A. Toriola (MBBS)
Abass Toriola (MBBS) is a general practitioner who enjoys probing into rarely-talked-about medical/health topics and educating others about them. When he’s not busy attending to clients in his practice facility, he’s either researching online or catching fun with his family.
Viruses, bacteria, parasites, food intolerances and certain medicines can cause diarrhea. However, often no cause can be found for the diarrhea. To treat diarrhea, you need to replace the fluids and salts that the body has lost [source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse].
- Adults should drink plenty of fluids so as not to become dehydrated.
- Children should drink an electrolyte rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, which can be bought without a prescription.
- If a food or medication is causing the diarrhea, it should be avoided [source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse].
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, you should avoid the following foods when you have diarrhea, because they can exacerbate the symptoms:
- Milk and dairy products
- Greasy or high-fat foods
- Foods that contain a lot of fiber
The doctors at Three Rivers Endoscopy Center for Digestive Health & Nutrition instead recommend that you instead eat soft, bland foods such as those on the “BRATT diet”:
If your diarrhea is caused by a parasite or bacterial infection, anti-diarrheal medications aren’t recommended. Stopping the diarrhea will just trap the offending organism in your intestines and prolong your illness. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or other medication to treat the underlying illness instead of the symptom [source: National Institutes of Health].
Although it’s usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor if you have strong pain in your abdomen or rectum, a fever, blood in your stools, severe diarrhea for more than three days or symptoms of dehydration. If your child has diarrhea, don’t hesitate to call the doctor for advice, since diarrhea can be dangerous in children [source: Medline Plus].