It’s no picnic when you’re dealing with diarrhea.
For a few days, you’re keeled over from cramps, you feel nauseous, you go to the bathroom more often than you want — and your bowels are watery and loose, making for an awful mess.
Depending on the severity, treating diarrhea can be as easy as taking an over-the-counter medicine like a cap-full of Pepto-Bismol or Imodium. But for moms who nurse, soothing the symptoms of diarrhea can be a little tricky since breast-feeding moms need to be careful of the medications they take.
As an alternative to time-tested medicines, here are a few natural remedies for treating diarrhea while breast-feeding.
What Causes Diarrhea, Anyway?
Diarrhea is most commonly caused by a virus infecting the bowel, and normally lasts for two to three days. But diarrhea may also occur because of:
- allergies to certain foods
- foods that upset the digestive system
- bacterial infection or other kinds of infections
- radiation therapy
When you’re dealing with diarrhea, you may experience bloating and cramps, loose and watery stools, urgency to go to the bathroom, and possibly nausea. Symptoms that accompany severe diarrhea include:
- weight loss
- severe pain
- undigested food in stool
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms, especially if you’re breast-feeding.
Natural Treatments for Breast-Feeding Moms
If you’ve chosen to steer clear of over-the-counter medicines to treat your diarrhea while breast-feeding, try these natural treatments.
Become a BRAT for the Next Few Days
Modifying your diet is the easiest and most natural way to treat diarrhea while breast-feeding. Doctors will often recommend the popular BRAT diet, which stands for:
- rice (white)
The BRAT foods are bland foods that are generally well-tolerated and easy to digest for more people suffering from diarrhea. The regimen is low in protein and low in fat, which benefits your digestive system. The BRAT diet is also low in fiber, which will help your body firm up loose stools.
Furthermore, the bananas will replace much of the potassium, which is needed to maintain cellular and electrical function, lost during a bout of diarrhea. Avoid brown rice, since it’s higher in fiber.
BRAT Diet Variations
Some other versions of the popular bland regimen are BRAT-T, which adds tea, or BRAT-Y, which adds yogurt, rich in probiotics. Other semisolid and low-fiber foods that are good to eat include:
- soda crackers
- chicken or turkey without skin
- smooth peanut butter
- white bread
- cottage cheese
- white beans
You should avoid:
- greasy foods
- fatty and fried foods
- most dairy
- raw vegetables
- raw fruits
- strong spices
- whole-grain breads
- whole-grain cereals
Eat Probiotic Foods Like Yogurt or Kefir
Certain types of dairy are good for diarrhea and upset stomach. Living bacteria, known as probiotics, found in yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink) can replace healthy bacteria normally found in your digestive tract that is lost because of diarrhea.
Probiotics contain live bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria that fight germs found in your system. A word of caution: Make sure the kefir or yogurt is low in sugar, as foods high in sugar can worsen diarrhea symptoms.
Drink a Soothing Mug of Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is a great way to soothe an upset stomach. The Mediterranean herb is thought to help relieve cramping and inflammation by relaxing the muscles and lining of the intestines. This may make chamomile useful for treating mild to moderate diarrhea, and is a good way to stay hydrated.
Try a Tablespoon of Natural Apple Cider Vinegar
While there’s no medical evidence, some people say that apple cider vinegar can help stop diarrhea symptoms, as well as replace magnesium and potassium. It’s recommended to take 1 tablespoon of vinegar every hour until the diarrhea goes away.
Of course, when treating any sickness, make sure you drink lots of liquids, like water, broth, and sport drinks. This will help ease symptoms and prevent dehydration. Try to avoid natural diuretics like alcohol and caffeine, including coffee, chocolate, some sodas, and certain teas.
This is especially true with diarrhea, as lots of liquid and nutrients may be lost over the course of the ailment and that can cause serious complications. The Cleveland Clinic recommends sipping fluids in small amounts throughout the day. If tolerable, increase the amount of fluids to 2 to 3 liters or quarts daily.
Speaking of water, if you’re experiencing rectal discomfort — like itching, pain, or burning — try sitting in a few inches of warm water in the bathtub, and then dry the area by patting it with a soft, clean towel. If need be, you can also apply some hemorrhoid cream or petroleum jelly to the sore area.
Diarrhea should last only two to three days. You should speak with your doctor immediately if your diarrhea symptoms last longer than that time or you have a fever for more than 24 hours. Other reasons to call your doctor include if you’re experiencing signs of dehydration like dark urine, rapid heart rate, and irritability. Severe diarrhea could signal a more serious illness.