Upset stomach and diarrhea strike almost everyone from time to time. Common causes include food-borne illness, viral infections and even life stress. In most cases, symptoms resolve without treatment. However, home remedies can help relieve discomfort and reduce the risk of complications such as dehydration and metabolic acidosis.
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Treat Upset Stomach
Upset stomach is a generic term that encompasses burning pain, nausea, cramps and other abdominal complaints, all of which may occur with diarrhea. Mayo Clinic staff recommends steering clear of dairy products, fatty and highly seasoned foods, as well as substances that contain alcohol, nicotine or caffeine because these may make stomach problems worse.
For patients who feel well enough to eat, the BRAT diet can help. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), BRAT is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. In addition to its namesake foods, the BRAT diet also allows saltine crackers, boiled potatoes and clear soups. These bland foods are easy on the stomach and low in fiber to help combat diarrhea.
Diarrhea usually resolves on its own, but sometimes over-the-counter medications can help. Good choices, according to the AAFP include those that contain the active ingredients bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide.
Bismuth subsalicylate balances fluid transport in the intestine, quells inflammation and inhibits the growth of bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea. Loperamide is a cousin of morphine and works by slowing transit through the intestine. Both medications treat diarrhea, cramps and the abdominal pain.
People who suspect viruses or food poisoning as the cause of their symptoms should not use loperamide. Parents and caregivers should consult a physician before giving either drug to children.
Replace Fluid and Electrolytes
People with diarrhea lose fluids and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which are critical to essential body functions and normal pH balance. Replace fluids by sucking on ice chips or taking small, frequent sips of clear fluids. Good choices include diluted fruit juice, broth, clear sodas, sports drinks and specialized oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte.
According to the AAFP, plain water can be hard for children to tolerate, while full-strength juices can trigger more diarrhea. For people too weak to drink from a cup, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention recommend using a squeeze bottle, a regular cup with a straw or sucking on frozen treats such as juice pops.
- CDC: Caring for Someone Sick at Home: Tips to Prevent Dehydration
- Mayo Clinic: Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu): Treatments and Drugs
- American Academy of Family Physicians: BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach
- American Academy of Family Physicians: OTC Relief for Diarrhea
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Vomiting and Diarrhea in Children