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Diarrhea & How To Manage It

What You Can Do To Help Manage Diarrhea In Addition To Medications

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Change your drinking habits.

Each day, consume at least 8 - 12 servings (8oz. each) of clear, non-carbonated, liquid to make up for the fluid you lose through diarrhea.

  • For a list of drinks that are considered to be "Clear Liquid", click here.
  • Drink liquids at room temperature - without ice. 
  • Drink fluids slowly.
  • Let carbonated drinks lose their fizz before you drink them. 
  • If you want drinks which are high in sugar, ask your doctor, nurse or dietitian if you should dilute them with water.
  • Avoid the following:
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Milk and dairy products

Through out the day, eat many small meals and snacks of foods that are easy on the stomach. 

By trial and error, you will discover which foods you can tolerate.

Foods that are easy on the stomach include the following: white bread, boiled potatoes, chicken or turkey (broiled or baked without the skin), crackers, cream of wheat, oatmeal, white rice, noodles, ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruit without skins, eggs, pureed vegetables, yogurt and fish. 

Choose foods that help to replace electroylytes which are lost with diarrhea.  This includes fruits and vegetables that have a lot of potassium and sodium in them such as bananas, peach nectar, apricot nectar, oranges and potatoes. Diarrhea can take potassiium out of your system.

Try to eat foods that bulk stool. For example: 

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Cooked carrots
  • Low insoluble fiber foods such as:
    • Canned or cooked fruit without skin
    • Cream of Wheat
    • Fish
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Noodles
    • Oatmeal
    • Rice
    • Skinned turkey or chicken
    • Well cooked eggs
    • White toast

When diarrhea is severe, doctors often recommend what is known as a BRAT diet. BRAT stands for:

  • banana
  • rice
  • applesauce
  • toast.

Try dry fiber

While fiber supplements are usually used for constipation, they can be used for diarrhea if taken without liquid for one meal a day for up to 3 days. The dry fiber will soak up excess fluid in your digestive tract. (The fiber may also produce gas).

  • Take the prescribed amount of supplement immediately after a meal with very little liquid. 
  • Don't drink for an hour.

For diarrhea caused by specific treatments: 

  • For chemotherapy induced diarrhea (CID)
    • Ioperamide the standard first line of therapy. A popular brand available without a Imodium.
    • A somatostatin analog (octreotide acetate)
    • Tincture of opium
  • For radiation induced diarrhea, consider the following:
    • Imodium
    • Lomotil
    • Oral opiates

Take care of your rectal area. 

  • Instead of toilet paper,  clean yourself after bowel movements with a baby wipe or squirt of water from a spray bottle. (Note: do not flush baby wipes into a septic tank.)
  • Ask your nurse about taking sitz baths, which is a warm-water bath taken in a sitting position that covers only the hips and buttocks. 
  • Consider using an over-the-counter treatment for hemmerhoids to anesthetize the area so there is no feeling.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if your rectal area gets sore.

Contact your doctor or other health care provider if: 

  • Your diarrhea is severe (you have pain, cramping or 7 or 8 loose movements in 24 hours) OR
  • Your diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours.

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