There are many medications with different mechanisms of action that can be used to treat diarrhea. When prescribing them, doctors take many factors into consideration, like what is causing the diarrhea, the person’s general health status, the presenting symptoms and the type of diarrhea.
The doctor may also recommend increased fluids to prevent dehydration and a diet with astringent foods to prevent worsening of the diarrhea.
Diarrhea that is accompanied by other symptoms, like a high-grade fever, you should see a doctor for further assessment. The doctor will evaluate the presenting symptoms, identify a cause and advise treatment as necessary.
Some medications that the doctor may prescribe to treat diarrhea include:
Loperamide is a medication that reduces peristaltic movements in the intestines and increases the time it takes for stool to flow through the intestines. This allows for more absorption of water from the gut and stool, and makes stool less watery. Loperamide also increases the tonus of the anal sphincter, which reduces the risk for fecal incontinence and the sensation of urgency to have a bowel movement.
This medication can be used to treat acute or chronic diarrhea, as long as the diarrhea is not caused by an infectious agent.
How to take: Loperamide can be taken orally. The initial recommended dose is 4 mg, then 2 mg for every subsequent episode of diarrhea, for a maximum of 16mg per day (in 24 hours).
Side effects: Generally, loperamide is well tolerated, although some people may experience side effects like increased intestinal gas, constipation, nausea and dizziness.
Contraindications: Loperamide should not be used in cases with bloody diarrhea, high-grade fever, food poisoning and overall worsening. This medication should be avoided by those with opioid allergies, or an allergy to any component in this formula.
2. Bismuth subsalicylate
Bismuth subsalicylate is a medication with bactericidal and antimicrobial properties. The bismuth salts in this compound are minimally absorbed in the stomach when taken, which allow for therapeutic effect in the intestines. It helps by preventing bacteria from binding to the intestinal lining cells, which can prevent increased secretions from the gut, stimulate more fluid absorption and reduce gut inflammation.
How to use: In adults and children 13 and up, the recommended dose is 524 mg every 30 to 60 minutes (without exceeding 8 doses in any 24 hour period). Alternatively, 1048 mg to 1050 mg may be taken orally every hour (without exceeding 4 doses in any 24 hour period). Children 9 to 12 years old can take 262 mg every 30 to 60 minutes as needed, children 6 to 9 years old can take 175 mg every 30 to 60 minutes minutes as needed. and children 3 to 6 years old can take 87 mg every 30 to 60 minutes as needed.
Side effects: Common side effects may include of this medication may include darker stools, a bitter taste in the mouth and nausea. Taking this medication for a longer duration than indicated by result in over-toxicity, and cause symptoms like darkening of the mouth and teeth, fatigue or confusion.
Contraindications: This medication is contraindicated for patients with a history of bleeding disorders (e.g. hemophilia) or gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. gastric ulcers) and are taking medications for it (like anticoagulants or methotrexate). Children with flu-like symptoms should not take this medication, nor should patients with a sensitivity or allergy to salycylates.
This supplement can be used to aid the treatment of different types of diarrhea. It is a probiotic, which means it is a live microorganism that can help to keep intestinal flora levels balanced to control diarrhea.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a specific type of probiotic that can be used, although you can also look for supplements with probiotics like Alkalihalobacillus clausii.
How to take: The recommended dose of Saccharomyces boulardii for adults (either in capsules or as an oral suspension) is 250 to 500 mg every 24 hours, divided into 2 daily doses (once in the morning and at night). For children, doses should be recommended by a pediatrician in accordance with their age and height.
Side effects: Generally, this medication is well-tolerated and does not cause any side effects. However, some children or newborns may produce yeast-smelling stools, which is not a malignant finding by any means.
Contraindications: This probiotics should not be used by patients with a history of serious illnesses or a weakened immune system. It should also be avoided by people with an allergy to yeast.
4. Oral electrolyte solutions
When experiencing several episodes of diarrhea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. There are specific solutions and drinks that can be purchased at pharmacies to replenish electrolytes lost through diarrhea.
These medications should only be used as advised by a doctor, as it is important to known the cause of diarrhea before taking them. Diarrhea caused by infection that presents with fever and intense abdominal pain, for example, should not be treated with these medications, as they reduce the body’s ability to eliminate the infectious agent through the stool.
Diarrhea medicine for children
The most recommended diarrhea medicine for children is mainly probiotics. Although, the doctor may also prescribe medication with the appropriate dosing for the age and weight.
In any case, these medications should only be taken as prescribed by a pediatrician. The doctor may recommend an electrolyte solution, purchased at the pharmacy or prepared at home, to prevent dehydration.
Home remedies for diarrhea
Home remedies that can be used to treat diarrhea include teas, juices, syrups or porridge made with medicinal foods or plants. These tend to have properties that help to soothe the intestines and stop diarrhea. Some examples include chamomile tea, apple syrup, guava tea and apple juice. Read more about how to prepare home remedies for diarrhea to treat mild symptoms at home.
You should also ensure your diet is low in fat and sugar. You should consume foods that are easily absorbed and with astringent properties, like rice and carrots. Learn more about foods that can stop diarrhea that you can include in your diet.
When to see the doctor
You should see a doctor if your stool contains blood or pus, or if you experience other symptoms like fever and vomiting.
In addition, it is important to consult a doctor if symptoms persist for more than 3 to 4 weeks, as diarrhea at this point may be chronic. This can be a sign of a food intolerance of an inflammatory bowel disease, like Chrohn’s disease or diverticulitis.