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How To Treat Diarrhea?

Learn about some of the things you can do to treat or help slow down diarrhea.

How To Treat Diarrhea?

“Diarrhea can keep you running to the bathroom and make you miserable. On top of that, your body loses a lot of fluid quickly, which can cause dehydration, a serious problem. Also, when you have diarrhea, the skin in your anal area can get raw and break down. That can be serious, too, so it is important to treat diarrhea right away.” source: curetoday.com

Many cancer organizations share their tips on things you can do to treat or help slow down diarrhea. We’ve curated a list of all the best tips. Oh, and you can submit your tips or add comments to tips submitted by others.

#1 Try a clear liquid diet

"Try a clear liquid diet (one that includes water, weak tea, apple juice, peach or apricot nectar, clear broth, Popsicles, and gelatin with no solids added) as soon as diarrhea starts or when you feel that it’s going to start. Avoid acidic drinks, such as tomato juice, citrus juices, and fizzy soft drinks." - source: cancer.org

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#2 Medicines to prevent diarrhea

"Ask your health care team about medicines to prevent diarrhea. These include loperamide (Imodium) as well as a combination of diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil). You may receive these for diarrhea caused by chemotherapy."- source: cancer.net

“Don’t take any over-the-counter medications without checking with your doctor first, because some can cause dangerous side effects in people getting treatment for cancer.

Common medications for cancer-related diarrhea include:

Opioids. You might be familiar with opioids for pain treatment, but these drugs can also reduce your diarrhea by slowing movement through your intestines. Loperamide (Imodium A-D) causes fewer side effects than other opioids do, making it a common treatment choice.
Anti-secretory agents. These drugs reduce the amount of fluid your body secretes, making your stools firmer. Examples of anti-secretory agents your doctor may prescribe include corticosteroids and octreotide (Sandostatin).” – source: mayoclinic.org

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#3 The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast)

"Eat bland foods that are low in fiber. Bananas, eggs (poached or boiled), potatoes (mashed or baked, no butter), toast, applesauce, and rice are good choices. The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) must be stopped after 72 hours, as it does not provide complete nutrition." - source: cancernetwork.com

“The diet is fat-free and easily digested. You do not need to eat all these foods at any one meal; any combination is fine. You could have tea and toast for breakfast, applesauce and toast for lunch, and banana slices and rice for dinner.

If you do well on these foods, you can start adding others, like:

– Bland low-fiber foods
– White-meat chicken without the skin
– Crackers, white bread, and pasta without sauce
– Canned or cooked fruits without skin” – source: dana-farber.org

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#4 Eat foods that are high in pectin

"Eat foods that are high in pectin, such as applesauce, bananas, and yogurt. Pectin, a water-soluble fiber, helps reduce diarrhea."
"Eat foods that have a lot of potassium, such as fruit juices, sports drinks, potatoes without the skin, and bananas. Potassium is often lost through diarrhea."
"Eat foods that are high in sodium, such as soups, broths, sports drinks, crackers, and pretzels. Salt helps you retain water so you don't become dehydrated." - source: breastcancer.org

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#5 Try to avoid the following

"- Fatty or fried foods
- Raw vegetables
- Fruit seeds, skins, and stringy fibers
- Vegetables with a lot of fiber such as broccoli, corn, dried beans, cabbage, peas, and cauliflower" - source: stanfordhealthcare.org

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#6 Soothing the skin around your anus

"The skin around your back passage (anus) can become very sore and may even break down if you have severe diarrhoea. These tips may help:

- use unscented baby wipes instead of toilet paper to wipe yourself after you’ve been to the toilet
- have a warm bath to help soothe pain and help with healing – do this a few times a day if necessary
- pat the area dry with a soft towel after a shower or bath – don’t rub
- ask your doctor or nurse about soothing creams, such as E45, vaseline, or zinc cream to apply around your anus
- avoid wearing tight trousers or underwear
- cotton underwear will help to keep the area ventilated – nylon can make you sweat and cause even more soreness" - source: cancerresearchuk.org

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#7 Tests for vitamin B12 and fat-soluble vitamins

"Ask your doctor or dietitian to order blood tests for vitamin B12 and fat-soluble vitamins. You may need to provide a stool sample, as well, so you can be checked for bile salt malabsorption" - source: oncologynutrition.org

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#8 Nutrition therapy

"Dietitians work with patients to alleviate digestive discomfort... Nutrition therapy interventions, such as bulking stool with certain kinds of fibers and avoiding foods that speed up the digestive tract, may be recommended." - source: cancercenter.com

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#9 Avoid milk or milk products

"Milk and milk products can make diarrhea worse. Lactose intolerance can develop if the body doesn’t make enough lactase. Lactase is an enzyme that is needed to digest milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance can develop after intestinal surgery, radiation to the lower abdomen or chemotherapy. It can cause cramping, bloating and diarrhea. If you develop lactose intolerance, try lactose-reduced milk or milk products. You can eat buttermilk or yogurt because the lactose in them has already been broken down (digested). If you are very lactose-intolerant, try an over-the-counter product like Lactaid, which contains lactase. A registered dietitian can also suggest ways to manage lactose intolerance." -  source: cancer.ca

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#10 Do not take an over-the-counter PeptoBismol

"Do not take an over-the-counter PeptoBismol or other anti-diarrheal drugs before speaking to your health care team. In some instances, diarrhea can be a sign of an infection or virus, and your health care team will want to test a stool sample prior to allowing you to take medication." - source: cancersupportcommunity.org

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#11 Report this to your doctor

"Write down how many runny bowel movements you have in a day and report this to your doctor."
"Tell your doctor about any hard or bloody bowel movements you may have." - source: ucla.edu

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#12 Yoghurt drinks

"Antibiotics can kill off the healthy bacteria normally found in the bowel. This can cause diarrhoea. The bacteria found in live yoghurt or yoghurt drinks may replace the healthy bacteria so may help ease diarrhoea caused by antibiotics. But you should avoid live yoghurt while you are having chemotherapy or if your immunity is low." -  source: macmillan.org.uk

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#13 Preventing Dehydration

"Drink plenty of fluid each day. Most people need to drink 8 to 12 cups of fluid each day. Ask your doctor or nurse how much fluid you should drink each day. For severe diarrhea, only clear liquids or IV (intravenous) fluids may be advised for a short period." - source: cancer.gov

"- Drink small amounts of liquids often. This is more helpful than drinking large amounts of liquids at once.
- If you don’t enjoy drinking water, try mixing in a small amount of fruit juice to add flavor.
- Drink clear soups, broth, and Gatorade®. These liquids contain salt and sugar, which can help keep you from becoming dehydrated and feeling weak.
- Don’t drink alcohol or liquids with caffeine (such as coffee, tea, and some sodas). They can make you dehydrated." - source: mskcc.org

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#14 Try Rice Congee

"Try Rice Congee, a soupy rice mixture. Combine 1 cup long or shortgrain WHITE rice with 6-7 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt; bring to a boil, then simmer until you have a sticky, soupy mixture (usually ~ 40 minutes). Sip and eat mixture. Broth may be used instead of water" - source: oncologynutrition.org

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#15 A tub of warm water

"Sitting in a tub of warm water or a sitz bath may help reduce any discomfort you may have." - source: breastcancer.org

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#16 Low Fiber and Low Fat Diet Suggestions

"The following diet suggestions are made available to help you avoid foods that will cause bowel irritation and increase diarrhea. Making these changes in your diet can often control the diarrhea in mild cases. You do not need to start this diet until you are having increase stools (more than 2 over your normal).

FOODS TO ELIMINATE
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (except bananas)
- Canned pineapple, oranges, grapefruit
- Citrus juices (orange or grapefruit), prune juice, tomato juice
- All whole grain cereals, breads, or brown rice, rice, cereals including whole wheat, bran, oatmeal, rye
- Tomatoes or tomato based foods such as spaghetti
- Any gas producing foods such as cooked or dried beans, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.
- Nuts raisins, popcorn, seeds, donuts, rich desserts
- Spicy "HOT" foods (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Barbecue, Pizza, etc.)
- Fried Foods, processed meats (fried chicken, meat, hamburger, bologna, salami, etc.)
- Alcoholic beverages, caffeine (No more than two cups of coffee or caffeine products daily)

FOODS TO SUBSTITUTE
- Bananas
- Canned fruits except those listed
- Pear and peach nectars, apple juice
- White bread, corn breads, white cereals (corn & rice)
- All other canned vegetables not on the avoidance list
- May snack on dried cereals, plain flour cookies, cakes
- All bland foods (macaroni, noodles, potatoes, etc.)
- All other baked, broiled, stewed foods
- Water, Gatorade or other electrolyte replacing drinks, decaffeinated tea, milk (unless sensitive)" - source: virginiacancer.com

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#17 Sample menu

"This is a sample meal plan to follow if you have diarrhea. It is low in dietary fiber and high in soluble fiber.

Breakfast
6 oz orange juice (no pulp)
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup 2% milk
1 medium banana
Decaffeinated coffee

Snack
1 slice white bread toast
1 tablespoon peanut
butter
1 tsp jelly

Lunch
1 cup chicken rice soup
3 oz sliced turkey breast
2 slices white bread
1 tsp mayonnaise

Snack
2 rice crackers
1 oz cheese
1/2 cup applesauce

Dinner
4 oz salmon
1/2 cup white rice
1/2 cup asparagus
1 dinner roll
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup fruit sorbet

Snack
1 cup vanilla yogurt" - source: oncolink.org

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#18 Being prepared at home

"When you are at home, try to:
- protect your mattress – put a large pad or towel on your bed if you are worried about having an accident during the night
- leave a night light on near your bed, in the hallway and bathroom to light up where you are going so you can get to the toilet quickly" - source: cancerresearchuk.org

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