5 Natural Supports for Diarrhea & IBS-D
When it comes to IBS, there are three recognized subtypes:
1. IBS-C which is constipation dominant
2. IBS-D which is diarrhea dominant
3. IBS-M which alternates between constipation and diarrhea
Today we're focusing on natural supports for IBS-D. If you haven't check out our guide to natural supports for IBS-C, you can find that here.
IBS-D can be frustrating, and leave you feeling depleted. Over time, frequent or chronic diarrhea can lead to nutrient deficiencies, imbalances in the microbiome, low energy, and many other downstream effects as a result of nutrient and electrolyte deficiencies.
The following are 5 natural supports you can explore to support yourself as you look for the root cause of your IBS-D:
1. Stay Hydrated + Replenish with Electrolytes
If you experience diarrhea often, it's important to re-hydrate, and replenish your electrolytes, as you are losing a lot of fluid (and minerals along with it!). Ensure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
To replenish your electrolytes throughout the day, you can:
Drink lemon water with a pinch of sea salt
Have coconut water with a pinch of sea salt
Add minerals to your water, like Trace Minerals Trace Concentrate Drops
To find your minimum recommended intake of water throughout the day, take your bodyweight in pounds and divide it in half. That is the number of ounces you should be drinking daily.
For example, a 150 pound person will need 75 ounces of water daily at minimum. Hydration needs increase with increased fluid loss, so if you are having frequent diarrhea, vomiting or sweating a lot, you may need more.
2. Incorporate Specific Fibres
You might think of fibre as a support for constipation, to help you "go," but that's not all fibre can help with. Certain fibres can be supportive for those struggling with IBS-D, as they act as bulking agents. Especially those that are mucilages - water-soluble polysaccharides.
These types of fibre may help you find relief from diarrhea:
Psyllium husk: Psyllium is a soluble fibre that comes from the seed of the plantago ovata plant, and acts as a mucilage to help bulk stool.
Apple pectin: Pectin is a type of soluble fibre found in in high amounts in apples; when you cook apples down and then let them cool, the pectin becomes readily available.
Flax seeds (ground): Flax seeds are high in lignans, and once ground, create a mucilage that can help bulk stool.
These foods all contain properties that form bulking mucilage, which can be helpful for reducing the instance of watery stools. Always start low and go slow with adding fibre to your dies as increasing too much, too quickly can irritate sensitive gut lining.
3. Herbs for Diarrhea
Herbal supports can be a gentle and effective way to relieve diarrhea, and any associated pain or spasms.
Herbal supports I recommend:
Marshmallow root or slippery elm bark powder help to soothe irritated tissue and help add bulk to the stool.
Chamomile has anti-diarrheal and anti-spasmodic actions (which can help relieve abdominal pain and cramping often experienced with diarrhea).
Peppermint is a carminative herb that can help cool and soothe inflammation in the GI tract, as well a relieve pain associated with IBS.
Aloe vera is a cooling astringent, anti-inflammatory herb that can help calm inflammation in the mucosal tissue, and relieve diarrhea.
Ginger and turmeric are warming anti-inflammatory herbs that can help improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the GI tract.
While herbals can be a great support, it's always important to keep digging to uncover what the root cause is for the IBS-D in the first place. Always consult a practitioner before using herbs.
4. Foods & Nutrients
For those who struggle with diarrhea frequently, it can be difficult for the body to properly assimilate and absorb nutrients that it needs to thrive.
Malabsorption can increase risk of nutrient deficiencies. It's important to be mindful of nutrient density in foods, and keeping highly-refined and processed foods to a minimum.
Certain foods can also be helpful if you struggle with diarrhea:
Probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, contain live active cultures that can support your microbiome and help reduce diarrhea.
Bland grains like plain white rice, oats, etc. are easily-digestible and can help relieve diarrhea for some people. To make grains easier to digest, soak them for 12 hours and then cook them well.
Soluble fibres in foods like oats, apples, peas, beans, legumes, and whole grains can be helpful for bulking stools.
Foods high in potassium are helpful to replenish essential electrolytes. Some high potassium foods include avocado, greens, potatoes, and coconut water.
Foods that can help replenish sodium levels are important too: salted broths (bone broth), sea veggies (kelp, kombu, dulse), and celery.
5. Try a probiotic
Certain probiotic strains have been shown to help with relief in the cases of IBS-D.
The following are certain strains you can look for in your probiotic for IBS-D support:
Sacchromyces boulardii: This is a single-strain, yeast-based probiotic that has been shown to relieve loose stools among many other gut-supportive properties.
Bifidobacterium lactis HN019: This strain of bifidobacterium has been shown to reduce instances of loose stools in IBS-D.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: This strain has been shown to be helpful for diarrhea relief, especially in cases of infectious diarrhea.
Lactobacillus casei: This strain has been studied for its anti-diarrheal effects.
Bonus Tips to Try:
Incorporate prebiotic foods to support your microbiome, check out this post for more inspiration.
Try an app like Nerva — this is a gut-directed hypnotherapy app that can be helpful for calming the nervous system and re-training the gut-brain connection.
Look for root causes! First, see your doctor to rule our serious infections of medical issues.
Work with a holistic nutrition professional and get a GI-MAP test when these strategies are not working. You may be dealing with a bacterial overgrowth or other GI imbalance (such as poor fat digestion) contributing to your diarrhea. All clients in my Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive get access to this testing, learn more here.
Note: If you ever find blood in your stool, it is always recommended to consult your primary physician or seek help from your local emergency room in severe cases.