Diarrhea: Your Guide To Supplements That Can Offer Relief

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Managing diarrhea can be difficult, but incorporating specific nutritional supplements into your routine may provide relief and support. Probiotics can help restore gut balance, electrolyte solutions replenish lost fluids, and digestive enzymes aid digestion. This article explores the various causes of diarrhea and suggests several nutritional supplement strategies that may help for diarrhea management. Incorporate this information as you work with your healthcare providers specializing in digestive health.

What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a common digestive issue characterized by loose, watery stools and frequent urges to have a bowel movement. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, and dehydration due to fluid loss.

Various factors can cause diarrhea, including viral or bacterial infections, food intolerances, medications, and dietary factors. Viral gastroenteritis and bacterial infections like E. coli or Salmonella are common culprits. Food intolerances and certain medications, particularly antibiotics, can also trigger diarrhea.

In some cases, diarrhea may show underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While often temporary, persistent, or severe symptoms warrant a visit to a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Staying hydrated is crucial, especially for vulnerable populations like children and older adults.

What Are The Root Causes of Diarrhea?

Gut dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the community of microbes living in your digestive system, and it can take several forms, each potentially leading to uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea. Let’s explore a few common types of gut dysbiosis that might be behind these digestive troubles:

  • Loss of Beneficial Microorganisms: This type of dysbiosis occurs when there is a decrease in the populations of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria are crucial for maintaining gut health by aiding digestion, producing vitamins, and protecting against pathogens.
  • Post-Antibiotic Dysbiosis: Following antibiotic treatments, there can be a significant alteration in the gut microbiota. This often results in a decrease in beneficial bacteria and a dominance of harmful bacteria, leading to antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  • Overgrowth of Pathogenic Microorganisms: This involves an increase in harmful bacteria, fungi, or parasites that can lead to infections and inflammation. This disruption in normal digestive processes often results in diarrhea. Common culprits include Clostridium difficile, Escherichia coli, or Candida.
  • Reduced Bacterial Diversity: A healthy gut hosts a diverse array of microbial species. A reduction in this diversity can impair the gut’s functionality and its ability to cope with dietary changes and environmental challenges, often leading to digestive issues such as diarrhea.
  • Increased Intestinal Permeability: Often referred to as “leaky gut,” this condition involves the weakening of the intestinal barrier, allowing bacteria and toxins to “leak” into the bloodstream. This triggers inflammation and immune responses that can result in diarrhea.
  • SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth): SIBO is characterized by an abnormal growth of bacteria that normally inhabit the large intestine, now flourishing in the small intestine. This can interfere with fat absorption and produce excessive gas, causing symptoms like bloating, pain, and diarrhea.
  • Fungal Dysbiosis: An imbalance in the fungal communities of the gut, such as an overgrowth of yeast like Candida, disrupts the normal microbial balance. This can contribute to digestive disorders, including diarrhea.

Diarrhea can be a tricky and uncomfortable symptom, influenced by a wide mix of factors including what we eat, how we live, underlying health conditions, and even our environment. Understanding what’s causing it involves looking closely at an individual’s unique symptoms and medical history. If you find that your diarrhea doesn’t go away, or if it comes with serious symptoms like dehydration, blood in your stool, or significant pain, it’s crucial to get medical help. This ensures that any serious underlying issues are addressed properly and that you get the right treatment tailored just for you.

  • Infections:
    • Bacterial infections: Contaminated food or water can transmit bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter. These bacteria produce toxins that irritate the intestinal lining and cause rapid intestine movements, resulting in diarrhea.
    • Viral infections: Viruses such as norovirus and rotavirus are highly contagious and commonly associated with outbreaks in communities, schools, and healthcare settings. These viruses damage the cells lining the intestines, leading to fluid loss and diarrhea.
    • Parasitic infections: Parasites like Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium are often found in lakes and rivers and can contaminate drinking water. They invade the gut lining and disrupt normal absorption, causing watery diarrhea.
  • Dietary Factors:
    • Food intolerances: Lactose intolerance is a common example where the body lacks lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose in dairy products, leading to bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
    • Artificial sweeteners: Substances like sorbitol and mannitol can act as osmotic laxatives, drawing water into the intestines and causing diarrhea, particularly in sensitive individuals or when consumed in large amounts.
    • Greasy or fatty foods: High-fat meals can overwhelm the digestive system, particularly in people with conditions that affect fat digestion like gallbladder disease, resulting in diarrhea.
  • Medications:
    • Antibiotics: These drugs can alter the gut microbiota, killing both harmful and beneficial bacteria, which disrupts the normal gut flora balance and can lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
    • Laxatives: Especially those containing magnesium, can lead to increased water in the colon, which is necessary for their function but also results in diarrhea.
    • Chemotherapy drugs: These can cause gastrointestinal mucosa irritation or damage, leading to diarrhea as a common side effect.
  • Digestive Disorders:
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): This disorder affects how the brain and gut interact, causing symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to frequent, urgent bowel movements.
    • Celiac disease: Ingestion of gluten leads to immune-mediated damage of the small intestine, impairing nutrient absorption and often resulting in diarrhea.
  • Medical Conditions:
    • Hyperthyroidism: Excess thyroid hormone speeds up bodily processes, including digestion, which can lead to diarrhea.
    • Diabetes: If poorly controlled, can cause nerve damage that affects bowel movements and lead to diarrhea.
    • Surgical procedures: Such as gastric bypass surgery, which changes the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract and can affect how food is processed, leading to diarrhea.
  • Malabsorption: Conditions that impair the gut’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as pancreatic insufficiency, can lead to fatty, loose stools known as steatorrhea.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, increase the rate of digestion, and alter absorption, leading to diarrhea.
  • Psychological Stress: Emotional stress can have a significant impact on gastrointestinal function due to the connection between the brain and the digestive system, often referred to as the brain-gut axis. Stress can speed up or slow down digestion, which can lead to symptoms like diarrhea.
  • Intense Physical Activity: Sometimes referred to as “runner’s diarrhea,” intense exercise, especially running, can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances, including diarrhea. This is believed to be due to the increased intestinal motility and decreased blood flow to the intestines during physical exertion.
  • Radiation Therapy: Individuals undergoing radiation treatment, especially in the abdominal area, may experience radiation enteritis, which can cause diarrhea.
  • Artificial Sugar Alcohol Sweeteners: In addition to the osmotic effects of sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol mentioned earlier, other artificial sweeteners may also disturb digestive processes in sensitive individuals.
  • Water Contamination: Diarrhea can also be caused by drinking water that has been contaminated with environmental pollutants, such as heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury, which can disrupt normal bowel function.
  • Travel (Traveler’s Diarrhea): Often caused by consuming contaminated food or water while traveling, especially in areas with poor sanitation. This is typically due to unfamiliar bacteria, viruses, or parasites that the traveler’s body is not used to.
  • Post-Gallbladder Removal: Individuals who have had their gallbladder removed might experience changes in bile flow, leading to increased bile acids in the colon, which can cause diarrhea, known as bile acid malabsorption.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during menstrual cycles or from thyroid dysfunction, can also impact bowel movements and lead to episodes of diarrhea.
  • Lactulose and other osmotic agents: These are sometimes used as laxatives but can also be found in processed foods and some medications, leading to diarrhea by drawing water into the bowel.
  • Food Poisoning: This occurs due to consuming foods contaminated with pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, or toxins, leading to acute onset diarrhea often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
  • Allergies: Food allergies (distinct from intolerances) trigger an immune response that can affect the gastrointestinal tract and result in diarrhea.
  • Additives in Processed Foods: Certain food additives like gums, emulsifiers, and preservatives may irritate the digestive tract or alter gut bacteria, leading to diarrhea.
  • Coffee and Other Caffeinated Beverages: Caffeine stimulates muscle contractions in the digestive tract, which can speed up digestion and result in a laxative effect.
  • Fructose: This sugar, found naturally in fruits and commonly added to processed foods as high-fructose corn syrup, can be difficult for some people to digest and may cause diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.
  • Spicy Foods: Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and speed up digestion, leading to diarrhea in some people.
  • Inadequate Digestive Enzymes: Conditions that result in a deficiency of digestive enzymes, like pancreatic insufficiency, can prevent proper digestion of food, resulting in diarrhea.
  • Rapid Eating or Overeating: Eating too quickly or consuming large meals can overwhelm the digestive system, causing diarrhea due to incomplete digestion or from the gastrocolic reflex, which speeds up bowel movements.
  • Alcohol: Chronic consumption of alcohol can damage the lining of the intestines and disrupt the natural balance of the gut microbiome, leading to chronic diarrhea.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like lupus or autoimmune thyroid disease can cause widespread inflammation and indirectly affect gastrointestinal function.
  • Histamine Intolerance: This condition occurs when the body accumulates too much histamine, a compound involved in various bodily functions, including immune responses and digestion. In histamine intolerance, excess histamine can increase gut motility.

What Food and Lifestyle Factors Are Important For Managing Diarrhea?

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, including water, clear broths, and electrolyte-rich drinks like sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions, to prevent dehydration caused by fluid loss.
  • Eat Bland Foods: Stick to bland, easily digestible foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (BRAT diet), boiled potatoes, plain crackers, and cooked carrots. These foods can help firm up stools and provide essential nutrients without irritating the digestive system.
  • Avoid Certain Foods: Limit or avoid foods and beverages that can worsen diarrhea, such as dairy products, fatty or greasy foods, spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and high-fiber foods like beans and raw vegetables.
  • Eat Probiotic Foods: Consider incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt with live cultures or taking probiotic supplements to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, especially after a course of antibiotics.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food to prevent the spread of infection-causing bacteria and viruses.
  • Rest and Relaxation: Get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous physical activity to give your body time to recover and conserve energy.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter medications like loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can help alleviate symptoms of acute diarrhea, but consult a healthcare provider before using them, especially for prolonged or severe diarrhea.
  • Identify Triggers: Keep a food diary to track your diet and identify any specific foods or beverages that may trigger or worsen your diarrhea. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent future episodes.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.


With the many potential causes of diarrhea, getting to the root cause is critical in deciding how to stop it. Among the many different supplement strategies to try, there are a few that stand out as having been shown to improve diarrhea related to a number of causes. They include:

  • Probiotics: Probiotic supplements containing strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardii have been shown to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea. [PMC9509072]
  • Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid that plays a role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining and supporting gut health. Supplementing with glutamine may help reduce inflammation and promote healing in the gut during episodes of diarrhea. [PMID: 15097437]
  • Psyllium Husk: Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber that can help bulk up stools and regulate bowel movements. Supplementing with psyllium husk may help alleviate diarrhea by absorbing excess water in the intestines and promoting firmer stools. In a study, psyllium delayed stomach emptying and slowed food passage through the colon, alleviating symptoms of diarrhea and constipation. [PMID: 9459381]
  • Digestive Enzymes: If diarrhea is an ongoing problem, a trial of digestive enzymes. Supplements containing combinations of digestive enzymes, including amylase, protease, and lipase, may alleviate post-meal gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and bloating, especially in persons with irritable bowel syndrome. [PMC6910206]
  • Chamomile: Incorporating chamomile supplements or chamomile tea into your routine may provide relief from diarrhea symptoms, including abdominal cramps and bloating, due to its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.
  • Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil supplements or peppermint tea may help relax the muscles of the digestive tract and alleviate symptoms of diarrhea, including abdominal pain and spasms. [PMC4729798]
  • Electrolytes: When diarrhea is severe or ongoing, hydration becomes an issue. Oral rehydration solutions or electrolyte powders can replenish lost fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. For milder cases of diarrhea, food sources may provide enough electrolytes.

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Supplement Safety Information

Probiotics, electrolyte solutions, glutamine, zinc, vitamin A, psyllium husk, activated charcoal, digestive enzymes, ginger, turmeric, chamomile, and peppermint oil are safe options for managing diarrhea. These supplements and remedies have been extensively studied and have shown promising results in alleviating symptoms associated with diarrhea, such as frequency, consistency, and abdominal discomfort. Additionally, they offer various mechanisms of action, including restoring gut flora balance, replenishing lost electrolytes, supporting intestinal health, and reducing inflammation. While individual responses may vary, the overall safety profile of these options makes them viable choices for persons seeking relief from diarrhea symptoms.

Medication Interactions:

  • Antibiotics (e.g., tetracycline, ciprofloxacin): Probiotics may be affected by antibiotics, possibly reducing their effectiveness in restoring gut flora balance.
  • Diuretics (e.g., furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide): Electrolyte solutions may alter the electrolyte balance when taken concurrently with diuretics, possibly leading to electrolyte imbalances or reduced effectiveness of diuretics.
  • Methotrexate: Glutamine supplementation may interact with methotrexate, possibly affecting its effectiveness or increasing the risk of adverse effects.
  • Quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin): Zinc supplements may interact with quinolone antibiotics, which may affect their absorption or effectiveness.
  • Warfarin: Vitamin A supplements may interact with warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding complications.
  • Lithium: Psyllium husk may reduce lithium absorption when taken concurrently, reducing its effectiveness in managing bipolar disorder.
  • Oral contraceptives: Activated charcoal may interfere with the absorption of oral contraceptives when taken concurrently, reducing their effectiveness.
  • Blood-thinning medications (e.g., warfarin, aspirin): Digestive enzyme supplements may interact with blood-thinning medications, affecting their metabolism or effectiveness.
  • Antiplatelet medications (e.g., clopidogrel): Ginger supplements may interact with antiplatelet medications, increasing the risk of bleeding complications.
  • Warfarin: Turmeric supplements may interact with warfarin, increasing the risk of bleeding complications.
  • Sedatives (e.g., benzodiazepines, barbiturates): Chamomile supplements may enhance the effects of sedative medications, leading to excessive drowsiness or dizziness.
  • Cyclosporine: Peppermint oil supplements may interact with cyclosporine, affecting its metabolism or absorption.

Supplement Interactions:

  • Prebiotics (e.g., inulin, fructooligosaccharides): Probiotics may interact positively with prebiotics, as prebiotics provide nourishment for probiotic bacteria, enhancing their growth and effectiveness in restoring gut flora balance.
  • Other Amino Acids (e.g., branched-chain amino acids, arginine): Glutamine supplements may interact with other amino acid supplements, affecting their absorption or metabolism in the body.
  • Copper Supplements: Zinc supplements may interact with copper supplements, as high doses of zinc can interfere with copper absorption, leading to copper deficiency.
  • Vitamin E Supplements: Vitamin A supplements may interact with vitamin E, as high doses of vitamin A can interfere with vitamin E absorption, leading to vitamin E deficiency.
  • Other Fiber Supplements (e.g., cellulose, methylcellulose): Psyllium husk may interact with other fiber supplements, leading to excessive fiber intake, which could cause digestive discomfort or bowel obstruction.
  • Other Detoxifying Agents (e.g., chlorella, milk thistle): Activated charcoal may interact with other detoxifying agents, enhancing their effects when taken together, which could lead to excessive detoxification and nutrient depletion.
  • Protease Inhibitors (e.g., bromelain, papain): Digestive enzyme supplements may interact with protease inhibitors, as digestive enzymes could reduce the effectiveness of protease inhibitors by aiding in their breakdown.
  • Other Sedative Herbs (e.g., valerian root, passionflower): Chamomile supplements may interact with other sedative herbs, enhancing their sedative effects when taken together, which could lead to excessive drowsiness or dizziness.
  • Other Digestive Aid Supplements (e.g., peppermint oil capsules, artichoke leaf extract): Peppermint oil supplements may interact with other digestive aid supplements, enhancing their effects when taken together, which could lead to excessive digestive stimulation or discomfort.

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Managing Diarrhea?

  • Stool Culture: A stool culture test can identify bacterial pathogens in the stool, such as Salmonella, Shigella, or Campylobacter, which may be causing infectious diarrhea.
  • Stool Ova and Parasites (O&P) Examination: This test can detect the presence of parasites or their eggs in the stool, such as Giardia lamblia or Cryptosporidium, which may cause parasitic diarrhea.
  • Stool Lactoferrin or Calprotectin: Elevated levels of lactoferrin or calprotectin in the stool can show inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which may be present in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Stool Occult Blood Test: This test detects small amounts of blood in the stool, which may show gastrointestinal bleeding, inflammation, or other underlying conditions.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC can detect abnormalities in the blood, such as anemia or signs of infection, which may be associated with certain types of diarrhea.
  • Celiac Disease Testing: Blood tests for celiac disease, such as tissue transglutaminase (tTG) antibodies or anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA), can help diagnose or rule out gluten-related disorders as a cause of chronic diarrhea.
  • Breath Tests: Breath tests can detect certain conditions that may cause diarrhea, such as lactose intolerance or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

To Sum It Up

Incorporating probiotics, electrolyte solutions, glutamine, zinc, vitamin A, psyllium husk, activated charcoal, digestive enzymes, ginger, turmeric, chamomile, and peppermint oil into your regimen may offer relief from diarrhea symptoms. These supplements and remedies provide various health benefits, including restoring gut flora balance, replenishing lost electrolytes, supporting intestinal health, reducing inflammation, regulating bowel movements, absorbing toxins, and alleviating gastrointestinal discomfort. Adding these options to your routine can contribute to managing diarrhea effectively and promoting overall digestive wellness.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


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