Treating Diarrhoea with functional medicine

Diarrhoea is passing more watery or more frequent bowel movements than is normal for you. It affects most people occasionally and is usually nothing to worry about, but if the diarrhoea lasts more than a week, the cause should be investigated.

Common causes of diarrhoea include:

  • Food poisoning, for example, norovirus
  • Dysentery – sometimes referred to as traveller’s diarrhoea
  • A parasite infection
  • Anxiety – such as in the run-up to a stressful event
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • A food allergy or intolerance reaction
  • A reaction to medication such as antibiotics
  • An overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine – this can lead to lots of bloating a few hours after eating and regular loose stools
  • An inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis

For short-term diarrhoea treatment involves:

Keeping up fluid intakes – this is important to avoid dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions are more effective for replacing fluids during diarrhoea than plain water.

Medications such as Imodium which work by slowing down the gut muscles. This can reduce diarrhoea. It can cut down the number of times you go to the toilet and make your stools less watery. However, if the diarrhoea has an infectious cause it can make it more difficult for the body to expel the bad bacteria, parasite or amoeba. These kinds of medications are best reserved for difficult situations such as when you need to travel.

If diarrhoea is ongoing and medical investigations haven’t identified the cause functional medicine can help:

  • Comprehensive functional stool tests can reveal bacterial and parasite infections in the gut. The test also includes markers for inflammation. If raised, these can indicate an inflammatory disease in the gut or a food reaction.
  • Food sensitivity testing can identify foods that may be contributing to diarrhoea. Alternatively, a well-planned elimination diet can uncover any problems foods.
  • Breath tests can be used to identify small intestine bacterial overgrowth. This is a common underlying cause in IBS. If the test is positive a special dietary protocol with supplements to address the overgrowth can improve symptoms
  • Stress management techniques, along with herbs that calm the mind can make it easier to deal with stressful situations so they don’t lead to diarrhoea