Get Rid of Diarrhea Fast

Stomach cramps, frequent trips to the bathroom, and loose, watery stools - diarrhea can cause anyone's day to come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, you can try to treat diarrhea at home with simple diet changes, and over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to soothe diarrhea fast. Learn to appropriately treat the cause of diarrhea and avoid dehydration to make your experience shorter and less unpleasant.


Dealing With Symptoms Fast

  1. Avoid dehydration. The most common complication of diarrhea is dehydration, which can be dangerous. Be sure to drink water, broth, and juice consistently throughout the day. Even if you can only take small sips at a time, it’s important to replenish the fluids you lose through diarrhea. [1]
    • Drinking water is good, but be sure to also drink broth, juice, or some sports drink, too. Your body needs electrolytes like potassium and sodium.[1]
    • Some people find that apple juice makes symptoms worse.[1]
    • Suck on ice chips if you are too nauseated to drink anything.[2]
    • See a doctor right away if you can’t keep down any liquids for over 12 hours, or have diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than 24 hours. If you become severely dehydrated, you may need an IV at the hospital.[3]
    • If a child or baby has diarrhea, don’t give them fruit juice or anything carbonated. If you breastfeed, continue to breastfeed them as usual.
  2. Use over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine. Try loperamide (Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Use these only as directed. They should be easily available at your drug store or pharmacy.
    • Don’t give these to a child unless you check with your doctor first.
    • Some diarrhea gets worse if you take these medicines, like if your stomach problems are caused by a bacterial infection.[4] It’s okay to try an OTC anti-diarrheal, but if it worsens your diarrhea see your doctor right away for alternate treatment.
  3. Use painkillers with caution. You can try taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen) to help reduce fever and ease the pain of stomach cramps. However, in large doses or with certain conditions these medications can cause irritation and damage to the stomach. Only take these medications as prescribed or indicated on the bottle, and avoid them if:[2]
    • Your doctor prescribed you a different medication, or you take another NSAID for a different condition.
    • You have liver or kidney disease.
    • You’ve ever had stomach ulcers or bleeding.
    • You’re under 18. Consult your doctor first, or before giving aspirin to a child or teenager. Using aspirin to treat viruses (including the flu) in kids and teens has been linked to a potentially life-threatening illness called Reye's Syndrome.[5]
  4. Get plenty of rest. As with any illness or medical condition, one of the best things you can do for your body is to settle down. Get plenty of sleep, stay warm, and allow your body to rest. This will help you fight off any infection that might be causing the diarrhea, and recover from the physical stress of feeling ill.
  5. See your doctor when symptoms persist or worsen. If your have diarrhea or vomiting that lasts over 24 hours, or you can’t even drink water for more than 12 hours, see your doctor to prevent dehydration.[3] Visit your healthcare specialist if you have severe abdominal or rectal pain, black stools or blood in your stool, fever over 102°F (39°C), a stiff neck or severe headache, or yellow tinge to your skin or the whites of your eyes.[2]
    • You might be dehydrated if you feel really thirsty, have dry mouth or dry skin, aren’t urinating much or have dark urine, or feel weak, dizzy, fatigued, or lightheaded.[3]
  6. Take your child to the doctor if they get dehydrated. Children and infants get dehydrated more quickly than adults, and the consequences are more severe. Signs of dehydration in children include: having fewer wet diapers than normal (or generally none in over 3 hours), crying without tears, having a dry mouth or tongue, fever of 102°F (39°C) or higher, or being especially irritable, fussy, drowsy, or unresponsive.[3]
    • Also take the child to a doctor if they have diarrhea lasting over 24 hours or have black or bloody stools.
  7. Contact emergency services for severe changes in wellbeing. Call emergency services immediately if you or someone else has trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, extreme drowsiness or trouble waking up, fainting or loss of consciousness, a fast or irregular heartbeat, seizure, stiff neck or severe headache, or severe weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness.[2]

Changing Your Diet for Quick Relief

  1. Follow a clear liquid diet. Limit the strain on your digestive tract as much as possible when you have diarrhea. Stick to a clear liquid diet to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance without stressing your stomach. Have 5-6 small “meals” throughout the day, or just sip on these fluids every few minutes as you can tolerate it.[6] The clear liquid diet includes:[4]
    • Water (carbonated and flavored waters are okay)
    • Fruit juice with no pulp, fruit punch, and lemonade
    • Bubbly drinks, including soda (though it’s important to choose sugar- and caffeine-free options)
    • Gelatin
    • Coffee and tea (decaffeinated, without dairy)
    • Strained tomato or vegetable juice
    • Sports drinks (drink these in addition to other items, not just by themselves – they contain too much sugar to be helpful alone)
    • Clear broth (not creamy soup)
    • Honey and sugar, and hard candy like lemon drops and peppermints
    • Ice pops (no fruit or dairy)
  2. Add solid foods gradually. By the second day you may be able to add some dry, semi-solid foods to your diet. Eat these in small amounts. If you do not tolerate it, go back to the clear liquid diet and try again later. Choose foods that are bland and low in fat and fiber.[4]
    • Try the BRAT diet, containing bland foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and tea. Other good options are crackers, noodles, and mashed potatoes.
    • Stay away from highly-seasoned foods. Some salt is okay, but don’t eat anything spicy.
  3. Stick to low-fiber foods. Foods high in fiber are likely to produce gas and worsen diarrhea. Skip fresh vegetables and fruits (other than bananas) until you feel better. Whole wheats and brans are also high in fiber.[7]
    • Note, however, that fiber can help regulate your bowels in the long run. If you have frequent problems with diarrhea, consider consuming more fiber in your diet to help regulate your system.
  4. Avoid fatty and greasy foods. Foods high in fat are likely to worsen diarrhea and stomach pain. Until you’re 100% well, avoid red meat, butter, margarine, whole dairy products, fried food, and processed, prepackaged, and fast food.[8]
    • Limit fat to <15 grams per day.[8]
  5. Say no to dairy. One possible cause of diarrhea, gas, and bloating is lactose intolerance. If you notice that your diarrhea occurs often or is worse when you drink milk or eat dairy products, consider whether you’re lactose intolerant. However, avoid dairy while you have diarrhea no matter what.[8]
  6. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can cause stomach pain and gas, and may make you more dehydrated. It’s okay to drink coffee, tea, and soda if it’s caffeine-free.[4]
    • This includes caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and some sports drinks, as well as foods high in caffeine, like chocolate.
  7. Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol will likely worsen your symptoms. It can also interfere with any medication you’re taking to control symptoms. Alcohol also makes you urinate more, and can contribute to dehydration. Stay away from alcohol while you’re ill.[4]
  8. Skip fructose and artificial sweeteners. A chemical compound in fake sweeteners is known to cause or worsen diarrhea. Avoid Artificial Food Flavors and Colors in general, but especially until your digestive system is back on track.[3] There are many brands that contain artificial sweeteners, such as:
    • Sunett and Sweet One
    • Equal, NutraSweet, and Neotame
    • Sweet’N Low
    • Splenda
  9. Try probiotics. Probiotics are a type of live bacteria that help maintain the digestive tract. You can find them in products like yogurt with live cultures, and as pills or capsules at your local drug store or pharmacy. Probiotics might be helpful for diarrhea caused by antibiotics and some viruses because they can restore the balance of “good” bacteria in the gut.[4]
    • Eating plain yogurt with live cultures is an exception to the no-dairy rule when you have diarrhea.

Treating the Cause

  1. Wait out viral causes. Most cases of diarrhea are caused by viruses, like the common flu and others. Viral diarrhea should subside within a couple of days. Wait it out, stay hydrated, rest, and use over-the-counter anti-diarrheals for relief from symptoms.[3]
  2. Get prescription medication for bacterial infections. Diarrhea caused by contaminated food or water is often due to bacteria, or sometimes parasites. In this case, your doctor might need to prescribe you specific antibiotics or other medication to treat the infection.[1] If your diarrhea doesn’t improve within 2-3 days, see your doctor to determine whether there’s an infectious cause.
    • Note that antibiotics will only be prescribed if bacteria is known to be the cause for your diarrhea. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses or other causes, and they can cause unpleasant side effects or worsen your digestive problems if used incorrectly.
  3. Consider changing your medications with your doctor’s help. Antibiotics are actually a common cause of diarrhea, because they change the balance of bacteria in your gut. Cancer drugs and antacids with magnesium can also cause or worsen diarrhea. If you have frequent diarrhea and you’re not sure why, ask your doctor about your medications – they may be able to lower your dose or switch you to something different.[1]
    • Never stop or change your prescribed medications without consulting your doctor. This can have serious health consequences.
  4. Treat chronic diseases. Some digestive diseases can cause chronic or frequent diarrhea, including Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease, Irrirtable Bowel Syndrome, and issues with your gall bladder (or after having it surgically removed). Work with your doctor to control the underlying disease. Your doctor might refer you to an intestine and stomach specialist called a gastroenterologist.[3]
  5. Minimize your stress and anxiety. For some people, feeling very stressed or anxious can cause stomach upset.[2] Use relaxation techniques on a regular basis to reduce your stress level and during bouts of diarrhea to help ease discomfort. Try meditation or deep breathing exercises. Regularly practice mindfulness, go for walks in nature, listen to music – whatever helps you relax.


  • Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea. Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet, to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Drink lots of water with electrolytes in. When you have diarrhea, you not only lose fluids. You will lose body salts as well.


  • You should only be on the clear liquid diet for a few days. Always ask your doctor before changing your diet if you have a medical condition that needs to be managed, like diabetes.[6]

Sources and Citations