Dietary and Lifestyle Management for Diarrhea and Dysentery.


According to Ayurveda there are 108 different causes of diarrhea, 51 of which are due to toxins. There are two major categories:

1. Infectious, e.g., amoebas, bacilli, parasites.

2. Non-infectious, e.g., ulcerative colitis, improper eating habits, emotion such as stress, anxiety and grief.


Ayurveda gives three main clinical pictures of diarrhoea according to the specific aggravation.

1) Pitta: Diarrhoea- deep yellow, reddish stool from excess bile; thirst, faintness, burning mouth, anus, hands and feet.

2) Vata: Diarrhoea- frothy, viscid small amounts frequently with noise, gas and pain.

3) Kapha: Diarrhoea- white, mucousy, large quantity, relatively cool and painless, often cuses goose flesh.

General Management:

1st stage – Fast and re-hydrate.

2nd stage – Medication with light diet.

3rd staga – Strengthening diet with tonic and nutritive treatment.

Contrary to the popular trend amongest devotees, it is not advisable to plug up the system with herbs like Isabgol or allopathic medication like “flagyl” during the first stages of diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a natural response by the body in an attempt to flush out toxins. As it is natural purification, it should only be stopped if dehydration occurs (i.e. in extreme cases which can’t be checked by drinking or homeopathics).

If diarrhea is suppressed before the toxins or accumulated wastes (“ama” in sanskrit) have been eliminated from the digestive tract, then residual ama will further plug the digestive channels aggravating apana vata (the dosha governing the bowels) and worsening the problem even further.This can lead to chronic digestive problems.

As an alternative, Ayurveda suggests fasting as initial management.

It is stated in the Mahabharata, Anushasana Parva:

sarva kalyana sampoornah
sarvashadi samanvitak
uposhy vyadiyrahito

“He who observes the fast is blessed with all happiness, replete with all curative benefits, delivered from all diseases and bestowed with vim and vigour”.

General Dietary Guidelines:

1st day – Fast from all foods. If weakness or faintness occurs from hunger, 2Tbs of honey should be taken and complete rest observed. At least 2 liters of water should be drunk with electrkolyte formula.

2nd day – Provided the diarrhoea has started to subside, the following may be taken:

Up to 5 glasses of diluted fruit juice with honey (if desired). Apple, grape or bael are ideal (not a mixture). Oranges and some vegetable juices can be too acidic. Up to 5 cups of herbal tea may be taken. Peppermint, chamomile, ginger or fennel are beneficial to reduce cramping and flatulence. N.B: Peppermint and fennel tea should not be taken with homeopathic medicines.

If you are feeling almost recovered some of the following foods may be taken in small quantities:

1 cup flat rice with yoghurt, honey and pure water.

1 peeled and grated apple, left to go brown for ten minutes.

Fresh buttermilk up to 3 glasses. I fno buttermilk is available mix fresh yoghurt with equal parts pure water.

3rd day – providing you are almost back to normal health the following diet is advisable:

Up to 3 cups diluted vegetable soup (good vegetables are unripe papaya, unripe bananas, carrotsm pumpkin. Spices you can use include cardamon, corriander, saffron, ginger, long pepper, nutmeg and cumin in small quantities.

3 to 4 cups buttermilk.

Water from mung dahl, OR mung kitcheree: 1 part mung, 10 part rice or gruel made from roasted grain (especially rice or barley), OR gruel made from 2 tsp poppy seeds and mixed with 1 cup water. Boil and add a pinch of nutmeg.

4th day – Diet must be limited to light, easily assimilated foods until intestinal tone returns to normal. Avoid starch. heavy, oily and sugary foods.

Dietary Details:

Rehydration Formula:

Either 2 cups of “electral” packet formula of home made formula should be drunk every day for every bowl motion passed. The water should be either room temperature or warm but never cold.

Home Made Rehydration Formula:

1 litre pure water (bottled or boiled and filtered).
Juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 orange.
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar, honey or mishri

Preparation of Flat Rice:

Wash 1 cup flat rice and strain, soak in either 2 cups of water or 2 cups of salt lassi for about 10 minutes or until soft.

1) Pitta Diarrhea: avoid hot, spices, oily, greasy foods, no external oil to be used on scalp or body.

Take buttermilk with honey or sugar.

Herbs: bitters and astringents (e.g. barberry, golden seal, alum root, bilva, kutaj, gentian and aloe).

2) Vata Diarrhea: Castor oil to first cleanse colon (under medical supervision). Avoid same as pitta as well as cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, dahl.

Take buttermilk with rock salt and lemon or nutmeg.

Herbs: ginger, cardamon, fennel, asafoetida, haritake (in small doses), kutaj, pomegranate rind, dadimastaka.

3) Kapha Diarrhea: same restrictions as pitta, also avoid dairy, pastry and wheat.

Take buttermilk with cardamon, elaichi, ginger, nutmeg.

Herbs: hot spices, cayenne, dry ginger, black pepper, calamus, bayberry, basil, sage, Trikatu, or clove combination.

Useful Acupressure Points for Diarrhea:

1) Ankle foot PT 6

2) Wrist hand PT 5

3) Abdomen PT 4

4) Umbilicus

5) Knee PT 5