I had chronic diarrhea for several years, so I was interested in the coconut macaroon cookie remedy when I read about it in your column. I ate two each morning and got a benefit for a while, but then I had to increase the dose. After a few months, even three cookies were not helping the diarrhea. Instead I turned to Dannon Activia yogurt. They advertise that they will refund your money if their product doesn’t solve the problem in two weeks. I didn’t get any money back, but I am happy. It not only eliminated my diarrhea, but also solved my husband’s long-standing constipation problem.
Activia contains probiotic bacteria that are supposed to help reestablish a healthy balance of microbes in the gut. Yogurt is made from cultured milk, so it is an excellent way to deliver living bacteria. Probiotics have gained popularity in Europe but are still relatively unknown in the United States. Nonetheless, some research links probiotics to improved digestive health.
One of your readers was troubled with diarrhea. After gallbladder surgery, I had the same problem. Saying the bile acid had caused the diarrhea, my doctor prescribed Questran. It works great.
Cholestyramine (Questran) lowers cholesterol by binding to bile acids. Along with relieving diarrhea, it keeps blood lipids under control.
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #9: Yogurt
Over the last few years, the term “probiotics” and the phrase “live and active cultures” have gone mainstream. We’ve been excited about probiotics for years, and we’re glad that large yogurt manufacturers, like Dannon, have taken up the cause of this duly celebrated supplement. Dannon’s Activia contains probiotic bacteria that repopulate the stomach and gastrointestinal tract with good bacteria and push bad bacteria out. Because yogurt is made from cultured milk, it is a very effective way to deliver living bacteria.
Research suggests that this rebalancing should soothe a vengeful gut and ameliorate conditions from gas to diarrhea to diverticulitis.1 There is also some research indicating that probiotics may benefit the immune system in other ways—easing eczema symptoms and even helping reduce susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections.
Yogurt offers even more advantages. For one, calcium, when ingested in the form of food (rather than pills), may protect people from kidney stones. And many women have long known that eating yogurt can help prevent yeast infections. In one study, women who ate a cup of yogurt containing live Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures each day were three times less likely to have a recurring yeast infection.2
Not all yogurts are created equal, however. Some yogurts that may taste great are just high-sugar snacks that should be treated as dessert rather than health food. Look for a label that says “probiotics” or “live and active cultures” (the National Yogurt Association has developed an official seal). But keep in mind that calcium can interfere with the absorption of some medications, like certain antibiotics and osteoporosis drugs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether eating yogurt could affect any of the drugs you’re taking, and if so, how long you should wait to eat yogurt after taking them.
Some of your readers have had questions about chronic diarrhea. My mother had a similar problem for many years. Then one day her doctor suggested that it could be caused by lactose intolerance. He hit the nail on the head. My mother loved ice cream, and the milk sugar in it was triggering the diarrhea.
Lactose, the sugar in milk, is indigestible for many adults who lack an enzyme called lactase. For such people, drinking milk or eating ice cream or other dairy products can cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. The safest way to prevent symptoms is to avoid all forms of milk and milk sugar (which is sometimes used in prepared foods or even as binders in pills). Commercial lactase, such as Lactaid, Lactrase, and generic pills, can sometimes be helpful. There are even dairy products that have been pretreated to reduce lactose.
Do you have any information regarding sugar-free gum and diarrhea? My daughter had trouble with weight loss, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Three different doctors could not diagnose the cause. Then she remembered it all started after she began chewing sugar-free gum.
Sugar-free gum frequently contains compounds such as maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol. These sweeteners are not absorbed well from the digestive tract, and they attract water. This can lead to watery diarrhea, gas, and cramps. Giving up sugar-free gum should ease your daughter’s digestive woes.
My husband is plagued with diarrhea. He’ll be okay for a week or so. Then, for no apparent reason, he has diarrhea. He’s been eating two coconut macaroons a day for about two weeks. We thought that had taken care of the problem, but it appeared again today. I read that sugarless gum could cause diarrhea. He chews it every day. Can you tell me about this?
Many readers report that eating two coconut macaroon cookies daily helps control their chronic diarrhea. But why treat a problem that might be avoided? Sugarless gum could be the culprit in your husband’s case. Sweeteners in sugarless gum, such as sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and xylitol, are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. When the residue reaches the large intestine, it can cause gas and diarrhea. Your husband should try giving up the gum to see if that solves the problem.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic