Diarrhea, or loose bowel movements, can occur for many reasons. Food poisoning and infections are the most common causes of acute diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea may be caused by ongoing illnesses of the digestive tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Appropriate treatment involves addressing the cause of the diarrhea, if possible. In many cases, however, all that can be done is to treat the symptoms.
Note: Prolonged or severe diarrhea can be dangerous, especially in small children and seniors. The greatest risk is severe dehydration. This can often be corrected through the use of special oral solutions, but in some cases intravenous fluids may be required.
Two trials investigating the treatment of childhood diarrhea with homeopathic remedies were performed in Leon, Nicaragua, and a third one was performed in Nepal, all by a single research group. Overall, the results suggest benefit with homeopathic treatment determined by classical homeopathic evaluation.
The first study followed 81 Nicaraguan children aged 6 months to 5 years, each of whom had acute diarrhea.1 Each child had a classical homeopathic evaluation and then was assigned an individual remedy in the potency 30c, or placebo. The results showed statistically significant improvement in the treated group as compared to the placebo group. (Both groups were also treated with standard oral fluid solutions to counteract dehydration.)
Positive results were also reported in a very similar study of 126 Nepalese children.2
However, a trial of much the same design but including only 33 children, failed to find meaningful evidence of benefit.3 Note that for statistical reasons, studies with fewer participants are relatively likely to miss actual benefits; therefore, this study does not, in fact, tend to invalidate the other two.
Another study by these researchers enrolled 292 Honduran children with acute diarrhea, and tested a fixed combination containing five popular homeopathic remedies.4 The combination remedy failed to prove more effective than placebo.
In classical homeopathy, there are many possible homeopathic treatments for diarrhea, to be chosen based on various specific details of the person seeking treatment.
When a child has diarrhea that is characterized by profuse, foul-smelling stools that are watery, gushing, and painless, and he has a great thirst for large quantities of cold water, then his condition may fit the symptom picture for the homeopathic remedy Podophyllum. He might also be fidgety and restless.
However, if a child is generally hot and desires cold drinks, and has colicky, slimy, foul-smelling diarrhea with green stools that look like green grass, her condition might fit the symptom picture for the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla.
When a child is restless, anxious, and fearful, feels much worse around midnight and has painful diarrhea with burning sensations, he may fit the symptom picture for homeopathic Arsenicum. Other characteristic symptoms include a red, sore anus, discomfort that is relieved by hot applications, and the complaint of feeling chilly, especially on his arms and legs.
For herbs, supplements, and other alternative treatments that may be useful for this condition, see the Diarrhea article.
For a thorough explanation of homeopathy, including dilution of therapies, see the Homeopathy Overview.
1. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics. 1994;93:719–725.
2. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Malthouse S, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: results from a clinical trial in Nepal. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6:131–139.
3. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Br Homeopath J. 1993;82:83–86.
4. Jacobs J, Guthrie BL, Montes GA et al. Homeopathic combination remedy in the treatment of acute childhood diarrhea in honduras. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12:723-32.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board