Diarrhoea is a problem everyone is familiar with – it is one of the most common reasons for people to seek medical advice – but it can range from being a mild, usually temporary condition, to one that can threaten life.
Diarrhoea should not be confused with the frequent passing of stools of normal consistency – this is not diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is instead characterised by abnormally loose or watery stools. Also, breastfed babies often pass loose, pasty stools, which is normal and not diarrhoea.
In Nigeria, the prevalence of diarrhoeal infection is as high as 18.8 per cent, above the average of 16 per cent, making it one of the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa. It accounts for an annual estimated 300,000 deaths mainly amongst children under five in Nigeria, who continue to be the more susceptible mainly because of poor sanitation and hygiene practices.
With over a decade of the practice and promotion of oral rehydration therapy (ORT), diarrhoea is still the second among the causes of child death. In addition, this management option which often fails during high stool output state is also associated with undesirable side effects such as headache, convulsion, stomach cramp, vomiting, constipation and hallucination.
Consequently, attention is now being shifted to alternatives in medicinal plants for the management of the disease.
In folkloric medicine, different plant parts such as mango leaves and the sap of the plantain tree are mentioned as frequently used in the management of diarrhoea.
Various parts of the plantain plant have been claimed to be useful in the management of several ailments. For example, a cold infusion of the root is used to treat venereal diseases, anaemia, scabies, leprosy, and skin diseases.
The fruit is consumed as food and used as tonic, worm expeller, diuretic, and aphrodisiac, while the leafy juice was reported to be used in the treatment of fresh wounds, cuts, insect and snake bites. The leaves have also been used for managing cold, bronchitis, and eye infections. Furthermore, its sap has also been claimed to be used as a remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery, hysteria and epilepsy.
Researchers have substantiated the folkloric claim of the sap from plantain in the management of diarrhoea. In an animal study, the researchers found that the sap significantly prolonged the onset time of diarrhoea, decreased the number, fresh weight, and water content of feaces, and increased the inhibition of defecations.
They found that the reductions exhibited by the 1.0 mL of the sap were more than the other dose levels and also compared favourably with those administered the reference drug for diarrhoea, loperamide.
The 2015 study published in the journal, Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine, involved researchers at the University of Ilorin, This includes Musa T. Yakubu; Quadri O. Nurudeen; and Saoban S. Salimon; Others are Monsurat O. Yakubu; Rukayat O. Jimoh; Mikhail O. Nafiu; Musbau A. Akanji; Adenike T. Oladiji; and Felicia E. Williams.
According to the experts, this is both suggestive of antidiarrhoeal action of sap from plantain plant and explains the rationale for its sustained use in folk medicine as an antidiarrhoeal agent in the animals.
Previously, experts have also assessed mango leaves as a home remedy for diarrhoea. In a study, the researchers gave water extracts of mango leaves to animals in which diarrhoea had been induced with chemicals and found it just as effective as conventional medicines for treatment of diarrhoea.
The 2015 study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology stated that the water extract of mango leaves dose dependently decreased the number, water content, fresh weight and total number of wet feaces and increased the inhibition of defecations. This study involved Yakubu MT and Salimon from the University of Ilorin.
So if you do have diarrhoea, here are other ways to ease its discomfort:
Be sure to stay hydrated: Frequent loose and watery stools can quickly lead to fluid loss. So, easy ways to stay hydrated include taking sport drink and water.
Yogurt: Yogurt is a great home remedy for diarrhoea. It restores the ‘good’ bacteria in the intestine and destroys the ‘bad’ bacteria causing the diarrhoea.
In a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that probiotics can help reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
Ginger: Ginger is used in the treatment of food poisoning and can also help get rid of cramps and abdominal pain that comes with diarrhoea.
Bananas: Ripe bananas because of their high pectin content can help to deal with diarrhoea. Pectin is a water-soluble fibre that helps reduce diarrhoea. Bananas are also high in potassium, an electrolyte that supports a number of vital functions in the body.
Honey: When suffering from diarrhoea or gastroenteritis drinking honey with water can help to stay hydrated and improve the condition naturally. Moreover, the antibacterial properties of honey also help in quick recovery from diarrhoea caused due to bacterial infection.