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What Is the Best Anti-Diarrhea Medication To Feel Better Fast? (2021 Guide)

What Is the Best Anti-Diarrhea Medication To Feel Better Fast? (2021 Guide)

Are you suffering from diarrhea? You need relief fast. This uncomfortable condition can interfere with your day-to-day life and make everything from work to socializing more difficult.

It’s important to consider whether lifestyle factors or undiagnosed illnesses may be playing a role. However, before you see a doctor about underlying causes, you need relief. You may be able to take the proper medications to resolve your symptoms. 

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most common medications and treatments for diarrhea. For each one, we’ll examine how they work, what doctors consider them to be most effective at fighting, and whether they have any known side effects.

  • Loperamide HCL (Over the counter)
  • Bismuth subsalicylate (Over the counter)
  • Diphenoxylate (Prescription only)
  • Metronidazole (Prescription only)

Before we go into each of these medications, it’s important to consider whether taking medications for your condition is a good idea.

Are Antidiarrheal Medications Safe for Everyone?

No, antidiarrheal medications—even those sold over the counter—are not safe for everyone. If your diarrhea is the result of bacterial or parasitic infection, you can make your condition worse by attempting to treat it with the wrong medications.

When you have an infection, diarrhea is one of the ways that your body flushes the unwanted bacteria or parasites from your system. If you interfere with that process, your infection may take longer to resolve. That can lead to a greater strain on your body.

You should speak to a doctor to be sure of the source of your illness. The following symptoms, in addition to diarrhea, may appear if you have an infection.

Symptoms of parasitic infection

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of bacterial infection:

  • Fever
  • Cough, with phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain when breathing

Some medications for diarrhea should not be taken by children or teenagers. Additionally, you should never take any medicine that has caused an allergic reaction in the past. Always follow the instructions on the label for any medication

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Now that you understand the importance of verifying the source of your condition, we’re ready to look at some of the most effective medications that are available to treat diarrhea. Let’s start by looking at the effective and widely-available medication known as Loperamide. 

Loperamide HCL (Over the counter)

Loperamide HCL (sold in the combination loperamide hydrochloride) is a common over-the-counter medication that is used to treat diarrhea. This medication is sold under the brand name Imodium A-D. However, there are many more affordable medications that use similar formulations.


Doctors may recommend Loperamide HCL to treat many common cases of diarrhea. However, you won’t need a prescription to treat your symptoms. You’ll be able find it online or at most pharmacies.

How does it work?

Loperamide HCL slows the gut down by acting on mu opioid receptors that line the wall of the gut. When the receptors are activated, the gut walls slow down and the amount of time that passes between the contractions that crush food increases.

The food is processed more slowly, so it takes longer for new bowel movements to form. The ones that do form typically have less moisture. This relieves the frequent bowel movements and watery stools that are 

What types of diarrhea is Loperamide HCL used to treat?

Doctors often use Loperamide to treat sudden-onset diarrhea such as traveler’s diarrhea. These cases are often the result of imbalances in the body rather than direct causes like infection. 

It may also be prescribed to treat symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or short bowel syndrome. You should only take Loperamide HCL to treat chronic conditions if your doctor has prescribed it. 

Are there any side effects?

Loperamide HCL has only minor side effects for most uses. Some of the following side effects may apply depending on your body chemistry and the dosage that you take:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • tiredness
  • constipation
  • stomach pain
  • skin rash
  • itching

Loperamide HCL is not often prescribed for long-term use. Over the long-term, Loperamide HCL may cause heart rhythm problems. People who struggle with opioid addiction may become dependent on Loperamide HCL if they abuse it. 

Bismuth subsalicylate (Over the counter)

Bismuth subsalicylate is a common drug that is used to treat diarrhea, upset stomach, and nausea. When taken preemptively, it may be used to prevent the onset of sudden diarrhea. 

Bismuth subsalicylate is sold in the US under the brand name Pepto-Bismol. However, there are also many generic medications that may have similar or identical formulations. 

How does it work?

Bismuth subsalicylate works by decreasing the amount of fluid and electrolytes that flow into the bowel. This reduces the effect of agents that may be causing inflammation. Additionally, this action may kill or slow the growth of bacteria that are making diarrhea worse. 

What types of diarrhea is it effective at treating

Bismuth subsalicylate is used to treat many common kinds of diarrhea. It may be recommended by doctors and pharmacists in cases where diarrhea is combined with pain caused by heartburn, indigestion, and gas.

This medication should be avoided in certain cases. It is not recommended for people who are experiencing ulcers or other conditions that may allow intestinal contents to reach the bloodstream. 

Are there any side effects?

Bismuth subsalicylate is associated with several side effects that range from minor to severe. The following side effects may occur when taking this medication depending on your body chemistry and dosage:

  • abdominal pain
  • anxiety
  • ols
  • cold symptoms (stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat)
  • confusion
  • constipation (may be chronic)
  • dark urine
  • depression
  • sores in stomach lining
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • headache (may be severe)
  • difficulty falling asleep (insomnia)
  • pain behind the eyes
  • rapid heart rate
  • ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • swollen tongue
  • vision problems
  • vomiting
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)

The bismuth in the medication may combine with sulfur that’s present in the body to form the chemical compound bismuth sulfide. While this doesn’t cause any immediate harm, your tongue and stools may turn a dark black. 

This is not a complete list of all possible side effects. Bismuth subsalicylate is known to have a wide variety of effects on different people. Some may be allergic to the chemical components. 

Like most other medications, bismuth subsalicylate should not be used over long periods without a doctor’s recommendation. Long-term use may result in the medications accumulating in the body. They can become toxic at high concentrations. 

Diphenoxylate (Prescription only)

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Diphenoxylate is used in the combination of diphenoxylate and atropine to treat diarrhea-related symptoms. It is available by prescription only because it is considered to be a narcotic.

In the United States, Diphenoxylate may be sold under the brand name Lomotil, Lofene, and Lonox. Generic medications may be available, but they are also only available by prescription. 

How does it work?

Diphenoxylate works by slowing the movement of the intestines. This reduces the number and frequency of bowel movements. Like Loperamide HCL, it does this by interacting with the opioid receptors that are present in the intestinal lining.

What types of diarrhea is it effective at treating

Diphenoxylate is often prescribed to treat acute cases of diarrhea. It may be effective in cases where over-the-counter medications have already failed to have an effect.

Doctors may prescribe this medication in cases where symptoms are severe enough to cause frequent discomfort. They may also prescribe it in cases where symptoms have occurred for a prolonged period. 

This medication is not prescribed to treat diarrhea that has been caused by bacterial infections. In those cases, the medication may obstruct the body’s natural defenses. 

Are there any side effects?

Diphenoxylate has known side effects that range from moderate to serious. The following side effects may occur when you use the medication as directed: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite may occur

While most people do not experience any of these side effects, some people may experience more serious ones such as stomach pain, nausea, and vision changes. You should speak to a doctor as soon as possible if any of these symptoms occur.

Serious side effects may also occur if Diphenoxylate is abused. It is a narcotic, and abuse can quickly lead to dependence. Overdosing, particularly the overdosing that may occur if the drug is abused, can be life threatening.

You should contact emergency services immediately if you believe that you have overdosed on Diphenoxylate. You may have overdosed if you experience severe drowsiness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, or other unusual symptoms.

Metronidazole (Prescription only)

Metronidazole is an antibiotic drug that is used to treat diarrhea. It is a highly adaptive medication that has been used to treat many bacterial conditions that may occur in the GI tract, reproductive system, nervous system, and other areas of the body. 

In addition to diarrhea, it is used to treat ulcers and sores of the stomach and mouth. It may be prescribed as a long-term medication to treat skin conditions such as rosacea. 

How does it work?

Metronidazole works as an antibiotic. Antibiotics are medicines that are designed to fight off bacterial infections. They work by directly killing bacteria, or by making parts of the body inhospitable to colonies of bacteria.

When taken in pill form to treat diarrhea, Metronidazole has been shown to slow the growth of bacteria that are causing intestinal distress. 

What types of diarrhea is it effective at treating

Metronidazole is effective at treating diarrhea that is caused by bacterial infection. It has also been found to be effective at killing certain types of parasites. 

It may have no effect on cases that do not have a bacterial source. It is known to have no effect on viral infections.

Due to the powerful effects of this medication, it is not recommended for people who may be sensitive to certain disruptions. You may be told that you cannot be prescribed Metronidazole if you have experienced

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Stomach or intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease;
  • A blood cell disorder such as anemia (lack of red blood cells)
  • Low white blood cell (WBC) counts;
  • Fungal infections
  • Nerve disorders

Are there any side effects?

Metronidazole is associated with several side effects that range from minor to moderately severe. The side effects that you may experience depend on the condition that you’re treating and the form of the medication you take.

When Metronidazole is used to treat medication, it is typically the oral pill form. You may experience the following side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Metallic tastes

Metronidazole does not have a significant risk of overdose. If you take more than the intended dose, you should watch carefully for changes. However, if you do not feel any changes or discomfort, you likely won’t need any medical attention.

Find the best medication for your diarrhea symptoms

Photo by National Cancer Institute from Unsplash

Now you know some of the best medications that are available to treat your diarrhea symptoms. Remember that the best choice for you may depend on your medical history and the severity of your case. 

Remember that it’s important to consider the source of your symptoms before you make a decision. Many of these medications are effective at treating traveler’s diarrhea, and other common cases. You may need a different treatment path to handle chronic conditions or viral infections. 

It may be wise to consult a doctor even if you are choosing an over-the-counter medication.

Featured Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin from Pexels

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