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Natural Methods for

Prevention and Treatment of

Diarrhea, Dysentery and Cholera


The following information is about natural methods for promoting health.

Most of these methods are not the same as those used by doctors.

Seek advice from health professionals when appropriate.


Facts

Millions of people are infected with dysentery or cholera each year throughout the world, and many thousands die. A large proportion of the deaths occur in babies and young children, who are particularly vulnerable.

Dysentery and cholera can easily be prevented and treated, even in poor countries.


What Causes Dysentery and Cholera?

Dysentery and cholera occur as a result of consuming food or water contaminated with microorganisms. They travel with the food or water through the stomach, where some are killed by acid and enzymes, to the intestines, where they attach themselves to the internal lining of the intestines. They obtain nutrition from the internal lining of the intestines, and from food passing through the intestines. Some types of microorganisms excrete toxins. With other types, toxins are released as the microorganisms die. The toxins from the microorganisms are assimilated into the blood in the same way as nutrition from food. The body's natural response is to try to eliminate them by flushing out the contents of the intestines. This is why diarrhea occurs.


Aims of Treatment

Drink Plenty

People with diarrhea should drink plenty of water or other appropriate liquids. Diarrhea may cause dehydration if liquids are not replaced, and this is often the most serious problem.


Avoid Consuming Additional Microorganisms

If a person has dysentery or cholera, the water is likely to be contaminated. Do not consume additional microorganisms by drinking contaminated water.


Avoid Feeding the Microorganisms

People with dysentery or cholera should not consume foods or drinks which are good sources of nutrition for the microorganisms, as this enables them to thrive, and makes the condition much worse. It is particularly important to avoid foods and drinks containing added sugar, and foods and drinks containing a significant proportion of natural sugar, such as fruit and fruit juice.


Reduce Assimilation of Toxins while Causing the Microorganisms to Detach

Astringent herbs are effective for dysentery and cholera. They cause contraction of the surface with which they come in contact, and reduced permeability. When consumed, they reduce the permeability of the internal lining of the intestines, which reduces the amount of toxins from the microorganisms assimilated into the blood. This reduces any harmful effects the toxins may have, as well as the body's reaction to them, the diarrhea and dehydration. It also reduces the availability of nutrition for the microorganisms from the internal lining of the intestines. Tannins also cause contraction of the surface of the microorganisms, making them feel like they may be injured, and possibly injuring some of them. Due to lack of nutrition and feeling unsafe, the microorganisms let go of the internal lining of the intestines.


Transport the Microorganisms out through the Bowel

Once detached from the internal lining of the intestines, the microorganisms need to be carried out through the bowel. Whatever is used for this purpose should provide a physical mass to carry them out, without providing them with nutrition.

Mucilaginous herbs are ideal for this. Mucilage is a plant substance similar to the mucus produced in the body. It has also been described as a gentle alternative to bran. Mucilaginous herbs also absorb toxins and carry them out through the bowel, and promote healing of any damage to the internal lining of the intestines.

Foods which are high in fiber and low in calories may also be used, as they provide a physical mass to carry the microorganisms out through the bowel, without being a good source of nutrition for them.


Nausea and Vomiting

The microorganisms which cause diarrhea may also cause nausea and vomiting during the early stages, while they are in the stomach. If a person is experiencing nausea, or has recently been vomiting, they should drink plenty of liquids, including astringent herbs in water. However, they should avoid eating or consuming mucilaginous herbs for awhile. If drinking causes them to vomit, this is unpleasant, but it eliminates some of the microorganisms.


Examples of Remedies

Key Points

  Drink plenty of uncontaminated water or other appropriate liquids.

  Avoid foods and drinks containing sugar, including fruit and fruit juice.

  Use astringent herbs.

  Use mucilaginous herbs, or high fiber, low calorie food.


Drink Plenty

People with diarrhea should drink plenty of water or other appropriate liquids to prevent dehydration.

If a person has dysentery or cholera, the water is likely to be contaminated, and it is important not to consume additional microorganisms. Water may be boiled to kill any microorganisms. Water from other sources may be used, such as bottled water or rain water.

Do not consume drinks containing added sugar, or drinks containing a significant proportion of natural sugar, such as fruit juice, as these feed the microorganisms, and make the condition worse.

When a person has diarrhea, loss of electrolytes may also occur. People with more severe dehydration may need these replaced.

The juice from fresh coconuts is very good for dehydration, as it contains water and many of the nutrients lost during dehydration. Where fresh coconuts are available, these are ideal.

People with severe dehydration should seek hospital treatment.


Herbs

Astringent Herbs

Astringent herbs are effective for dysentery and cholera. They contain tannins, which derive their name from their use in tanning leather. Tannins change the surface of the leather, which is the skin of animals. They have a similar effect on the internal lining of the intestines. However, in the living body this is only temporary. If you taste concentrated tannins, you will notice a particular sensation in your mouth. Tannins cause contraction of the surface with which they come in contact, and reduced permeability. When consumed, they reduce the permeability of the internal lining of the intestines, which reduces the amount of toxins from the microorganisms assimilated into the blood. This reduces any harmful effects the toxins may have, as well as the body's reaction to them, the diarrhea and dehydration. It also reduces the availability of nutrition for the microorganisms from the internal lining of the intestines. Tannins also cause contraction of the surface of the microorganisms, making them feel like they may be injured, and possibly injuring some of them. Due to lack of nutrition and feeling unsafe, the microorganisms let go of the internal lining of the intestines.

Examples of astringent herbs which may be used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and cholera, include agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), blackberry leaves (Rubus fruticosus), cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), guava leaves (Psidium guajava), oak bark (Quercus robar), and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).

Tea also contains tannins, and is used in China for treating diarrhea. Tea needs to be consumed in significant quantities, without milk or sugar, as tannins are made inactive by reacting with the milk, and sugar feeds the microorganisms. Tea contains caffeine. The other astringent herbs do not contain caffeine.

Bleeding may occur in the intestines, particularly when a person has had dysentery or cholera for some time. Astringent herbs cause contraction of the surface, which reduces bleeding.


Mucilaginous Herbs

Once detached from the internal lining of the intestines, the microorganisms need to be carried out through the bowel. Mucilaginous herbs are ideal for this, as they provide a physical mass to carry them out, without providing them with nutrition. Mucilaginous herbs also absorb toxins and carry them out through the bowel.

Psyllium (Plantago species) is a mucilaginous herb ideal for this purpose. Other mucilaginous herbs may also be used. Examples include slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) and marshmallow (Althaea officinalis).

Those not familiar with mucilaginous herbs, may put a spoonful of dried psyllium in a large glass of water, stir, leave to stand for awhile, and observe what happens. The mucilage absorbs the water and swells, and the whole glass of water becomes a mass of mucilage. When this passes through the intestines, it forms large stools.

Okra is food containing a large proportion of mucilage. Okra may be cooked and eaten. It should be chewed well.

A person who has had dysentery or cholera for some time, may also have damage to the internal lining of the intestines. Mucilaginous herbs promote healing of any damaged area. Mucilaginous herbs are also used in the treatment of ulcers in the gastrointestinal system, where they are very effective for promoting healing.


Herbal Formulas

As the effect of astringent herbs depends on their physical action, they should be taken in large amounts, with large amounts of water. This is normally only necessary for a short time, as people normally experience a significant improvement in their condition, within a day or two, as the herbs, water and food, pass through their intestinal system. After taking astringent herbs with water, wait until most of it has passed through the stomach, which may take half an hour or more, before consuming mucilaginous herbs or high fiber low calorie foods. Those using mucilaginous herbs should take enough to produce a reasonably large physical mass passing through the intestines, to transport the microorganisms out. Those eating high fiber, low calorie food, may eat until they feel they have eaten an adequate amount.

One astringent herb, and one mucilaginous herb, or high fiber, low calorie food, is normally adequate for the treatment of dysentery or cholera. The dose may be varied with the needs of individuals. However, following doses are a guide for those unfamiliar with herbs.

A suggested dose for an adult with dysentery or cholera is 1 to 2 heaped dessert spoons full of a dried astringent herb, two or three times a day. This should be made into an infusion using 1 to 2 liters or more hot water. The more water used the better. Become familiar with how much the person can comfortably drink.

A suggested dose for an adult with dysentery or cholera is half a heaped dessert spoon full of dried psyllium (Plantago species), mixed in 500 ml room temperature water, two or three times a day. Other mucilaginous herbs may also be used. With some mucilaginous herbs the mucilage may be extracted more efficiently with hot water.

For children, refer to Doses for Babies and Children.

To be effective, it is essential to take astringent herbs before mucilaginous herbs, or high fiber, low calorie food.

The benefits of astringent herbs and mucilaginous herbs are due to their physical actions. They do not have any harmful effects, when used properly.

As these herbs do not have any harmful effects, they may be used by people with diarrhea even if they are not sure of the cause.

Consuming mucilaginous herbs after the mucilage has absorbed the water may be difficult. One way of taking psyllium is to stir it in a glass of room temperature water and drink immediately. This does not allow time for the mucilage to absorb the water, so it is like drinking water with a little psyllium floating in it. The mucilage then absorbs the water in the stomach.

People may begin with a mucilaginous herb, and as their condition improves, use high fiber, low calorie foods.


Capsules or Tablets may be Ineffective

Capsules and tablets are normally broken down in the digestive system, releasing their contents. In people with dysentery or cholera, the contents may not be released until they have traveled beyond the part of the intestines where their effects are needed, making them ineffective. Dried herbs should be used to avoid this. If capsules are the only form of herbs available, break them open before taking them. If tablets are the only form of herbs available, crush or chew them well before swallowing. To be effective with dysentery or cholera, large numbers of capsules or tablets need to be taken, which may be inconvenient and expensive.


Food

To be effective, it is essential to take an astringent herb in water before taking any food.

Avoid foods which are good sources of nutrition for the microorganisms, particularly foods with added sugar, and foods containing a significant proportion of natural sugar, like fruit. Avoid all high calorie foods. Avoid foods containing a significant proportion of fat, such as fried foods and meat. Avoid refined foods which have had a large proportion of the fiber removed.

Foods from plant sources, which are high in fiber, and low in sugar and calories, may be eaten. Following are a few examples.

Okra is food containing a large proportion of mucilage, which may be cooked and eaten.

Boiled rice, barley, or other grains may be eaten.

Bananas may be eaten.


Tea and Rice

In some parts of the world, people are poor and do not have access to many of the things available to more affluent people. In many places, appropriate herbs grow, and may be used. For example, guava and okra are grown in many places.

Where other herbs are not available, dysentery or cholera may be treated with tea and rice, which are readily available and economical in most parts of the world.

A suggested dose for an adult with dysentery or cholera is 1 to 2 liters or more tea, without milk or sugar, two or three times a day. This should be taken half an hour or more before eating boiled rice or other high fiber, low calorie food. Tea contains caffeine.


Prevention

How are Dysentery and Cholera Spread?

Dysentery and cholera are spread by the excrement of infected people finding its way into the water supply or food. This may happen where untreated sewage leaks or is released into a water supply, where people defecate in a water catchment area, where they wash in a water supply after defecating, or even defecate in a water supply. It may also occur where excrement is used for fertilizer. Microorganisms from infected animals may also contaminate water or food.

Dysentery and cholera are common where people do not have access to uncontaminated water, and where toilet facilities are not available, such as in poor countries, areas affected by war, and where there are large numbers of refugees.

In affluent countries, water is treated with chlorine to kill microorganisms.


Avoid Consumption of Contaminated Food or Water

People living in, or traveling to, areas where there is a likelihood of being infected with dysentery or cholera, can avoid these disorders by avoiding consumption of contaminated food or water. Each time you eat or drink, think about where the food or drink has come from, and consider whether it may have had the possibility of being contaminated. Choose food and drinks which are unlikely to be contaminated. Following are examples of things to consider.


Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands before eating, and after using the toilet.


Water

Where water has the possibility of being contaminated, it may be boiled to kill any microorganisms before drinking. Drinks made with boiling water may be used. It is important that the water is actually boiled. If the water is only warmed, microorganisms may survive. Tea may be used.

Be aware of purchasing any unsealed drinks. Drinks may contain contaminated water.

Ice added to drinks may be made with contaminated water.

Bottled water or other drinks may be purchased. These should be purchased unopened.

Where coconuts are available, fresh coconut juice may be used. Coconuts should be purchased unopened.


Food

If you prepare your own food, you can ensure it is prepared properly. Dysentery and cholera may occur when traveling, and purchasing food prepared by others.

Food is most commonly contaminated with contaminated water.

Uncooked foods may contain microorganisms, particularly if manure has been used for fertilizer.

If foods are cooked at a high temperature for a significant period of time, this kills any microorganisms. For example, fresh bread is normally safe as it is baked at a high temperature long enough to kill any microorganisms.

If foods are boiled, you would think any microorganisms would be killed. However, food is often prepared in advance, and food left over from one meal may be saved for the next. These foods may be reheated, and have additional contaminated water added. They may not be heated enough to kill microorganisms.

Fish, especially shellfish, may contain microorganisms, so avoid undercooked fish and shellfish.

If fruit is purchased whole, and you remove the skin before eating it, it does not have a chance to be contaminated.

Foods from sealed containers, such as jars and cans, prepared in hygienic factories, may be used. These should be purchased unopened.


Not Just Poor Countries

These disorders are not limited to poor countries. Microorganisms which cause diarrhea found their way into the water supply in Sydney, Australia, in the 1990s and some people became sick. It is believed that microorganisms from animal droppings in the water catchment area were washed into the water supply. The authorities responded by increasing the amount of chlorine in the water.

A healthy diet should include eating uncooked vegetables. On very rare occasions microorganisms may find their way onto vegetables, and if they are not adequately washed or cooked, the microorganisms are not removed or killed. This may cause diarrhea, which may be treated using the remedies discussed previously. Understand that this is very rare, and should not discourage people from eating uncooked vegetables.


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© Copyright Guy Shipard 2008 - 2009