An Ayurvedic Approach to Diarrhea Relief

mint tea and ingredients

Mint tea, sipped throughout the day, helps replenish lost fluids.


We can all agree that diarrhea is not a fun experience. But while it can be terribly inconvenient and uncomfortable, diarrhea is actually a very common digestive complaint; the average adult experiences about four episodes of diarrhea each year. 1 Thankfully, in most cases, diarrhea is fairly easy to control and will resolve completely within a couple of days.

This resource is intended to help you understand the Ayurvedic perspective on diarrhea and to give you some practical tools in support of healthy bowel movements. For further support, you might also benefit from reading our comprehensive guide to healthy elimination.

What Causes Diarrhea?

Loose or watery stools occur when the intestines push the stools through the bowel to be eliminated before excess water can be reabsorbed. Often, diarrhea is the body's natural defense mechanism against a harmful pathogen, an ingested toxin, or a food that disagrees with the digestive system.

Diarrhea can also occur as a result of an irritated or inflamed intestinal wall, which allows excess fluid to leak into the stool. Or, diarrhea may be the side effect of prescribed medication or an indicator of a more serious imbalance.1

When is Diarrhea Serious?

Diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal bloating, cramps, nausea, vomiting, or an urgent need to have a bowel movement. While these symptoms are unpleasant, they usually clear up with the diarrhea. More serious symptoms can include:

  • 10 or more watery stools within a 24 hour period
  • Signs of dehydration (e.g. dark, scanty urine; dry, sticky mouth; extreme thirst; loss of skin elasticity—skin doesn't rebound when it is pinched into a fold)
  • Blood or mucus in the stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Worsening symptoms

These signs and symptoms can be an indicator of a more serious problem—if any of them develop, please contact your doctor or primary health practitioner. 2

Avoiding Dehydration

One of the most serious dangers of prolonged diarrhea is dehydration. Taking small sips of fluid throughout the day is one of the best ways to support hydration during episodes of diarrhea. Water (you can add a pinch of salt, lime juice, and natural sugar, if you like) or mint tea are wonderful choices for replenishing lost fluids.

The Ayurvedic Perspective

According to Ayurveda, diarrhea usually occurs when the digestive fire is thrown out of balance by excess pitta. Pitta dosha brings qualities of heat, sharpness, oiliness, and liquidity to the system, which can affect absorption and assimilation and cause the movement of food through the digestive tract to accelerate—causing loose or liquid stools.

When this happens, the key is to balance pitta and to gently kindle agni. The following strategies counter pitta's hot, sharp, liquid qualities and can be very helpful in supporting the return of normal bowel movements.3


stewed apple ingredients

Stewed apples can help when diarrhea is acute.

Dietary Remedies

When we suffer from diarrhea, the desire to eat a supportive diet is almost instinctual, and actually the diet is one of the most effective ways to bring balance. Begin by eating a pitta balancing diet, focusing on simple, grounding, nourishing foods, and emphasizing energetically cooling foods, drinks, and spices—things like cilantro, coconut, coriander, fennel, and mint.

It is also important to avoid hot, spicy foods, especially salty foods, intensely sour foods, alcohol, caffeine, and fermented foods, as they can further aggravate pitta. In addition, steer clear of sugary drinks and some sugar substitutes (like sorbitol, often found in chewing gum). These substances actually draw more water into the intestines and can intensify diarrhea.4

Fortunately, there are also some specific food preparations that can help to curb an acute case of diarrhea rather quickly. The following suggestions come from Dr. Vasant Lad, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies and full recipes can be found there. Choose the one that sounds best to you:

  • Stewed apples with ghee, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt
  • Spiced bananas with ghee, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg
  • Cooked rice with yogurt (ideally homemade)
  • Lassi (diluted yogurt)

Beyond the Basics

Keep in mind that an Ayurvedic practitioner can offer more advanced therapeutic strategies and a more personalized level of support. And, if you are still hungry for a deeper understanding of the Ayurvedic perspective on digestion and elimination, you may find some of these resources helpful:

  • Ayurvedic Guide to Healthy Elimination
    This is a more comprehensive look at healthy elimination through the lens of Ayurveda; it highlights the importance of healthy elimination and offers some general tips for supporting proper elimination.
  • The Importance of Healthy Digestion
    Symptoms in the channels of elimination are often the result of broader imbalances with agni (the metabolic fire). As an introduction to the critically important Ayurvedic concept of agni, this resource explores agni's role in maintaining health and vitality throughout the body, and offers practical tools for kindling the sacred fire within.
  • The Importance of Agni
    This article explores the specific functions of agni, as well as the signs and symptoms of both healthy and impaired agni.
  • The Four Varieties of Agni
    This resource compares balanced agni to the different types of imbalances that can disrupt it, and offers appropriate therapies for each type of imbalance.
  • Ama: the Antithesis of Agni
    This piece introduces the toxic, undigested material called ama, whose qualities directly oppose those of agni. Ama in the body can either be the cause or the result of impaired agni – and in either case, threatens our health.


1 “Diarrhea, Age 12 and Older – Topic Overview.” Web MD. Web (iPhone Application). 22 June 2014. 

2 “The Basics of Diarrhea.” Web MD. Web (iPhone Application). 22 June 2014. 

3 Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print. 163-164.

4 “Diarrhea, Age 12 and Older – Home Treatment.” Web MD. Web (iPhone Application). 22 June 2014.