Since diarrhea is a significant problem for patients with colon cancer and even more for rectal cancer patients when treated with chemotherapy and particularly with radiation, it can become a serious issue which decreases quality of life.
There are many drugs which have been used to treat diarrhea. Sometimes they work, and often they don’t. Similar to many other symptoms, it really depends what is causing the diarrhea. If it is an infection such as C. difficile, obviously you need an antibiotic. If it is caused by an obstruction, you need to be admitted to the hospital. Patients who have inflammatory bowel disease need specific prescription medication. It is critical to rule out any major underlying problems associated with diarrhea prior to starting to use remedies.
I have screened the internet to find whether there are some interesting new ideas on how we can reduce the runs. Recent reports include patients suffering from diarrhea, including inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, benefit from eating macaroons.
Macaroons are made up mainly of desiccated (dried) coconut, which is 60-70% fat (coconut oil). Coconut oil is one of nature’s richest sources of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), or fatty acids. These smaller chain fatty acids have been shown to absorb more easily and quickly in the digestive tract than longer chain fatty acids found in other fats like vegetable oils. The longer chain fatty acids may be harmful for patients with inflammatory disease because these fatty acids are substrate for inflammatory eicosanoid production which may worsen the inflammation.
Recently patients have reported that eating macaroons helped their diarrhea significantly, including one case of radiation-induced colitis. Another patient with chronic diarrhea stated that macaroons calmed down his diarrhea allowing him to make some travel plans. Macaroons are easy to find and offer a fairly consistent dose of coconut. The active ingredient in macaroons is coconut, though, so you can skip the cookies and just eat a teaspoon or so of unsweetened coconut.
Looking through the postings, I found one interesting one showing that the use of sweeteners in sugarless gum such as sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol and xylitol are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. When the residue reaches the large intestine, it can cause gas and diarrhea. We need to carefully examine what we eat and try to connect this to our symptoms to identify possible causes for diarrhea.
There are other remedies which seem to help some patients with diarrhea. Persimmon fruit is a great stopper-upper, fresh or dried, either way. It may be worth trying.
In our practice we always recommend Dannon Activia yogurt. These yogurts contain living bacteria which are critical for successful digestion in our bowel. These are good bacteria, and without them we have gas, cramping, loose stools, and diarrhea. Probiotics have gained popularity in Europe, but are still relatively unknown in the United States. Nonetheless, there is some research to link probiotics to promoting better digestive health, soothing eczema, and boosting immunity against respiratory tract infections.