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Myths About Diarrhoea, Busted

The myths we believe and the shame we feel around poo could be putting our health at risk.
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Even now, in 2024, it’s a taboo subject, even though diarrhoea is common — with most of us having experienced it at some point in our lives. In fact, for those who have irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea could actually be a chronic symptom.

IMODIUM®, GB’s leading anti-diarrhoea brand¹, and Guts UK, the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system from top to tail — the gut, liver and pancreas — have joined forces to support your gut health, with 100 combined years of expertise. Now, HuffPost UK is delighted to be working with them to dispel some of the most common myths about diarrhoea and gut health.

With that being said, there is still so much that we don’t understand about diarrhoea, and our discomfort when discussing it isn’t helping. This is even more concerning when you consider that a huge 43% of adults in the UK suffer from digestive discomfort.

So, let’s talk poo.

Myths about diarrhoea, debunked

MYTH: Diarrhoea is only a physical health issue

As it is something that happens to our body and not our mind, it’s easy to understand why diarrhoea is thought to be a physical health issue when, in fact, it can be caused by mental factors.

Stress, anxiety and nervousness can contribute to diarrhoea, as our guts are incredibly sensitive — yes, even to our moods.

According to the NHS, “stress speeds [digestion] up, causing diarrhoea and frequent trips to the loo. Some people lose their appetite completely. Stress can also worsen digestive conditions like stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.”

If you’re dealing with the symptoms of stress, the NHS recommends calming breathing exercises, planning ahead for stressful days or events, peer support groups and avoiding unhealthy habits, among others.

MYTH: You just have to ‘ride it out’

Some believe that you need to just ride it out and deal with symptoms while they happen. However, in great news for your bowel and bum, you don’t always have to let diarrhoea run its course.

IMODIUM® (loperamide) is an over-the-counter medicine that can be used to treat acute diarrhoea and help you recover up to 3x faster¹ than not treating. It works to gently slow the digestive system down to its natural rhythm and in turn absorb water and essential nutrients, leading to a normal stool consistency. IMODIUM® Dual Action is uniquely formulated with a second active ingredient, simeticone, which also provides relief from bloating, cramps and wind. If you do experience severe, consistent or persistent diarrhoea, we recommend you speak with your doctor.

Hector Roqueta Rivero via Getty Images

MYTH: Drinking fluids makes diarrhoea worse

When you’re in the pits of it, having a drink or something to eat seems like the last thing you’d want, and if anything, won’t more liquids just encourage it?!

Well, no.

While you should steer away from too much alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine, keeping yourself hydrated is essential. Instead, IMODIUM® recommends drinking plenty of water in small sips throughout the day.

MYTH: You shouldn’t eat when you have diarrhoea

Nothing kills the appetite like a bout of diarrhoea, but the last thing you should do when you’re suffering from it is avoid eating.

IMODIUM® and Guts UK warn, “Avoiding eating all together isn’t sustainable, as the gut is a muscle and requires sufficient nutrients to work well.” Instead, Guts UK recommends speaking to your doctor and potentially getting a dietician referral to learn what is triggering diarrhoea, if it’s chronic. If it isn’t chronic, the NHS Foundation Trust recommends sticking to “soft, easily digested foods, e.g. white fish, mashed potatoes, sorbets, jelly, yoghurt, milk puddings, ice creams.”

One thing that definitely won’t help with diarrhoea is depriving yourself of nutrients!

Basically, you don’t need to suffer in silence

Whether we like talking about it or not, everybody poos, and while conversations about poo are uncomfortable, they’re absolutely worth having if it means you can look after your digestive health more effectively. To learn more about gut health and what you can do to manage symptoms of diarrhoea, visit the IMODIUM® and Guts UK partnership page.

  1. For claims verification please call 0808 238 9999. Source© NielsenIQ data, Value, Units, anti-diarrhoea category (client defined) 52 w/e 17.02.2024 (GB Total Coverage).

IMODIUM® Instants contain loperamide hydrochloride. For acute diarrhoea (aged 12+) and for medically diagnosed IBS diarrhoea (aged 18+). IMODIUM® Dual Action Relief Tablets. For acute diarrhoea and its gas-related symptoms (aged 12+). Always read the label.

IMODIUM® and Guts UK combined have 100 years of expertise. Johnson & Johnson Limited will donate £20,000 to Guts UK Charity (reg. charity no. 1137029) in relation to this 2024 charitable campaign and are working collaboratively with the charity to raise awareness, including creation of a media campaign and patient education materials.