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Dysentery: Causes, Symptoms, And Natural Treatment Options

Reviewed by Dr. Bhakti Kapse, General Physician
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Dysentery: Causes, Symptoms, And Natural Treatment Options Hyderabd040-395603080 December 12, 2019

Research shows that an estimated 165 million people worldwide may be infected by bacillary dysentery, and 1.1 million people die from the infection every year (1).

Dysentery is one of the most common gastrointestinal ailments. Without adequate care and timely intervention, it may lead to death. Hence, it is important to seek treatment on time. In this article, we will discuss the causes of dysentery, natural ways to ease the symptoms, and how you can prevent it.

What Is Dysentery?

Dysentery is a digestive problem characterized by loose and watery stool containing blood. It is accompanied by intestinal inflammation and stomach cramps. It can cause discomfort for a few hours or days. However, in some cases, it is known to last longer.

Dysentery may be caused by shigella bacteria (shigellosis) and ameba. Bacillary dysentery is mild, while amebic dysentery is mostly severe and requires immediate medical intervention. Patients typically contract two types of dysentery. They are discussed below.

Types Of Dysentery

  1. Acute Dysentery: Acute dysentery lasts for less than two weeks or 14 days. It is characterized by abdominal pain and loose motions. In rare cases, pus is observed in the stools.
  2. Chronic Dysentery: Chronic dysentery lasts for more than 30 days. If acute dysentery is not treated on time, it can turn chronic. The general health of the individual gets disturbed, and it can prove to be dangerous in the long run.

Some complications of dysentery are postinfectious arthritis, generalized seizures, and hemolysis of red cells due to antibody formation. Amoebic dysentery may cause a liver abscess, which requires prolonged medical treatment and hospitalization for drainage.

How Does Dysentery Spread?

Dysentery typically spreads as a result of poor sanitary conditions and habits. The infection spreads through contact with food or water that has been contaminated with excreta.

Shigellosis (bacterial dysentery) is spread through close contact with an infected person and infection with contaminated food and drinks. Amoebic dysentery is primarily spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water in tropical areas that have poor sanitation.

What Causes Dysentery?

Dysentery is caused by Shigella bacteria or an ameba called Entamoeba histolytica. The most common cause of dysentery is poor sanitary conditions. Stale food, contaminated water, and exposure to human excreta are other causes of dysentery (2).

People living in overcrowded areas with poor standards of sanitation and regions of tropical climate are susceptible to contaminated food and water. This forms an easy channel for one to catch an infection that can cause dysentery. This infection can also be transferred through carriers, such as house flies, water, or food, and, in some cases, physical contact with another person carrying the infection (3).

What Are The Symptoms Of Dysentery?

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loose motions and tenesmus (the urge to empty the bowels)
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Convulsions (in rare cases) (4).

How Is Dysentery Diagnosed?

Dysentery can cause severe dehydration. Hence, it is imperative that you consult your doctor at the earliest. This condition can become potentially life-threatening if left untreated.

You will be asked if you traveled recently. Any travels out of the country can help your doctor determine the cause of dysentery. Since there are many factors that can cause dysentery, you might be asked to undergo a blood and stool test that can help determine the presence of bacteria. Depending on the results, you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection.

Dysentery OTC Treatment

There are several OTC medication options to help treat dysentery:

  • Bismuth subsalicylate (known as Pepto-Bismol) has an antisecretory effect on the digestive system (5). It can help relieve cramps and reduce frequent bowel movements. Avoid taking medicines like Loperamide that decrease peristalsis or bowel movement and can aggravate your condition (6).
  • Your doctor will prescribe a dose of antibiotics if you have a severe case of shigellosis.
  • The most important aspect of dysentery is to take care of dehydration. You can get oral rehydration solutions (ORS) and oral fluids as they can replenish the loss of water and electrolytes like sodium and potassium (7).
  • If you have amebic dysentery, you will be advised to take metronidazole or tinidazole that have antiprotozoal activity and can help fight the infection caused by Entamoeba histolytica (8), (9).

In the case of severe dysentery, your doctor may suggest an intravenous (IV) drip to prevent dehydration.

Let’s take a look at home remedies to manage dysentery. These may help in mild to moderate cases of dysentery. However, in severe cases, it is recommended to seek medical intervention.

Natural Ways To Manage Dysentery

1. Orange Juice

Orange juice contains flavonoids that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties (10). These properties may help soothe the intestinal lining and also keep you hydrated.

You Will Need

Orange juice

What You Have To Do

Drink this throughout the day.

How Often You Should Do This

You may drink up to 3-4 glasses of orange juice during the day.

Note: Consuming orange juice can increase the level of sugar in your blood. You can regulate this by having freshly squeezed orange juice.

2. Buttermilk

Buttermilk contains probiotics or good bacteria. Probiotics promote digestion by maintaining the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive system (11). They may also help shorten the duration of the infection (12). Avoid this remedy if you are lactose-intolerant.

You Will Need

Buttermilk

What You Have To Do

Drink buttermilk all through the day.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink up to 3-4 glasses during the day.

3. Raw Papaya

Research shows that papaya can help reduce stomach cramps and promote regular bowel movement (13). It is known to relieve digestive and abdominal issues and may also help alleviate the symptoms of dysentery.

You Will Need

  • 1 raw papaya
  •  3-4 cups of water

What You Have To Do

  1. Peel the raw papaya and grate it. Boil it in water for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Strain the liquid and consume it while it is warm.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this 2-3 times a day.

Note: Overconsumption of papaya may result in stomach irritation as it has a mild laxative effect and can aggravate the symptoms. Hence, limit your consumption.

4. Terminalia Chebula (Haritaki)

Terminalia Chebula is an herb that exhibits antibacterial properties (14). This may help alleviate infection associated with dysentery and provide relief.

You Will Need

  • 1/2 teaspoon of Terminalia chebula (haritaki) powder
  • 1 glass lukewarm water

What You Have To Do

Consume Terminalia chebula (Haritaki) before going to sleep. Check with an Ayurvedic practitioner before you do so.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat every night until you feel better.

Note: Do not consume excessive amounts of this herb as it may aggravate your condition.

5. Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek possesses excellent medicinal and nutritional qualities. Its constituents reduce inflammation in the digestive tract (15). This may help provide relief from the symptoms of dysentery.

You Will Need

  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seed powder
  • A glass of buttermilk

What You Have To Do

Mix the fenugreek seeds in a glass of buttermilk and consume it.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this two times daily.

6. Lemon

Lemon has antimicrobial properties (16). Since dysentery is a microbial infection, the antimicrobial properties may help combat the infection-causing bacteria and alleviate the symptoms associated with dysentery.

You Will Need

  • lemons
  • A glass of water

What You Have To Do

  1. Boil the lemon slices in water for a while.
  2. Strain and consume this concoction.

How Often You Should Do This

Make sure to consume this concoction all through the day.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains active agents that exhibit antibacterial properties (17). Hence, it may help in eliminating the bacteria that cause dysentery.

You Will Need

  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 glass of water (preferably warm water)

What You Have To Do

  1. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and drink it up.

How Often You Should Do This

Repeat as required.

Note: Make sure you use diluted ACV. Undiluted ACV can cause erosion of the tooth enamel, and excessive consumption can cause constipation.

8. Black Tea

The tannins in black tea promote the reduction of intestinal inflammation (18). Hence, black tea may help alleviate the symptoms of inflammation associated with dysentery.

You Will Need

  • Black tea leaves or 1 teabag of black tea
  • A cup of boiling water
  • Lemon (optional)

What You Have To Do

  1. Boil a cup of water and add some black tea leaves. Alternatively, you may steep a tea bag in a cup of boiling water.
  2. Add a dash of lemon for taste and drink it while it is warm.

How Often You Should Do This

Have this concoction of black tea and lemon two times a day.

9. Green Banana Pulp

Green banana promotes the production of fatty acids in the stomach, which can help in soothing diarrheal diseases (19). It also helps in reducing the severity of the infection. Hence, it may relieve the discomfort caused by dysentery.

You Will Need

  • Green banana
  • 1-2 cups of buttermilk
What You Have To Do
  1. Mash the bananas and mix it with buttermilk.
  2. Consume the pulpy mixture.

How Often You Should Do This

Consume the mixture once daily.

10. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea acts as a digestive relaxant and is used to treat gastrointestinal disturbances like diarrhea. It also exhibits antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties (20). Hence, it may help in reducing intestinal inflammation triggered by dysentery.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers or a chamomile tea bag
  • 1 cup of water

What You Have To Do

  1. Boil a cup of water and add some dried chamomile flowers. Alternatively, you may steep a chamomile tea bag in a cup of hot water.
  2. Add the mint leaves for taste.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this concoction 2-3 times in a day.

Note: If you are allergic to flowers in the Asteraceae (daisy) family, you must avoid chamomile as it may cause an allergic reaction. In large doses, it may cause nausea and vomiting.

11. Carrot

Carrot juice is a rich source of fiber and can help with infantile diarrhea (21). It may help alleviate the symptoms of dysentery and provide relief.

You Will Need

4-5 carrots

What You Have To Do

  1. Blend the carrots to get fresh juice and sip on it.
  2. Alternatively, you may also consume carrot soup.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink 2-3 glasses of carrot juice in a day.

12. Bael Fruit

Bael fruit or wood apple is known to aid digestion and exhibit antiparasitic properties (22). It is also rich in tannins, which can help reduce inflammation.

You Will Need

  • 2 teaspoons bael fruit pulp
  • Water

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix the bael fruit pulp with water and consume it.
  2. Alternatively, you can mix a teaspoon of the pulp in one cup of water, along with a teaspoon of dried ginger.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this 2-3 times a day.

Following these remedies may help manage the symptoms of dysentery. Also, keep in mind the following precautionary measures while using any of these remedies.

Precautions

  • You can undergo fasting for a couple of days if you have dysentery as it can give your digestive system some time to recover from the infection. But you must make sure to have plenty of fluids.
  • Hydration is crucial to recover from dysentery as this condition can cause severe dehydration. You may consume fluids like black tea or a sports drink infused with electrolytes.
  • Avoid refined and processed foods, caffeinated drinks like coffee, and alcohol. This can cause irritation in your stomach and aggravate the condition.
  • Follow the BRAT diet (23). Your diet should include bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are easily digestible and gentle on the digestive tract.
  • Avoid spicy foods and take adequate bed rest to ensure a speedy recovery.

Prevention Tips

  • Make sure that the water you drink is potable as it is a major carrier of the infection-causing bacteria. You may boil water or use a water purifying system before drinking it.
  • Dysentery can also be caused by food that is contaminated due to poor hygiene. Make sure that everything you eat is washed diligently and cooked to eliminate germs.
  • Avoid consuming fruits and vegetables that are unpeeled or cut open.
  • Avoid milk and dairy products that have not been pasteurized as this can affect your stomach and cause dysentery.
  • Maintain excellent personal hygiene as dysentery can also spread from contact with a person or things that have been contaminated by the bacteria.

Try out a combination of these tips and remedies to manage the symptoms of dysentery at home. In case your symptoms persist, consult a general physician immediately. Be patient with these methods as they are home remedies and may take a little longer to show their effects. Every patient is different, and so is the nature of their ailment. We also strongly recommend that you consult with a doctor to be doubly sure of the method of treatment required for your case.

Shigellosis is usually self-limiting, and the person recovers within a week. If you have shigellosis, avoid cooking or preparing food for other people. Avoid swimming. If you work with children, you should stay home until you recover from shigellosis. But if you have amoebic dysentery, seek immediate medical attention.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is dysentery contagious?

Dysentery is a contagious disease. Exposure to and contact with contaminated food and water increases your chances of contracting the disease.

Can dysentery kill you?

In some cases, dysentery may lead to severe diarrhea, characterized by mucus or blood in the stool. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening due to the extreme loss of fluids.

What is the difference between diarrhea and dysentery?

If you have diarrhea, the stools you pass will be watery. It may or may not be accompanied by cramps or pain. However, a patient with dysentery typically passes stool with mucus and blood and has abdominal pain.

23 sources

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