Keeping your digestive system on track when bugging out

Preppers often spend most of their time preparing for the immediate effects of natural disasters, or even worse, an apocalypse. It is important to prepare yourself for these situations and make sure you have the supplies necessary to survive the aftermath.

However, one thing commonly overlooked is the risk of disease, especially waterborne diseases. These pose a huge threat to you and your company. Diarrhea is a symptom consistent with any waterborne disease and that is more dangerous than most people think.

To most of us, diarrhea seems like more of an annoyance than a serious condition, but this won’t be the case when you are off the grid. Currently, diarrhea kills around 525,000 children under 5 each year. It causes dehydration and can become life-threatening if lost fluids are not quickly replenished.

Learn more about diarrhea, how it is spread, and how you can treat it.


gears in an outline of a stomach

How is diarrhea spread?

Diarrhea is the body’s natural defense against microorganisms and bacteria. It is the body’s way of healing itself, but those microorganisms can spread to other individuals and cause the same symptoms.

Those microorganisms and germs get into water sources, and people ingest the infected water, getting them sick as well. Water can become infected through a variety of pollutants, most common being animal waste, sewage, and unwanted chemicals such as pesticides. And especially in natural disasters, flooding and water runoff greatly increases the risk of infection.

How can you prevent infection?

The only good news about diarrhea is that it is almost entirely preventable. Disinfect all drinking water if it didn’t come straight from a reliable source. Try boiling, filtration, or halogenation. Boiling is the safest way as the water only needs to reach the boiling point to be safe.

For more information on boiling water and the use of other filtration techniques, read our post on purifying water in the wild. Purifying water will help remove those germs and harmful bacteria so you can stay healthy!

How can you treat diarrhea?

You can take medicine to treat diarrhea. Pepto-Bismol will not get rid of the diarrhea, but it will ease stomach discomfort. Imodium AD can be used to  “control” the symptoms of diarrhea by temporarily prolonging it. Used multiple times in a row, Imodium AD is not a good solution because it does not allow the waste and infection to leave the body. If the situation does not get any better, certain antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin can kill the infection.

Although you could take a medications to help treat diarrhea, that may not be available in a survival situation. If you don’t have access to medications, make sure you take care of your body by replacing the lost fluids. The best choices are clear liquids including water, broth, herbal teas, and clear juice.

Because your body is losing liquids fast, dehydration is likely to occur. If dehydration continues, you will grow weaker and experience lightheadedness and dizziness because your body is also losing electrolytes. These can be replaced through certain drinks like Gatorade or through oral rehydration salts. These drinks contain salt and sugar to help the body better absorb water. If you run out of oral rehydration salts, a good substitution is a glass of water with teaspoon of salt and a few teaspoons of sugar mixed in.

What should I eat if I have diarrhea?

When you have diarrhea, the food you eat can be critical in the recovery process. Remember the acronym BRAT: bananas, rice, apples, toast. All of these foods are bland and binding so they will not aggravate the digestive system but will instead firm up stool.

There are foods that should be avoided. These foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Heavily-processed foods
  • Most fruits

These foods are all known for triggering the digestive system and prolonging diarrhea.

What about constipation?

Just the opposite of diarrhea, yet still dealing with your digestive tract, constipation can also be a problem while off the grid. Constipation can be a result of dehydration and not having enough fiber. The treatment for constipation is very similar to that of diarrhea: lots of water, electrolytes, and glycerin suppositories. Also, try upping the fiber and taking a break from dairy and red meat to help the process.

Whatever the case, preparation goes a long way. Bring enough water and keep medicines and water filtration devices in your first aid kit. Check out more survival tips on our blog.