Kava (or kava kava) is a traditional drink from South Pacific that is gaining popularity in the Western World. Thanks to its relaxing and euphoric properties, many people have started to use kava. Now, you can even find kava bars across America. But the concerns about kava side effects also arise. Diarrhea could be one of those side effects. Does kava cause diarrhea? How can you fight kava diarrhea? Keep reading this blog post to learn more about kava diarrhea.
What Is Kava? Kava in the South Pacific Cultures
Kava is a plant in the Piperaceae family native to the South Pacific islands. That is, kava kava is actually a close relative of pepper. Its botanical name, Piper methysticum, means “intoxicating pepper”. The word “kava” means “bitter” in Tongan.
For hundreds of years, kava has been part of the traditional culture in Vanuatu, Hawaii, Tonga, and Fiji. The roots of kava are used to prepare a beverage that plays a very important role in social and traditional life in the Pacific Island.
Kava is a common element in ceremonies, social gatherings, rituals, and other events. It is also used as a medicinal herb.
Today, tourists traveling to these Pacific islands can easily join a traditional kava ceremony.
Effects of Kava Kava
Kava roots contain kavalactones and kavapyrones, which are phytochemicals with psychoactive properties.
These active elements of kava improve the function of GABA A receptors, facilitating the delivery of messages between the nervous system and the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety, mood, behavior, cognitive functions, sleep cycles, and even reproductive functions.
The effects of kava kava include:
- Stress relief
- Cognitive improvement
- Neuronal protection
Thanks to these effects, many people take kava kava to relax, fight stress, improve their mood, combat insomnia or even to fight the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How to Use and Take Kava Kava
You can find different formats of kava in the market. The most common format is kava powder, but you can also find instant kava or micronized kava. Traditional kava powder is not so fine as instant and micronized kava. Therefore, if you opt for regular kava powder, the preparation method will be much more complex. You will need to squeeze and knead the kava in water for 10 to 15 minutes in order to make the kava beverage. When using micronized or instant kava, you can just mix your kava with water, juice, milk, or any other beverage of your choice. You can also use kava to make smoothies or add it to other drinks recipes to make it taste better.
But there is another way of preparing a drink with kava powder that is much easier than the traditional method. And that is by using an aluball to make your kava drink.
Does Kava Cause Diarrhea?
There seems to be enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that kava causes diarrhea. Many people who try kava kava complain that they suffer from diarrhea and other stomach issues afterward. But does kava cause diarrhea or is this issue due to other factors? While there are no studies that relate kava to diarrhea, this digestive problem seems to be a common of side effect of kava.
How to Stop (and Prevent) Kava Diarrhea
What can you do if you suffer from kava diarrhea? These are some precautions that you can take as soon as you start noticing the symptoms:
- If you suffer from mild diarrhea (for example, loose stool, but nothing impeding), lower your kava dosage.
- Are you taking kava kava every day? If you start noticing symptoms of diarrhea, you should not take kava so often.
- When the symptoms are more serious than just loose stool (for instance, if you need to go to the toilet more than once a day), quit taking kava completely. At least until all the symptoms of diarrhea disappear.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Diarrhea also causes dehydration, so you need to drink fluids in order to fight it.
- Avoid foods that are high in fiber. You should avoid foods like legumes, whole grain, and cruciferous vegetables.
- Eat low-fiber foods. There are foods, such as bananas or white rice, that have low fiber content, so they will feed you without damaging your symptoms. Moreover, bananas will also help you restore the potassium you lost during diarrhea.
- Add to your diet foods that are easy to digest. Skinless chicken breasts, baked potatoes or chicken soup are foods that can help you get nutrients without the risk of worsening the symptoms of diarrhea.
- Use probiotics. Probiotics can help you restore the good bacteria you lost due to diarrhea. Also, they will help you balance your bowel movements.
Other Side Effects of Kava
Does kava cause diarrhea? It seems so. And while kava kava is not a dangerous substance, it can have other side effects:
- Dry eyes
Furthermore, kava could interact with anxiolytics or antidepressants. Also, high doses of kava taken during a prolonged period could eventually damage your liver. Hence, if you are suffering from any liver issues, you should not use kava kava.