A survey of acute diarrhoea and its treatment, in 3 groups of villages in south India, revealed that use of the World Health Organization oral rehydration solution (WHO-ORS) was poor or virtually non-existent and that several liquid foods were given to children during acute diarrhoea. The effects of the most commonly used, boiled and cooled supernatants of these liquid foods [rice (Oryza sativa)-water, ragi (Eleusine coracana)-water, arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea)-water], and tender coconut-water, and of the bicarbonate- and citrate-WHO-ORS on intestinal water transport were evaluated using a rat model of secretory diarrhoea. All solutions either decreased cholera toxin-induced net water secretion (arrowroot-water) or reversed it to net absorption. Ragi-water produced maximum net water absorption, significantly greater than the WHO oral rehydration solutions. WHO-ORS utilization is poor in some developing countries, and locally used food-based solutions could be used for maintaining hydration or correcting the dehydration due to acute diarrhoea once their effectiveness has been proved by clinical trials.