Eating bland foods can help diarrhea go away faster and prevent stomach upset and irritation. You can follow the BRAT diet, which stands for “bananas, rice, applesauce, toast.” This diet also helps firm up stool.
Whether your diarrhea is caused by allergies, food poisoning, or a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome, diet and diarrhea are intricately linked.
Even if you have long-term conditions that affect the digestive system, your food can affect your comfort levels.
When you’re experiencing an episode of diarrhea, certain foods you eat can help your digestive system get back on track. Other foods might prolong or worsen your symptoms.
When you have diarrhea, the foods you eat and avoid can be critical to a quicker recovery. This is where BRAT foods come in.
The BRAT diet includes:
- white rice
- toast made from white bread
These foods are bland and low in fiber so they won’t aggravate the digestive system. They’re also binding, so they help firm up stool. While following a BRAT diet, you can combine these ingredients, such as putting applesauce or bananas on toast.
You can eat additional foods as part of a bland diet. These can include:
- cooked cereal, like oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, or Farina
- soda crackers
- apple juice that’s low in added sugar
- baked or boiled potatoes
Drinking plenty of liquids can help you stay hydrated and replace the lost fluids. Options to try include:
- water or sucking on ice chips
- clear broths, like vegetable, chicken, or beef broth with any grease removed
- electrolyte-enhanced water or coconut water with vitamins or electrolytes (try to avoid ones high in sugar)
- solutions like Pedialyte
- weak, decaffeinated tea
After you’ve started to recover, you can try to add in foods like scrambled eggs and cooked vegetables.
When you’re experiencing diarrhea or recovering from it, certain foods can trigger the digestive system and worsen or prolong diarrhea.
Foods to avoid while experiencing diarrhea include:
- milk and dairy products (including milk-based protein drinks)
- fried, fatty, greasy foods
- spicy foods
- processed foods, especially those with additives
- pork and veal
- raw vegetables
- all citrus fruits
- other fruits, like pineapples, cherries, seeded berries, figs, currants, and grapes
- coffee, soda, and other caffeinated or carbonated drinks
- artificial sweeteners, including sorbitol
Many cases of diarrhea are short-lived and respond well to home treatments such as:
- modified diet
- increased fluid intake
- over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as anti-diarrheal medications like Pepto-Bismol, which can help stop or slow down diarrhea
But you may also develop diarrhea due to a bacterial infection. In these cases, a doctor may recommend antibiotics.
Taking probiotics after taking antibiotics can help prevent adverse reactions to antibiotics by introducing healthy bacteria back into the digestive system. This can also help prevent future cases of diarrhea.
If your diarrhea is severe, you may need to be admitted to the hospital to receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.
While many cases of diarrhea can be treated at home, if your bout is prolonged or you experience concerning symptoms, you may have an underlying medical condition. Diarrhea that lasts more than a few days without improvement or occurs with dehydration may require medical care.
If you have concerning symptoms, you may need to go to the emergency room for treatment. These symptoms can include:
If a child has diarrhea, they may need urgent or emergency care if they:
- don’t improve after 24 hours
- haven’t had a wet diaper in 3 or more hours
- have a fever of
100.4°F (38°C)in children under 3 months old or 102.2°F (39°C) or higher in children between 3 and 36 months old
- have a dry mouth or tongue
- cry without tears
- have skin that doesn’t flatten if pinched and released
- have a sunken appearance to the abdomen, cheeks, or eyes
- have black or bloody stools
The foods you eat can cause and help your body recover from diarrhea.
When you have diarrhea, get lots of rest, drink plenty of water, and start introducing BRAT foods after a few hours. After a day or 2 of bland, soft foods, you can add in foods like lean ground chicken and scrambled eggs.
Sticking to this diet can help you recover faster and feel better sooner, so you can return to eating all the foods you love as soon as possible.