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Dealing with diarrhea is never a pleasant experience, but it is something that we all have to face at some point in our lives. Whether it’s due to food poisoning, a virus, or a chronic condition such as IBS or Crohn’s disease, diarrhea can be incredibly uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily routine. The good news is that there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and get back to feeling like yourself again. In this article, we will explore how to eat when you have diarrhea, and offer some practical tips to help you manage this condition.
Before we dive into the specifics of what to eat when you have diarrhea, it’s important to understand what causes this condition in the first place. Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools that occur more frequently than normal. It can be caused by a wide range of factors, including:
- Viruses, such as the stomach flu or norovirus
- Bacteria, such as Salmonella or E. coli
- Parasites, such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium
- Food intolerances or sensitivities, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease
- Certain medications, such as antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs
- Chronic conditions, such as IBS or Crohn’s disease
In many cases, diarrhea will resolve on its own within a few days. However, if your symptoms persist for more than a few days, or if you are experiencing severe dehydration or other complications, it’s important to seek medical attention.
The BRAT Diet
One of the most well-known dietary approaches to managing diarrhea is the BRAT diet. This stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These foods are all low in fiber and easy to digest, which can help to calm the digestive system and reduce diarrhea symptoms. However, the BRAT diet is not a long-term solution, as it does not provide all of the nutrients your body needs to heal and recover.
Foods to Avoid
When you have diarrhea, there are certain foods that you should avoid, as they can make your symptoms worse. These include:
- Spicy foods
- Fatty or fried foods
- Dairy products
- High-fiber foods, such as whole grains, nuts, and raw fruits and vegetables
- Caffeine and alcohol
Foods to Eat
So, what should you eat when you have diarrhea? The key is to focus on foods that are easy to digest and gentle on the digestive system. Here are some options to consider:
- Bananas: Bananas are a great choice for people with diarrhea, as they are high in potassium and easy to digest. They can also help to firm up loose stools.
- White rice: White rice is another low-fiber option that can help to reduce diarrhea symptoms. It’s easy to digest and can help to bulk up your stools.
- Applesauce: Unsweetened applesauce is a good source of pectin, which can help to firm up loose stools. Just be sure to choose a brand that does not contain added sugar.
- Boiled or baked potatoes: Potatoes are another low-fiber option that can help to soothe the digestive system. Boil or bake them without any added fats or seasonings.
- Chicken broth: Chicken broth is a good source of electrolytes and can help to keep you hydrated. It’s also easy to digest and can provide some much-needed nourishment.
- Toast: Plain toast can be a good option for people with diarrhea, as it is easy to digest and can help to bulk up your stools.
Other Dietary Tips
In addition to choosing the right foods, there are some other dietary tips that can help to manage your diarrhea symptoms:
- Stay hydrated: Diarrhea can cause you to lose a lot of fluids, so it’s important to drink plenty of water, clear broths, and other fluids to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can make dehydration worse.
- Eat small, frequent meals: Instead of three large meals, try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This can help to give your digestive system a break and prevent further irritation.
- Avoid dairy products: If you are lactose intolerant, dairy products can exacerbate your diarrhea symptoms. Stick to lactose-free alternatives or non-dairy sources of calcium, such as leafy greens or fortified juices.
- Try probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to restore the natural balance of your gut microbiome. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, or taken as supplements.
- Avoid high-sugar foods: Sugary foods and drinks can worsen diarrhea symptoms, as they can cause further irritation to the digestive system. Stick to natural sugars found in fruits instead.
Can I still eat meat when I have diarrhea?
Should I avoid all fruits and vegetables when I have diarrhea?
Can I drink sports drinks when I have diarrhea?
Can I eat ice cream when I have diarrhea?
Should I take anti-diarrheal medications?
Dealing with diarrhea can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, but with the right dietary approach, you can manage your symptoms and start feeling better. When you have diarrhea, it’s important to focus on easy-to-digest, low-fiber foods, and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids. Avoiding spicy, fatty, and dairy-rich foods can also help to reduce irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract. If your symptoms persist or worsen, be sure to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying conditions.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021). Diarrhea. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea
- American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. (n.d.). Low-Fiber Diet. https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-gi-health/low-fiber-diet
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Diarrhea. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352284
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). Probiotics may help prevent diarrhea due to antibiotic use. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/probiotics-may-help-prevent-diarrhea-due-to-antibiotic-use-2018052513959
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Travelers’ Diarrhea. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travelers-diarrhea