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What To Eat And Avoid When You Have Diarrhoea

When you experience watery stools or abnormally loose stools, you are said to have contracted diarrhoea [1] . The main causes of diarrhoea are bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, food allergies and food intolerance.

People suffering from chronic digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease may experience diarrhoea on a regular basis.

foods for diarrhea

Whatever be the reason, it is important to consume the right foods to replenish the body's nutrients and electrolyte balance which are lost during diarrhoea.

One important thing to take care of while suffering from diarrhoea is what you eat as a part of your diet. If you come to know that certain foods are causing you diarrhoea, you will have to avoid them and choose foods that will help soothe your stomach.

Foods To Eat When You Have Diarrhoea

1. BRAT diet

BRAT diet (Bananas, rice, apples, toast) is a bland diet beneficial during diarrhoea. These bland foods help in the binding process to help firm up your stool. Eating these foods won't irritate your digestive system. However, if diarrhoea is caused due to irritable bowel syndrome, the BRAT diet might not suit you.

Bananas: Bananas are easily digested in the stomach because they are rich in amylase-resistant starch, which has been presumed to protect the gastrointestinal mucosa and improve symptoms of non-ulcer dyspepsia and peptic ulcer. A study found that children with diarrhoea who followed a green banana diet recovered faster [2] .

Bananas help in slowing down diarrhoea and reduce constipation at the same time. In addition, the high level of potassium in bananas help to replace electrolytes in the body that are lost when you have diarrhoea.

Rice: Opt for white rice instead of brown rice as white rice is easily digested and high in carbohydrates. It acts as a binding agent which aid in firming up your loose stool and improve rehydration during diarrhoea. Rice possesses anti-secretory properties which have been shown to reduce the volume of stools and duration of diarrhoea [3] .

Apples: Apples eaten in the form of apple sauce can reduce diarrhoea. It is because of the soluble fibre known as pectin that absorbs excess fluid in the bowel, thus making your stool firm and easier to pass [4] .

Toast: Eating white bread toast is another way to deal with bouts of diarrhoea. The reason is white bread has a very little amount of fibre which makes it easier to digest. It soothes your stomach and the carbohydrates in it work as a binding agent to firm up your stool. Avoid using butter or margarine as a spread on the toast, you can use jam instead [5] .

2. Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are the best comfort food for diarrhoea. When you have diarrhoea, your energy levels go down so consuming potatoes rich in carbohydrates will provide your body with the required energy [5] .

Potatoes are also rich in potassium which help in replacing the lost electrolytes in the body. The best way to consume potatoes is to steam or boil them and adding a little salt for flavour. Avoid adding any kind of spices or oils as they will irritate your sensitive stomach and can cause cramps.

3. Yogurt

When you suffer from diarrhoea, it is better to avoid any kind of dairy products. But yogurt is an exception because it contains healthy gut bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Yogurt has the ability to restore the beneficial bacteria that the body flushes out during diarrhoea [6] . Choose plain yogurt rather than flavoured ones.

4. Lean chicken

To get most of the protein, go for steamed chicken without skin as it is easily digestible. Just avoid using any oil or butter while cooking it. You can also opt for chicken broth as it contains essential nutrients and electrolytes that can help to replace the lost nutrients and soothe your stomach at the same time [7] . You can also have steamed fish or fish soup as well.

5. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is another binding food for diarrhoea. It contains soluble fibre which acts as a bulking agent for your stool. Consume plain oatmeal with bananas as having oatmeal with milk, sugar or honey might irritate your stomach and cause intestinal cramping.

foods to eat during diarrhea infographic

6. Vegetables

During diarrhoea, your body requires essential nutrients apart from carbohydrates and protein. Carrots, green beans, beetroot, peeled zucchini are good to have when you have a loose stomach. They contain soluble fibre and essential nutrients that will bulk up your stool and are less likely to cause gas as well.

Avoid having bell pepper, peas, cauliflower and broccoli as they are more likely to cause gas and harder to digest.

Benefits Of Consuming Green Fruits And Vegetables

What To Drink When You Have Diarrhoea

The body loses minerals and electrolytes during diarrhoea. To replenish the lost minerals and electrolytes, it is essential that you drink soup broth, coconut water, sports drink and electrolyte water like ORS.

Foods To Avoid When You Have Diarrhoea

There are certain foods that you need to avoid to prevent prolonged diarrhoea.

1. Fatty foods

Fatty foods have saturated fat that can speed up intestinal contractions and can cause an adverse reaction in your stomach. Fatty foods include fried and greasy foods, creamy foods, fatty cuts of meat and foods which have gravy.

2. Milk, butter, cheese or ice cream

These dairy products contain lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. An enzyme called lactase is reduced in the body when you have diarrhoea and therefore if you consume lactose during diarrhoea, it will go undigested resulting in gas, bloating, nausea and prolonged diarrhoea [8] .

3. Sugary foods and artificial sweeteners

Consumption of sugar may disrupt the already sensitive and healthy bacteria in the colon, thereby making diarrhoea worse [9] . Also, artificial sweeteners should be avoided as they have a laxative effect and contribute to gas and bloating while worsening diarrhoea. So until you recover avoid diet soda, sugar-free candy, gum, etc.

4. High fibre foods

Though soluble fibre acts as a binding agent for loose stool, too much fibre can make your stomach worse and increase the symptoms of diarrhoea. Avoid consuming insoluble fibres present in foods like whole grain cereals, whole grain bread, nuts and seeds.

5. Gas-producing foods

Certain foods like beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and onions are known to cause gas which can worsen diarrhoea. So, until your stomach has settled down, avoid these foods. In addition, fruits like pears, plums, dried fruits (apricots, raisins, prunes) and peaches should also be avoided. Instead go for blueberries, strawberries and pineapple.

Others foods to avoid with diarrhoea include pork, beef, veal, sardines, raw vegetables, rhubarb, corn, citrus fruits, onions, and garlic.

What Not To Drink When You Have Diarrhoea

Avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages. Because these foods have a GI irritant which should be avoided when you have diarrhoea. Also, these drinks cause dehydration in the body [5] . Hydration of the body is important to replenish the lost fluids from those repeated bowel movements.

To Conclude...

Most diarrhoea cases last for a few days only if you have a proper diet and have over-the-counter medications. But, if the body doesn't recover after 2 or 3 days, you should visit the doctor immediately.

View Article References
  1. [1] Thielman, N. M., & Guerrant, R. L. (2004). Acute infectious diarrhea.New England Journal of Medicine,350(1), 38-47.
  2. [2] Rabbani, G. H., Larson, C. P., Islam, R., Saha, U. R., & Kabir, A. (2010). Green banana‐supplemented diet in the home management of acute and prolonged diarrhoea in children: a community‐based trial in rural Bangladesh.Tropical Medicine & International Health,15(10), 1132-1139.
  3. [3] Macleod, R. J., Hamilton, J. R., & Bennett, H. P. J. (1995). Inhibition of intestinal secretion by rice.The Lancet,346(8967), 90-92.
  4. [4] Kertesz, Z. I., Walker, M. S., & McCay, C. M. (1941). The effect of feeding apple sauce on induced diarrhea in rats.American Journal of Digestive Diseases,8(4), 124-128.
  5. [5] Huang, D. B., Awasthi, M., Le, B. M., Leve, M. E., DuPont, M. W., DuPont, H. L., & Ericsson, C. D. (2004). The role of diet in the treatment of travelers' diarrhea: a pilot study.Clinical infectious diseases,39(4), 468-471.
  6. [6] Pashapour, N., & Lou, S. G. (2006). Evaluation of yogurt effect on acute diarrhea on 6-24 months old hospitalized infants.Turkish Journal of Pediatrics,48(2), 115.
  7. [7] Nurko, S., García-Aranda, J. A., Fishbein, E., & Pérez-Zúniga, M. I. (1997). Successful use of a chicken-based diet for the treatment of severely malnourished children with persistent diarrhea: A prospective, randomized study.The Journal of pediatrics,131(3), 405-412.
  8. [8] Mummah, S., Oelrich, B., Hope, J., Vu, Q., & Gardner, C. D. (2014). Effect of raw milk on lactose intolerance: a randomized controlled pilot study.Annals of family medicine,12(2), 134-141.
  9. [9] Gracey, M., & Burke, V. (1973). Sugar-induced diarrhoea in children.Archives of disease in childhood,48(5), 331-336.

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