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What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea

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Diarrhea. Just the thought of it can be uncomfortable and unsettling. We’ve all experienced it at some point, whether it’s from a bad meal or a stomach bug. The good news is that your food choices can actually help alleviate diarrhea symptoms and get you back on track. So, let’s talk about what to eat when you’re dealing with this unpleasant issue.

Keeping it Simple: Foods that Help with Diarrhea

The number one rule when it comes to eating during a bout of diarrhea is to keep it simple. This is not the time for exotic or heavy foods. According to gastroenterologist and nutrition specialist Donald Kirby, MD, plain and simple options are usually the best choice.

The BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet might sound strange, but it’s quite effective. It stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These four foods can help firm up your stool and provide some relief. Bananas contain starch that absorbs water in your colon, while also being rich in potassium. Opt for white rice and unsweetened applesauce, and try using white bread for toast.

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While the BRAT diet may not be nutritionally complete, it serves as a temporary solution to help with diarrhea symptoms. Consider following it for a day or two until you start feeling better.

Bland Foods

If you want to add some variety to your diet while still being gentle on your stomach, there are a few other bland foods you can try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Dry cereal
  • Boiled or baked potatoes (peeled)
  • Baked chicken with the skin removed

These options can provide a change of taste without aggravating your symptoms.

Electrolyte Drinks

Diarrhea can cause significant fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration. Replenishing your body’s fluids and nutrients is crucial. Electrolyte-heavy drinks like Gatorade® or Pedialyte® can help restore your body’s balance. These drinks contain sodium and sugar, which aid in fluid retention and absorption.

Salty Foods

Saltine crackers, pretzels, and even chicken noodle soup can be beneficial during a bout of diarrhea. Salt helps maintain fluid levels in your body, especially when you’re losing fluids through diarrhea. Just be mindful not to overdo it with salt in your regular diet.


Probiotics can be beneficial for your gut when dealing with diarrhea. These live bacteria help restore the balance of healthy intestinal bacteria, aiding in the recovery process. Despite being dairy products, yogurt and kefir are good choices for probiotics. Just make sure to opt for low-sugar options.

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Foods to Avoid

While it’s important to focus on what to eat, it’s equally important to know what to avoid to prevent aggravating your symptoms. Steer clear of the following:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes)
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugary sweet items (including those sweetened with artificial ingredients)
  • Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol

Avoiding these items will give your stomach a break and help you recover faster.

When to Seek Medical Help

Usually, a bout of diarrhea should resolve itself within a few days. If it continues for an extended period despite dietary changes, increased fluid intake, and over-the-counter medications, it’s time to consult a healthcare provider. Seek medical help if you experience severe pain or if your stool contains blood or pus.

Remember, taking care of your diet is crucial when managing diarrhea. Stick to simple, gentle foods, stay hydrated, and take note of any alarming symptoms. With the right choices, you’ll be back to feeling normal in no time.

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