Diarrhea can be linked to many triggers and may be caused by:
- Viral infection (commonly called stomach flu)
- Bacterial infection (the cause of most types of food poisoning)
- Intolerances to certain foods
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Eating habits and food
Regardless of the cause of your diarrhea, what you eat can affect your digestive health2. Eating foods that your digestive system does not tolerate well may play a role in triggering or prolonging bouts of diarrhea.
If you’re already suffering from diarrhea, there are a few foods and drinks that help with diarrhea you can add to your regimen—or at least not make your symptoms worse.
What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea
In general, bland foods can help soothe or avoid further irritation for an upset stomach. The “BRAT” diet is one of the most commonly known bland diets, consisting of bananas, rice, apples, and toast. However, since the diet does not provide many nutrients and calories, the use of the BRAT diet is no longer recommended for children with diarrhea3.
Foods That Help with Diarrhea
When you are recovering from diarrhea symptoms, follow this list of bland foods that are easy on the stomach to combat diarrhea1,4:
- Clear broths
- Potatoes (sweet potatoes or white potatoes without toppings)
- Chicken (steamed, baked, or grilled)
- Lean ground beef
- Scrambled eggs
- Refined grains (such as pastas, rice, white bread, or Cream of Wheat)
If your diarrhea is related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), talk to your doctor about trying a low-FODMAP diet. This acronym comes from the names of simple sugars that are hard for your body to absorb5:
- Fermentable Oligosaccharides — Found in foods like wheat, onions, and garlic
- Disaccharides — Found in lactose-containing foods like milk, yogurt, and ice-cream
- Monosaccharides — Found in honey and some fruits
- Polyols — Found in some fruits and sweeteners
A low FODMAP diet should only be followed temporarily with the guidance of a healthcare provider or dietician. If your diarrhea is related to IBS, consider consulting a dietician to help you ensure that you are getting the right nutrition.
What to Drink for Diarrhea
Dehydration from diarrhea may be a cause for concern. Preventing dehydration is important to avoid complications. The following drinks can be good to have on hand when you have diarrhea6:
- Low-sugar fruit juice without pulp
- Salty broth
- Electrolyte solutions
Do your best to drink plenty of fluids. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least one cup of liquid every time you have a loose bowel movement4.
Healthy Eating Habits to Keep
Here are some good general eating habits for overall digestive health:
- Eat more slowly — It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. Eating more slowly gives you time to feel full, so that you’re less likely to overeat.
- Chew your food — When you take time to chew your food properly, you not only slow down the eating process, but chewing also breaks food down into smaller pieces and mixes it with saliva to start the digestive process.
- Don’t gulp it down — When you gulp down food, you swallow air, which can lead to trapped gas and poor digestion.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals — Big, heavy meals take longer to digest and make your system work harder.
- Don’t eat before bed — Avoid lying down for 3 hours after eating to help avoid acid reflux.
Medicines for Diarrhea and Home Remedies
If you are experiencing diarrhea symptoms, there are steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms more quickly. Follow these three methods to promote firmer stools faster:
- Try an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication — Drugs such as IMODIUM products work quickly to help restore your gut’s natural rhythm. If you have gas, cramps, or bloating with your diarrhea, IMODIUM Multi-Symptom Anti-Diarrheal Relief Caplets provide relief of these additional symptoms, as well as diarrhea.
- Consider probiotics — Diarrhea may be due to an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, which can generally be improved by taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic foods7.
- Follow a diet for managing diarrhea — Avoid trigger foods that may irritate your gut and prolong diarrhea symptoms.