What To Eat When You Have Diarrhea

What To Eat When You Have Diarrhea: Having diarrhea can be an incredibly embarrassing and distressing experience which can have serious consequences on one’s health if left untreated. Fortunately, even the most severe forms can be successfully treated by just eating the right foods. Diarrhea is a condition that exposes the human body to great distress. Not only does it hit at the most inappropriate times, but it is also accompanied by dehydration, nausea, vomiting and stools so loose that you barely have time to reach the bathroom.

Weakness, lack of appetite, confusion, dizziness, high fever, tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate), rigid abdominal area and abdominal pain in the form of cramps, in worse cases even bloody stools, are all characteristic signs of diarrhea as well. Poorly prepared food, lack of good hygiene, contaminated food or water, food allergies, an intolerance to dairy products, laxative abuse can all cause diarrhea. When it occurs, the condition should be attended to immediately so it does not worsen and put us at risk of having to be put into hospital. And the most  important aspect of dealing with it is diet. Here are 5 things you should eat to instantly treat your diarrhea:

Diarrhea remedies

1) White rice. The first and single thing you need to eat as soon as diarrhea strikes is boiled white rice. You can add a pinch of salt. Sodium helps retain water and counteract dehydration. If simple boiled white rice is not enough to get you to eat, you can grate an apple over it to add flavor and combat nausea and lack of appetite. Apples contain pectin which helps bind the loose, watery stools. But why white rice? Well, white rice is devoid of dietary fiber and thus helps make stools considerably firmer. A serving and a half of boiled (or steamed) white rice two or three times a day is enough to treat you diarrhea almost entirely.

2) The leftover water from the boiled white rice. The water left in the pot after you have boiled the rice is just as good as the rice itself because it helps achieve firmer stools. Think of it as a sort of flavorless rice soup or a rice drink and drink a cup every few hours to help give consistency to loose stools. Depending on the severity of the diarrhea episode, you may need to continue eating boiled white rice and drinking the water left after boiling it for several days.

3) Baked white bread or toast. You can take a few slices of plain white bread (again, no dietary fiber in it), throw them on a tray and bake them for 15-20 minutes in the oven. Or simply buy toast or baked white bread at the supermarket. If you are not lactose intolerant, you can add a few very thin slices of hard cheese to the bare toast. Hard cheese in particular has a slightly constipating effect and proteins that are harder to digest, increasing transit time, both of which help relieve diarrhea.

Plain or salted crackers are also a good alternative for when you feel like nibbling on something, but make sure they do not contain additives or preservatives because they may upset your already sensitive stomach even more. The fact that they contain a little salt can help counteract dehydration because diarrhea makes you lose important electrolytes such as sodium (potassium, magnesium) which are crucial for maintaining normal blood pressure levels.

4) Carrot, string beans and potato soup. For more severe diarrhea episodes, consuming solid foods is mandatory. But you also need liquids, just a bit of dietary fiber to help maintain a normal transit and variety to help you get eating and overcome everything. Throw 2-3 sliced potatoes, a handful of green beans and 4-5 medium-sized carrots in a pot of boiling water, season with salt and a tablespoon of olive oil at the end and eat small servings with lots of toast. You can also only eat the vegetables on toast and alternate with boiled white rice.

5) Applesauce. The pectin in apples and apple sauce helps bind stools together and make them firmer. Pectin is also a demulcent, meaning it sort of protects the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines, indirectly contributing to reducing inflammation and pain. Applesauce (or freshly grated apples added to your boiled white rice) adds much needed natural sugars to your restrictive diarrhea-diet. However, you should adapt your recipe to the needs of your sensitive stomach: avoid refined sugar and irritating spices. In other words, make your apple sauce only from apples and water so it is easier on the stomach.

Diarrhea foods

Now you know what foods help relieve even the most pestering diarrhea in a matter of hours or days. But what should you drink when you have diarrhea? Considering diarrhea is by definition dehydrating and that dehydration is probably what causes the most damage, here are some great solutions to replenish lost fluids:

1) Lots of water. No matter its severity, diarrhea will cause dehydration. In order to avoid this, drink lots of water, preferably bottled so as to avoid contamination risks, especially if you are on holiday in a foreign country. Also, look for bottled water containing generous amounts of magnesium and small amounts of sodium. While sodium helps combat dehydration by encouraging water retention, the magnesium in the water will replace what is lost through dehydration and contribute to maintaining good cardiovascular function (see article on magnesium functions and benefits).

2) Peppermint tea. Add more flavor and variety to your boring diarrhea-diet with peppermint tea. Not only is peppermint great for treating nausea and vomiting sensations, but it also helps combat loose, watery stools. For best results drink 2-3 cups a day and avoid adding sugar or milk to the infusion for the first few days of treatment.

3) Oral rehydration solution, sports drinks. There are rehydration solutions made especially to counteract the side effects of diarrhea. Rich in electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium, oral rehydration solutions are the quickest and safest way to replenish lost liquids and regain vitality. If those are not available, a sports drink with vitamins and minerals (exactly what you need) is the second best solution for diarrhea dehydration. Just remember that sports drinks are not the same thing as energy drinks and you should avoid the latter.

Although strict, this simple dietary regimen should help treat your diarrhea naturally in no more than 2-5 days. But keep in mind that your digestive system will most likely be left sensitive by the diarrhea episode, so you will have to go easy on it for several more days. So what to eat after diarrhea?

1) White rice.
2) Toast.
3) Boiled potatoes.
4) Mashed potatoes.
5) Potato and carrot soup.
6) Apples and applesauce.
7) Bananas.
8) White pasta with vegetables (carrots, string beans).
9) Cornflakes with plain yogurt.
10) Chicken broth (simple vegetables and lean chicken meat).
11) Soft boiled eggs
12) Sports drinks

Boiled or steamed white rice, toast, white pasta and cornflakes help bind loose stools. Potatoes, bananas, potato and carrot soup, chicken broths and soft boiled eggs are fairly easy on the stomach and don’t tend to irritate it. Moreover, potatoes and bananas contain potassium to help maintain normal blood pressure and prevent side effects such as tiredness, lightheadedness and fainting sensations.

Apples and applesauce are sweet and contribute to firmer stools due to their good pectin content. Plain yogurt contributes to digestive health because it stimulates the growth of good bacteria, while sports drinks are rich in dietary minerals such as magnesium, sodium, calcium and even vitamins to help you recover your energy. Remember: sports drinks, not energy drinks (these contain stimulants which are not that good for you or the diarrhea). Mix applesauce with crackers for a fun and interesting taste experience; this will also help balance your sugar and salt intake, prevent hypoglycemia and dehydration side effects such as low blood pressure.

When you feel it is time, start incorporating other foods in your diet until you feel good enough to resume your normal eating habits. Still, heavy meals should be avoided because the recovering stomach needs time to process foods properly. Small meals at regular intervals contribute to faster recovery.

Additionally, you can take probiotics prescribed by your doctor to help your intestinal flora recover faster. Good stomach bacteria are essential for proper digestion of foods, vitamin production (vitamin K and B vitamins) and overall good gastrointestinal health. If your diarrhea was caused by an infectious agent, your doctor will also prescribe you something to disinfect your gastrointestinal tract, such as furazolidone.

16 Replies to “What To Eat When You Have Diarrhea”

    • I really hope this food helps me! I had ovarian cancer and the radiation burned up my stomach. I can’t eat anything without it going right through me, and lower stomach pain, the Dr. had me on lomotil which I didn’t know it had a controlled compound in it. I got taking it 3 days ago and am still going through withdrawal, I am so mad at Dr. for not telling me about this med I have been on for 4 yrs. Now thank you for the food advice. I think this is going to make me feel so much better!

    • Hello, Conny. The side effects are to be expected seeing that you have been taking it for 4 years and have now suddenly stopped. With patience and perseverance, you should be able to slowly resume a normal diet and regain stomach health. For an upset stomach, dry, absorbent foods like toast, rice, pasta or plain crackers as well as soft foods like ripe bananas or soft boiled eggs can help. Just remember not to eat anything that makes you feel sick. Wishing you lots of health!

    • Thank you, Jean. Our purpose was to help anyone dealing with non-infectious diarrhea recover faster and experience as little side effects as possible.

    • You’re welcome, Yuklin. Eating these foods should treat non-infectious diarrhea in a couple of days. However, if the diarrhea is bacterial, then know that you will need antibiotics too. If the symptoms don’t improve in a few days or get progressively worse, please see your doctor. Wishing you lots of health!

    • Happy to help, Helen. And please remember that if the diarrhea gets worse after a couple of days on the diet, then it’s most likely infectious in nature in which case it requires medication from your doctor (an antiseptic or an antibiotic, depending on the cause). Wishing you lots of health.

  1. Thank you for this information. I have looked through the internet and out of everything I have read this is the best info.

    • Happy to have helped, Karen. And remember, if diarrhea doesn’t improve or gets worse after a couple of days, it is possible it is infectious, in which case you may need antibiotics. Wishing you lots of health!

  2. I have had diarrhea for three weeks. My Dr. gave me anti-diarrhea pills. They have helped, I have an appointment with my gi Dr. on March 5th. I’m tired of eating the BRAT diet. Can I eat something else?

    • Hi, Laverna. Well, it’s always best to listen to your doctor and continue whatever diet or medication he or she has recommended until further notice. But if you are feeling better, you could try to slowly introduce some more foods into your diet, while still keeping to the principles of the BRAT diet. For example, instead of applesauce, you can eat a couple of stewed apples with rice, like a sweet BRAT diet rice recipe. Instead of stewed apples, you can try a stewed pear or quince (they also have pectin to bind stools).
      Chicken is another nourishing option and quite easy on the stomach. You can start with slow cooked chicken legs, seasoned with salt. They are actually quite tasty.
      You can make a simple chicken soup from a couple of carrots, a couple of potatoes, half a celery (if you are not allergic) with different chicken parts (legs or wings or backs). Add one whole small onion in the pot to give flavor to the soup, but remove and discard it at the end. Add either white rice towards the end for some consistency or some plain noodles or even plain croutons. Season the soup with salt and it should be something alright to eat because it has rice or noodles to bind stools, chicken which is easy on the stomach, brings protein to your diet, a little fat and B vitamins as well as some vegetables to prevent constipation, but not too much to cause diarrhea.
      You can make a plain risotto from white rice, chicken legs or wings and two grated carrots. The stock from the chicken will bind nicely with the rice and give it a better flavor.
      Unless there aren’t any contraindications, you can try to eat two slices of toast with some fresh cottage cheese and a very ripe banana (with no green, just golden all over). See how you feel with each food and slowly build on this diet, incorporating more foods into your eating regimen.
      Try one food a day, in small amounts. Choose foods that stick to the diet principles to not overturn your progress.
      Hope this helps and wishing you lots of health.

  3. Thank you so much. Recovered from C. diff but now have ibs and must learn to eat right. Dr. says to eat everything except dairy. But I think croissants and chunky peanut butter gave me loose stools. Thank you.

    • I am happy you have recovered, GinGee. Clostridium difficile infection can be dangerous as it’s often difficult to treat, but I’m glad everything turned out fine. As for irritable bowel syndrome, your diet will be determined by the type of IBS. Some people have IBS with predominant diarrhea, others have IBS with constipation. So you really have to balance your diet, especially your fiber intake, according to symptoms. Indeed, avoiding dairy could help a lot because dairy in general is harder to digest, heavier on the stomach and can produce intolerance symptoms in a lot of people, which could worsen your IBS. But your are right when you say that croissants and chunky peanut butter might not be good for you either. I think that if you eat mostly home-made food and essentially food you prepare yourself from simple ingredients, no additives and stuff like that, you should see major improvements in symptoms. And, of course, balance your intake of fiber, fats, protein, carbohydrates so you enjoy soft, well-formed stools that are easy to pass. We will be writing several articles on irritable bowel syndrome and essentially the best and worst foods for it and other diet guidelines in the following weeks. Maybe you’ll find more useful information that could help you better manage the condition. Thank you and wishing you lots of health!

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