We know that diet and diarrhea are often linked. Some people suffer from occasional diarrhea, while for others, the condition is chronic. No matter what the cause, a diarrhea diet can affect the digestive system and your symptoms in a positive way.
Allergies or food poisoning are well-known causes of diarrhea. Chronic conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease are also associated with diarrhea. When someone is experiencing diarrhea, there are foods that can be consumed to help get the digestive system back on track. At the same time, there are certain foods that a person with diarrhea should avoid. Having a proper diet for diarrhea can improve quality of life for many sufferers.
What Foods to Eat When You Have Diarrhea?
If occasional bouts of diarrhea sound familiar, or if you have ongoing episodes of diarrhea, you should seriously consider the best diet for diarrhea. While some people fear this type of diet is too restrictive and boring, the reality is that there are many different foods to eat for diarrhea that can be healthy, nutritious, and delicious.
The following list outlines some of the foods that can be included in a diet for diarrhea:
- Bananas: The banana is easy to digest and can help settle down an upset digestive system. Bananas are high in potassium, which helps replace electrolytes that are lost through severe episodes of diarrhea. They also contain a soluble fiber (pectin) that helps absorb liquid in the intestines. This slows down diarrhea.
- Plain white rice: White rice is binding, so it can help firm up loose stools. Eating the rice plain or cooked in chicken broth is fine, but spicy, fatty, oily, or dairy sauces can aggravate diarrhea.
- White bread: It’s true that we are encouraged to consume whole grain bread, but people who suffer from diarrhea tend to do better with white bread since it has less fiber. It’s important to go easy on butter, margarine, honey, and jam. Apply the same rule to pasta by avoiding sauces that are spicy, oily, or milk-based. It’s also advisable to avoid sugar-free products that have sugar alcohols in them.
- Potatoes: These are high in potassium and considered “comfort food” to many people. When you have diarrhea, you should avoid the skins of potatoes. Adding a bit of salt to your potatoes is fine, but avoid sauces, butters, sour cream, or gravy.
- White chicken: Steamed white chicken is easy to digest. While this can be bland, some people find that baking it or broiling it with chicken broth adds ample flavour. Lean cuts of turkey, beef, and pork can also be consumed.
- Yogurt: While people with diarrhea are urged to avoid most dairy products, yogurt contains live bacterial cultures that promote a healthy digestive system. The best brands are those that are not high in sugar and don’t contain artificial sweeteners.
- Chicken soup: Always thought to be a go-to meal for illness, sipping soup can be good for diarrhea because it contains nutrients and electrolytes that can be lost with repeated trips to the washroom. Because the broth is warm, it can provide added comfort to a sore or cramped stomach.
- Oatmeal: This popular breakfast food has soluble fiber in it and is often recommended as a good bulking agent for stools. Adding a banana to the oatmeal can help sweeten it, as you should avoid adding honey, sugar, or dairy products. Other hot cereals, such as cream of wheat and rice porridge, are also suggested for bouts of diarrhea.
- Pancakes: If you have diarrhea, you can try eating pancakes or waffles made from white flour or try cornbread.
- Vegetables: It’s important to include vegetables in your diet, but with diarrhea, the best approach is to peel them, remove seeds, and cook them. Carrots, green beans, beets, and zucchini are good options.
- Pretzels: Since diarrhea leads to the loss of electrolytes, you can replace those salts with pretzels made of white flour that are baked. Unseasoned crackers are another snack that can help people who suffer from diarrhea.
- Desserts: Fruit-flavored gelatin, fruit-flavored ice pops, as well as cakes, cookies, or sherbert can be enjoyed as desserts when you’re on a diet for diarrhea.
People who’re really struggling with severe diarrhea are often advised to use electrolyte replacement drinks. Gatorade is an example of a drink full of electrolytes.
Foods to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea
Now that you have a sense of what to include in a diarrhea diet, let’s look at foods to avoid for diarrhea. Some of the following food items may seem like obvious digestive agitators while others may come as a surprise to you.
- Spicy foods: These food items pose the risk of making diarrhea worse. Dishes with chili or curry in them should be avoided.
- Fried foods: Fats and oils in fried food can be hard on those who have a sensitive digestive system.
- Sugary foods or artificial sweeteners: Sugars can affect sensitive bacteria in the gut. Fruit juices and high-sugar fruits are examples of sugary foods to avoid. A study published in a 2017 issue of Healthcare indicated that large amounts of fructose could be hard on our digestive system and lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Some artificial sweeteners have a laxative effect, so they should be avoided too.
- High fiber: There is such a thing as too much fiber. Discuss how much fiber you require with your doctor or a qualified dietician. While fiber is important when you have diarrhea, too much can actually make symptoms worse. Fibers found in whole grains, such as bread, baked good, cereals, as well as nuts and seeds can cause problems. Soluble fiber found in apples and bananas can be helpful to those suffering from diarrhea.
- Milk, butter, ice cream, and cheese: Even when diarrhea is not caused by lactose intolerance, it can be difficult to process, so avoiding it if you suffer from diarrhea is recommended. Again, the exception is that yogurt should be consumed since the probiotics in it can help rebalance intestinal flora.
- Gluten: Some people find that gluten aggravates their stomach. There are many documented cases of diarrhea associated with the consumption of gluten. People with celiac disease may or may not have frequent diarrhea if they eat gluten.
Other foods including onion, garlic, processed foods, raw vegetables, certain foods that cause gas (cabbage and broccoli), citrus fruits, and fatty meats can aggravate diarrhea. Additionally, caffeine in drinks, such as coffee, tea, and soda can make digestive problems worse. You should avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol when fighting diarrhea.
While it should go without saying, foods that may be spoiled should be avoided. When you’re in doubt, it’s better to be cautious and throw the food item out.
Diet Plan for Diarrhea: Sample Menu
Having to suddenly adjust your diet can seem like a daunting task, but once you decide to make the change, it becomes routine. Below is a sample menu you can refer to as an example of a typical diet plan for diarrhea.
Breakfast: Six ounces of no-pulp orange juice, one cup of Rice Krispies (cereal), one cup of two percent milk, one medium banana, and one cup of decaf coffee.
Lunch: One cup of chicken rice soup, three ounces sliced turkey breast, two slices of white bread, one-teaspoon mayonnaise.
Dinner: Four ounces salmon, a half of a cup of white rice, a half of a cup of asparagus, one dinner roll, one-teaspoon of butter, and a half of a cup of fruit sorbet.
Snack: One cup of vanilla yogurt or one slice of white bread toasted with one-tablespoon peanut butter and one teaspoon of jelly.
There are many cases of diarrhea that don’t last long and respond well to home treatments, such as a diarrhea diet. There are situations though that are caused by infections or parasites and need to be treated with antibiotics.
If you experience diarrhea for more than two days and aren’t seeing any improvement or if you’re getting dehydrated, have severe abdominal pain, or a fever, see a doctor as soon as possible.
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