To get rid of diarrhea , you need to choose carefully what you eat and what you don't eat. However, no one can live indefinitely on the BRAT diet . Whether you are experiencing an episode of gastroenteritis or diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) , you will need to expand your diet at some point to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
While the BRAT diet of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast has long been considered an effective home remedy for diarrhea, recent research suggests that it may not work for everyone, especially children .
Additionally, restricting the diet to these four foods can deprive a person of much-needed energy, fat, protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and calcium.
After experiencing acute symptoms of diarrhea, many people will advise you to avoid fiber, as it can contribute to the formation of watery stools. But this is not necessarily the case. It depends a lot on the type of fiber you consume:
- Soluble fiber is soluble in water and is easily fermented in the colon. These types of fiber can be prebiotic , adding beneficial bacteria to the stomach, slowing the rate at which stool passes and leaves the body.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in the body, but absorbs water as it passes through the digestive tract to soften and release stool.
As such, you will need to focus on soluble fiber foods to help rebuild your gut flora and achieve harder bowel movements .
Some gastroenterologists also recommend a low-FODMAP diet for people with IBS. The diet includes restricting certain carbohydrate-containing foods described by the acronym FODMAPs (fermentable oligo, di, monosaccharides and polyols).
Unlike the BRAT diet, the FODMAP diet can be maintained for the long term, ideally under the supervision of a dietitian to ensure adequate nutrition.
While bananas, applesauce, and toast may all fit into your diet, you'll also want to add some protein and probiotic foods (like yogurt).
Safe breakfast foods include:
- Crispy rice porridge
- Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs with a minimal amount of butter or vegetable oil.
- Porridge, semolina, farina or rice
- Low-fat plain yogurt with live bacterial culture
- Pancakes or waffles without syrup (make sure the product or mixture does not contain fully or even partially hydrogenated oils)
- Unflavored rice cakes
For now, you can skip anything other than a small serving of flaked skim milk. With the exception of yogurt, dairy products are more likely to contribute to diarrhea symptoms than to eliminate them. Also, with the exception of bananas, avoid fruits. This includes fresh apples.
Food for lunch and dinner.
Lunch and dinner will focus on increasing your protein intake, avoiding excessive fat intake, and adding certain carbohydrates to help eliminate watery stools.
Safe feeding options include:
- Canned tuna in water (not oil)
- Small portion of lean chicken, turkey, or pork
- Chicken soup
- Salty pretzels
- Simple pasta or noodles
- Low-fat meat sandwich for lunch (avoid whole wheat bread)
- Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash
- A small serving of carrots, green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus, or peeled zucchini.
- Vegetable soup with the ingredients listed above.
While white rice is beneficial for treating diarrhea, avoid barley, brown rice, Bulgarian rice, millet, or similar whole grains that can make diarrhea worse.
Diarrhea causes rapid depletion of water and electrolytes from the system. To compensate for this, you will need to constantly replace fluids, even if it is difficult for you to retain them .
If you have loose stools, drink at least 1 glass of liquid right afterwards. Although water is better, some people will opt for sugar-free sports drinks to replenish lost electrolytes. After that, when your stomach gets stronger, you will need to increase your intake to 8-10 glasses of clear liquid (ideally water) per day.
Although herbal teas do not contain caffeine, they are great for calming the stomach, so avoid caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, or soda. Also, while soda can help relieve nausea, avoid soda or sugary drinks, which can make diarrhea worse.
Frequently asked questions
A good rule of thumb when scheduling your first meal after diarrhea is to wait until you have normal (loose, formed) stools. After that, you can go back to your normal diet.
Eat relatively bland foods at first, but be sure to eat a balanced diet – don't avoid foods that are important in providing essential nutrients. Good options are baked or grilled meat, poultry, and fish; eggs; bake with refined flour (so as not to overdo it with fiber ); and cooked vegetables such as beets, asparagus, zucchini and potatoes that do not cause gas . You may be a bit dehydrated, so drink lots of water.
At first, after severe diarrhea, avoid fried foods; fruits and vegetables that can cause gas (such as prunes and broccoli); and alcohol, caffeine, and sodas. Also, limit your intake of dairy products. You can resume using these foods as soon as you have a normal bowel movement .
If you feel like your stomach can handle food during diarrhea, try something salty, like crackers or soup, or foods high in potassium, like bananas or skinless potatoes. This will help prevent electrolyte imbalances. Drink lots of clear liquids, especially after you have a bowel movement. You can also ask your doctor how to take sports drinks or fiber supplements.