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If you found this article because you were frantically searching for what to eat to relieve a bout of diarrhea—first off, we’re sorry for your current condition!
Whether it was caused by food poisoning, drinking contaminated water, food intolerances, the stomach flu, or digestive disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diarrhea is no fun for anyone.
Although sometimes the last thing you want to do when you have diarrhea is to eat more (no sense in adding fuel to the fire, right?), certain foods can help to settle your digestive system and slow things down.
Conversely, there are many more foods to avoid in this situation, as they can make diarrhea worse or prolong your symptoms.
Let’s take a look at the foods to eat when you have diarrhea, which to avoid, and supplements for diarrhea so you can go back to living your life without maintaining the knowledge of every closest bathroom.
What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea
The first four foods on this list (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) make up the classic “diarrhea nutrition plan” called the BRAT diet.
Despite many families still adhering to this pattern of eating when diarrhea strikes, we should note that organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer use or recommend the use of the phrase “BRAT diet.”
While the four foods that make up BRAT are still on the right track when it comes to resolving diarrhea, doctors and pediatricians advise starting with those but adding in other bland foods as soon as tolerated to increase the nutritional value of your diet.
While you won’t want to be on the BRAT diet long-term—it’s devoid of protein, healthy fats, and many critical nutrients—eating these bland foods for a day or so can help relieve diarrhea symptoms when they’re at their worst.
Whether you’re 4 or 40, one of the best foods to eat when you have diarrhea are bananas.
Bananas contain moderate amounts of fiber (about 3g per banana), most of which is soluble fiber—a type that is beneficial for diarrhea because it “soaks up” fluid in your intestines (gross, but true) to tighten up loose stools.
However, you don’t want to overdo it on fiber when you have diarrhea—too much and you may make your diarrhea worse—which is why high-fiber foods are not typically recommended to eat when you have diarrhea.
Additionally, you won’t want to eat foods high in insoluble fiber, which is better suited for treating constipation.
Bananas are also a great source of potassium—an electrolyte that is lost during bouts of diarrhea.
2. White Rice
White rice is a bland, fiber-less carbohydrate that helps bind to loose stool, doesn’t take much energy to digest and absorb, and won’t cause an increase in bowel movements.
You’ll want to ensure that you don’t eat brown rice, which is full of fiber that will promote the bowels to move along—an action we don’t want when we have diarrhea.
Like bananas, applesauce contains smaller amounts of dietary fiber that will help bind to loose stool without overwhelming the intestinal tract.
Applesauce also contains a compound called pectin—a type of soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic in your digestive system to benefit your gut microbes.
Be sure to purchase unsweetened applesauce, as excess sugary foods are not beneficial for people with diarrhea.
4. White Toast
Again, the goal is low-fiber, starchy, bland foods that can help bind to the loose stool in your intestines and slow digestion.
Toast made out of white bread—no whole wheat or rye here—is easy to digest and likely will not irritate your sensitive digestive system.
As mentioned, you won’t want to follow the BRAT diet for a long time—one to two days maximum before diversifying your diet with other foods on this list—as foods like white toast are generally not considered highly nutritious.
No matter the stomach ailment, saltines always seem to be the cracker of choice to soothe a troubled tummy.
Crackers like saltines or other bland, low-fiber options are easy on the stomach and typically contain salt, which can help restore some lost sodium from your bout of diarrhea.
Boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes can be helpful for diarrhea—as long as you don’t add loads of butter or sour cream on top.
Potatoes are rich in starchy carbohydrates that can bind to loose stool, and they contain that sweet spot of fiber that we’re looking for to reduce diarrhea symptoms—about 4g per potato.
Broth can be a great addition to your daily beverage count, as it contains water and lots of sodium to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
We especially love making the switch from regular broth to bone broth, which adds in protein and important nutrients like glycine and collagen that can reduce inflammation in the gut and benefit intestinal health.
8. Scrambled Eggs
If you’re eating starchy carbs all day, you’re going to want to balance it out with some protein that is easy to digest, like scrambled eggs.
However, scrambled eggs are at the “second stage” of diarrhea recovery—your gut probably won’t be up for digesting them on day one or two of having severe diarrhea.
When you’re beginning to see the end in sight, add two to three plain scrambled eggs per day.
9. Well-Cooked Vegetables
Similar to scrambled eggs, you can start adding in well-cooked veggies when you’re on the mend.
Vegetables like carrots, green beans, celery, and squash are good options—just be sure to cook them so well that they are almost mushy.
What Foods Should You Avoid When You Have Diarrhea?
What you don’t eat when you have diarrhea is just as important as what you do eat, as you don’t want to aggravate or prolong your symptoms—like these top foods and beverages to avoid:
- Fried Foods. Greasy, fried, and overly fatty foods are inflammatory and not beneficial for your digestive system to recover from diarrhea—plus, they just aren’t good for you, period.
- Spicy Foods. This one is a bit more individual, as some people who eat spicy foods consistently may not have an issue. However, if you always order your curry at a 0 out of 10 on the spicy scale, today is not the day to add extra cayenne and chilis to your meal.
- Most Dairy. Dairy products like butter, cheese, milk, and ice cream are not beneficial for people with diarrhea. Some types of dairy products in small amounts—like yogurt and kefir—may be better tolerated, and they have the added benefit of containing probiotics to speed up your digestive recovery. The exception is if you are lactose intolerant, in which case you should steer clear of all dairy products.
- Raw Cruciferous Vegetables and Beans. As anyone who has had a large serving of beans, broccoli, or cauliflower can attest, cruciferous veggies and legumes can sometimes make your digestive system do surprising things. While these foods are immensely beneficial to both gut and overall health, they may do more harm than good when your stomach is not at its best. Similarly, raw green leafy vegetables (like kale and spinach) can also make diarrhea symptoms worse.
- Prunes. Your mom was right when she gave you prunes to help with constipation—not only do dried plums have plenty of fiber that keeps your digestive tract moving along, but they also contain laxative-inducing sugar alcohols called sorbitol that you won’t want to eat when you have diarrhea.
- Alcohol. Diarrhea can be extremely dehydrating, and drinking alcohol is a surefire way to dehydrate yourself further. Plus, alcohol agitates the intestines and causes them to speed up digestion, which can make diarrhea worse.
- Coffee. You know if your digestive system responds to coffee if you run to the bathroom ten minutes after your first sip—so if you want to alleviate diarrhea, lay off the java (and other caffeinated beverages) for now.
- Soda, Carbonated Drinks, Sports Drinks, and Fruit Juice. You’ll want to avoid high-sugar drinks that contain lots of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup—like fruit juice, sports drinks, and soda—as excess amounts of this sugar can be poorly absorbed in the gut and cause diarrhea. Carbonated drinks can also worsen diarrhea, especially in people with a sensitive digestive system. The one exception is diluted fruit juice, which can help replenish lost fluids with minimal sugar.
- Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols. Non-caloric sweeteners, especially aspartame, sucralose, maltitol, and sorbitol—the same sugar alcohol naturally found in prunes—are thought to cause digestive symptoms like diarrhea due to not being digested properly.
Natural Treatments for Diarrhea
Some of the top natural herbal or supplemental treatments for diarrhea include:
- BRAT Diet: The BRAT diet stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Although, it’s a tried-and-true dietary formula for stopping diarrhea in kids and adults alike, organizations like the American Academy of Pedatrics don’t recommend using this terminology anymore. While bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast can be helpful diarrhea remedies, they are too devoid of nutrition to consume for more than a day or so..
- Probiotics. Research shows that supplemental probiotics can speed up diarrhea recovery by about one day compared to people who don’t take them—while it doesn’t sound like a lot, anyone who’s had bad diarrhea knows that 24 hours spent glued to the bathroom can seem like a week. Check out some of our favorite probiotics here, including a top favorite for digestive issues like chronic diarrhea—Ancient Nutrition SBO Probiotics Gut Restore. Probiotics are also great for people with irritable bowel syndrome or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) to take regularly to boost their gut microbiome and lessen the chances of diarrhea in the future.
- Electrolytes. Diarrhea leads to lost fluids—and with those fluids goes essential electrolytes. Skip the sports drinks and replenish lost electrolytes with powders like Liquid IV and Uppermost.
- Boiron Diaralia: Boiron is a homeopathic medicine brand with an impressive lineup of herbal remedies, including Boiron Diaralia—oral tablets that melt in your mouth and relieve diarrhea without causing constipation.
- Chamomile Tea. Chamomile is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, which lend themselves well to relieving diarrhea. While we don’t have research on the topic, many people anecdotally report that drinking chamomile tea helps to reduce diarrhea symptoms.
- Raspberry Leaf Tea. Tea from steeped raspberry leaves is high in tannins that have an astringent quality, potentially helping with diarrhea—however, others claim it causes a laxative effect. It’s also important to know that you should not drink raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy because it may induce early labor.
- Ginger Tea. Ginger is known for being anti-inflammatory and beneficial for digestion—and diarrhea is no exception. You can buy ginger tea or make it yourself by adding fresh sliced ginger root to boiling water.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is found naturally in apples, onions, and other foods, but supplemental forms of it work best to relieve diarrhea. Research shows that quercetin supplementation reduces diarrhea symptoms and intestinal damage in animal studies.
What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea FAQs
Are Eggs Good for Diarrhea?
Scrambled eggs can be beneficial for diarrhea, but typically not when it’s at its worst. Try eating scrambled eggs after you eat bland foods for a day or two.
What Can I Put On My Toast When I Have Diarrhea?
Unfortunately, not much. Most typical toast toppings like jam or butter can further aggravate diarrhea symptoms. Many people add mashed bananas on top of toast, as bananas are one of the best foods to eat when you have persistent diarrhea.
How Can I Get My Stool to Harden?
Eating starchy carbohydrates that have moderate amounts of soluble fiber can help your stool to harden. These include bananas, plain cooked potatoes, white bread, white rice, and plain crackers.
What Foods Should You Avoid With Diarrhea?
Certain foods should be avoided when you have diarrhea, including:
• Fried foods
• Spicy foods
• Dairy products like butter, cheese, milk, and ice cream
• Raw cruciferous vegetables
• Fruit juice
• Artificial sweeteners
• Sugar alcohols