While the uncomfortable symptoms of diarrhea, including bloating, abdominal cramps, loose or watery stools1 and the frequent urge to have a bowel movement, are usually short-lived,2 what you consume plays a big role in speeding up your recovery from this illness.
Dietary Guidelines to Help Stop Diarrhea
Follow these tips on what you should eat and drink to prevent complications from diarrhea and help you recuperate faster:
• Drink plenty of fluids. When you have diarrhea, the biggest danger is dehydration, or the loss of fluids and essential electrolytes. To prevent this potentially serious condition, here are the top picks on what to drink when you have diarrhea:3,4
- Coconut water
- Mineral-rich bone broth
- Pure water
Conventional doctors usually recommend sports drinks to address dehydration, but these beverages typically contain harmful high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners that can worsen your diarrhea.
• Eat small, frequent meals. Eating heavy meals after diarrhea puts stress on your digestive system, making it hard for your recovering stomach to process foods properly.5
High protein foods, such as grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken, turkey and well-cooked eggs to help address fatigue.
Carbonated, alcoholic, artificially sweetened and caffeinated beverages, as they can irritate your digestive tract and speed up fluid and electrolyte loss.
Organic vegetables, but avoid those that can cause excess gas like beans, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
You can have soups made with cooked asparagus tips, carrots, celery, mushrooms, beets or a tomato puree.
Fatty, greasy and fried foods as these can aggravate your symptoms.
High-pectin foods such as applesauce, yogurt and bananas. Pectin is a water-soluble fiber that can help reduce diarrhea.
Foods with insoluble fiber, nuts, whole-grain breads and bran products, which are gastrointestinal tract stimulants.
Milk and milk products like butter, ice cream and cheese, which are hard to digest.
Even if you can usually tolerate dairy products, you may become temporarily sensitive to them when you have diarrhea.
Sorbitol and other artificial sweeteners, because these typically have a laxative effect.
Foods that are not safely prepared or stored.
Cook all foods to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill diarrhea-causing microbes like E. coli.
What to Eat After Diarrhea
Your priority once diarrhea stops should be to provide your body with nutrients that will help enhance recovery. You can do this by adding these beneficial foods to your diet:
Known for promoting digestive health, these help replenish good bacteria in your gut to restore optimal balance. The lactic acid in probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables, also helps kill bad bacteria in your gut.12,13
Dr. Allan Walker, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and investigator at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, advised that the use of probiotics can help treat contagious diarrhea in young children, particularly illness caused by rotavirus infection.14
• Bland Foods
Generally, eating plain, simple foods, specifically in the first 24 hours after experiencing bouts of diarrhea, is recommended. This includes boiled potatoes, toast, pretzels and baked chicken without skin or fat. “It is best to eat thicker, bland foods, including oatmeal, bananas, plain rice and applesauce,” says Dr. Peter Higgins, associate professor of gastroenterology in the department of internal medicine, University of Michigan Health System.15
If you have diarrhea, being careful with what you eat and drink can make you feel better faster, but bear in mind that once your condition has improved, it’s important to introduce regular foods gradually so that your digestive system doesn’t get overworked.