Got Diarrhea? – What to Eat & What to Avoid
Diarrhea... no one wants to deal with it, but everyone gets it at some point or another. It is estimated that in America everyone gets about one bout of diarrhea per year.
Cancel your plans, prepare the toilet, and lace up your running shoes... because you will be running to the bathroom frequently.
Well, that is how it usually goes. But there are some ways to avoid this, and that is what this post is all about.
Let's start out with a list of some good foods you can eat to help you get rid of diarrhea--so that you can put an end to it if you are experiencing it currently, or be prepared before it happens again.
What to Eat
The BRAT diet has been around since the early 1900's and use to be commonly recommended for those with diarrhea, especially by pediatricians for children.
This diet consists of:
While this diet isn't recommended all that much anymore due to it being overly-restrictive, these foods are still good choices that you should consider.
High Fiber vs Low Fiber
Generally speaking, if you are constipated and want to encourage a BM you should eat foods high in fiber, and vice versa if you have diarrhea.
Soluble fibers like pectin would still be good to consume, because of how they absorb excess water and can help firm-up loose stool, but it is usually more insoluble fiber that you get from high-fiber foods... which is why it's best to try to avoid foods high in fiber altogether.
The BRAT foods are all low in fiber.
Both bananas and applesauce provide pectin (the good, soluble fiber) to help firm loose stool and little insoluble fiber. However, this would be different if you were eating whole apples with the skin, which is where much of the insoluble fiber is located.
Easy on The Stomach
Another name for the BRAT Diet is actually the Bland Diet, due to how bland it is of course.
Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast... these are all mild foods and are easy on the stomach.
While the BRAT diet might not be recommended anymore due to being too restrictive, it is still a good and simple diet to follow when in need. What you might want to do, however, is take some multivitamins along with this diet because of how basic it is.
Some other bland foods that could also be put on the list, but I assume are excluded to help keep things as short and simple as possible, are:
- Boiled potatoes
- and cream of wheat
Probiotics Can Be a Good Addition Too
A healthy gut microbiota is essential for good digestion and proper bowel movements. And if you don't already know, probiotics are 'good' bacteria that is beneficial to our guts and help out in the digestive process.
Taking probiotics when you have diarrhea or at anytime can be of benefit. However, most probiotics are sold in milk or yogurt drinks, which might not be the best choice because of how diary is a common cause of diarrhea.
Our suggestion would be to eat vegan sources of probiotics like sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, water kefir, etc.
What to Avoid
Hot peppers, horse radish, ginger... these are foods you are going to want to avoid for the time being. They may further irritate your digestive system and exacerbate the problem.
If you are lactose intolerant this means that your body can't properly process lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. This condition commonly causes upset stomach and diarrhea.
However, even if you don't suffer from this problem it might be a good idea to avoid dairy if you have diarrhea.
Lots of Fiber
As mentioned, lots of fiber is something you want if you are constipated, but generally not if you have diarrhea.
You may want to avoid foods like oat-bran, broccoli and other dark-green vegetables, eating fruits with the skin, seeds and nuts... all of which are high in fiber.
High Amounts or Sugar
High amounts of sugar is something you are also going to want to avoid, so this means putting the candy out of sight.
Sugar alcohols aren't very easy for your body to digest. Because of this they are fermented by bacteria, and during this process gas is released. This then can lead to cramps, stomach pain, and of course... diarrhea.
This commonly happens to people who have fructose intolerance and eat too much fruit (fructose is a natural sugar in fruit), which is the reason grapes, watermelon, etc. will give some people diarrhea.
Don't order any Big Macs or Whoopers. These types of foods are better off being avoided... and not just when you have diarrhea, but at any time.
Not only are the artificial preservatives and flavors that some fast-food has not good for healthy digestion, but also the high fat content can lead to diarrhea, or worsen it if you have the problem already.
Stay away from foods that are overly-sweet in general, whether it be from real sugar or from artificial sweeteners.
The body isn't used to artificial ingredients and this leads to improper digestion, which can cause diarrhea. This is the reason so many people complain about getting diarrhea from eating sugar-free gummy bears, as an example.
Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, have also been shown to kill good gut bacteria, which as mentioned is important for proper digestion.
'One-Size-Fits-All' Doesn't Exist
One thing to be aware of is that there is no blanket approach to getting rid of diarrhea. One-size-fits-all doesn't exist.
There are many different causes of diarrhea and everyone's body reacts differently to different foods.
While one person may be able to eat spicy Mexican dishes all day long, someone else may lose 5 lbs running to the bathroom over and over again after eating a mildly spiced taco.
That said, the foods that are recommended above are, generally speaking, what you should eat and avoid if you have diarrhea.
Resume Normal Eating
Of course no one wants to eat bland food forever, and it also isn't all that healthy to do such.
As soon as you can you should resume normal eating... unless your "normal" eating consists of a poorly well-balanced diet.
The reason the BRAT diet isn't often recommended to children anymore is because of it not being very well-rounded. It only consists of 4 foods and isn't healthy long-term... although it is still a simple and effective way to get over diarrhea.
A well balanced diet is important for overall health and proper digestion.
Note: If you experience abnormally frequent diarrhea and have already taken the advice given here, it is wise to seek advice from a trained professional. You may have an underlying and potentially serious condition that is to blame.