If you have a case of diarrhea then you might be inclined to stop eating, thinking that this will solve the problem. However, it is important that you still eat because you need to keep up your energy levels and replenish the nutrients you have lost.
But what should you be eating? What are foods that help with diarrhea?
There is no doubt that some foods are better than others. Some will further irritate your stomach and exasperate the problem, while others will digest easily and provide much-needed nutrients… Which is what we will be going over here today.
What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is something that nobody wants to have to deal with, yet everyone has probably had at some point. It can come on like a freight train and destroy a day or two of your life, leading to frequent and erratic bathroom trips that get in the way of your plans.
The common characteristics include loose and watery stool, stomach pain and cramps, bloating etc.… And if it is really serious then you may even see blood in your stool, which may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition that you should get evaluated by a doctor.
Things to consider..
When picking foods to eat during a case of diarrhea you want to consider things like…
- Sugar content
- Vitamins for immunity
- Mineral deficiencies
Fiber it is great and all, and is necessary for healthy digestion, but when it comes to diarrhea you want to avoid getting too much… generally speaking of course. You also want to avoid eating things that are high in sugar, in particular fructose which is well known to be a bit of a problem during digestion.
On the flipside you want to make sure you are still getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to restore your body back to good health.
Note: Much of the nutrition facts in this list come from trusted sources like the USDA and Self Nutrition Data.
Foods Low in Fiber
Not all fiber is a bad choice during a time of diarrhea, but generally speaking it is best to avoid it and eat foods that don't contain too much. These include things like…
1. White bread - Bread... invented in Egypt around 10,000 years ago, is always a good choice and very versatile. You can do a lot with it or even eat it plain as can be, toasting it with some butter. White bread in particular is one of the better options because it is very lower in fiber, making it easy on the stomach. One large slice only has about 0.8g of fiber in it.
2. White rice - Rice is another excellent choice for low-fiber eating. In an entire cup of cooked long grain white rice you are only going to get about 0.6g of fiber. White rice is a better option when experiencing the runs than brown rice because it is much more plain. It has the bran and germ removed, which is good because it decreases the fiber content... but on the downside it isn't as nutritious.
3. Pasta - In particular, white pasta is what you should be looking for. A cup of your average spaghetti cooked can be a nice filling meal and only has about 2g fiber. You might want to avoid adding cheese to your meal however, unless you are certain it won't upset your stomach further.
4. Pancakes - There is some controversy surrounding the invention of pancakes, but it was probably around the 1st century by the Romans. I guess that doesn't matter much though... they are here now and they are a delicious low-fiber breakfast food. The USDA lists 3 Kellogg's Eggo Buttermilk pancakes as having 1.2g of fiber. The softness of such also helps make digestion smooth and simple.
5. Waffles - Waffles could be substituted in for pancakes if you aren't too big of a fan. The batter used here is pretty much the same, so take your pick.
6. Cream of wheat - This breakfast choice is made from refined farina. It makes a good alternative to oatmeal, which is higher in fiber and not as great of a choice. Being creamy, healthy and low in fiber... it's yet another good go-to when diarrhea comes your way.
7. Eggs - If you are looking for a good source of protein, low in fiber and easy on the stomach, then there isn't much better a choice than eggs. And when we say low fiber, we really mean no fiber. Eggs have zero fiber and provide you with some good vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to fight off diseases.
Vitamins for a Strong Immune System
There our 1001 different causes of diarrhea. Your diarrhea could have stemmed from something you ate that contained a ridiculous amount of fiber, or maybe it could be from some sort of bacterial infection which would mean the immune system needs to kick into action and do its job.
For a healthy immune system there are lots of vitamins you need, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A being some of the most important.
Foods high in vitamin C...
We all know that oranges and some of the other citrus fruits are extremely good sources of vitamin C. However, they will not be listed here due to their acidity, which can increase stomach irritation and just lead to more diarrhea in some cases. The same goes for tomatoes.
8. Red Peppers - Normally peppers wouldn't be that great of a choice for helping with diarrhea, but red peppers are very mild so they are okay. A half cup of sweet raw red peppers has about 95mg of vitamin C, which already hits the RDA for both men and women.
9. Green Peppers - Green peppers aren't quite as good of a choice as the red, but nonetheless still provide good amounts, with 1/2 cup of raw pepper having about 60mg.
10. Potatoes - You probably don't think of potatoes when it comes to vitamin C, but they do provide a good amount, with a medium sized one giving you about 42mg. This is around half of the recommended amount, which according to the National Institues of Health is 90mg for men per day and 75mg for women per day. Potatoes could have also made the low fiber foods list above.. making them something you should consider adding to your diarrhea diet.
11. Wheat germ oil - This isn't the most common oil you will see at the store, but it is still something that makes the list because of its incredible vitamin E content, at 20mg in just one tablespoon. And besides that it has lots of other antioxidants as well as fatty acids. If you do buy this oil try to mix it in with salad dressings and sauces, on sandwiches, etc. This isn't something you really want to use as a frying oil, which would really decrease its nutrient value anyhow.
12. Sunflower seeds - These can be a tasty addition to just about any salad or a good snack for throughout the day. Most seeds/nuts have high amounts of vitamin E, and sunflower seeds are at the top of the list. One ounce, which is about 1/5 of a cup, will give you 10.2mg (in the form of Alpha Tocopherol) which is about half of the daily value needed.
13. Carrots - Carrots are high in beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. One medium-sized serving of those tasty little baby carrots gives you around 28% of the RDA for vitamin A, or about 1379ui. Adding them to a salad every now and again or just snacking on them throughout the day can be beneficial for a number of things, including diarrhea.
14. Spinach - While spinach might not give you massive forearms like Pop-Eye, which you might not want anyhow, it is packed with a lot of good nutrients, offering much more than just vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamin K, B2, B6, B1, and minerals like iron, copper, magnesium and folate. Overall it is a great choice for overall health and can be of benefit when it comes to diarrhea. As far as vitamin A content goes, according to Self Nutrition Data one cup of raw spinach will give you 2813iu, which is about 56% of the RDA. You might not want to go crazy with this however because it does contain a fair amount of fiber.
15. Mustard greens - Mustard greens contain a decent amount of vitamin E and vitamin C, but they really shine when you look at their vitamin A content. Self Nutrition Data lists one cup cooked as having 8853iu, which is about 177% of the daily value you need. It's also worth mentioning that this has extremely high amounts of vitamin K.
16. Sweet potatoes - These are very high in beta carotene, which is a precursor for vitamin A. Along with this they provide a healthy source of carbs and even some protein. That said, they are a bit high in fiber so you may not want to eat too much.
Minerals are Important Too
Make sure to get enough zinc...
Having a deficiency in zinc can lead to diarrhea, loss of hair, a weakened immune system, and a number of other downsides. Good sources of this mineral are…
17. Beef - Red meats in general are good sources of zinc, beef being one of them. In a 100g patty of ground beef you are already getting about 4.8mg of zinc. This is close to half of the RDA for men and more so for women. There also is zero fiber here as well as those that follow..
18. Lamb - Another red meat, lamb is also a good choice. So if you like gyros you are in luck.
19. Pork - While not as great as ground beef, pork is still supplies a fair amount at 2.39mg per 100g.
Getting enough potassium is something else that you should consider. When you have diarrhea and are losing a lot of fluids, high amounts of potassium are lost. This makes it important to replenish so that you do not become deficient. Some good foods to eat for this purpose include…
20. Bananas - Thought to have originated somewhere in southeast Asia, they are super easy to chew, very smooth, and well known for their potassium. A medium sized one will fetch you about 422mg or about 12% of what you should be getting daily. They also give you a good amount of vitamin C but you may not want to eat too much due to the high fructose levels, which may upset your stomach.
21. Beets - I don't know many people that are big fans of beets, but if you are then lucky you. These deep purple vegetables can give around 305mg per 100g when cooked.
Others - Sweet potatoes, avocados and spinach are also good sources but they already made the list so we will not be repeating them here.
Try Eating Foods that Go Down Easily
There is a diet out there called the BRAT diet, which stands for Bananas, Rice, Apples, and Toast. It is all about eating soft and bland foods when dealing with diarrhea. It's a pretty basic diet but the foods recommended are good choices.
Bananas - Already made the list. Good source of many vitamins/minerals and go down very easy.
Rice - Already made the list. Bland, low in fiber, versatile... a pretty good option.
22. Applesauce - Apples aren't our favorite choice, but we get it. They provide a fair amount of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and potassium. We listed applesauce here instead of just apples because it goes down easier and much of the fiber is in the skin. They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but not the dentist. We would suggest you don't overdue it with them because of the high sugar amount.
Toast - White bread (already listed) that is toasted is going to give you the littlest amount of fiber as already discussed. Throw a bit of butter on it and enjoy!
What to Avoid
- High sugar content
- High acidity
- Dairy products
- Processed foods
The Easiest Way to Avoid Diarrhea
Diarrhea is probably easier to avoid in the first place than to get rid of once you already have it. The easiest way to do so is simply to eat a well-balanced diet that seems healthy… Generally speaking you want to have lots of colors in your meals and avoid things that are overly spicy, sugary or acidic.
This way you get adequate amounts of nutrients and minerals, good fiber to aid in digestion, and you are eating foods that aren't going to be too irritable. Doing this can keep the immune system strong and digestion running smoothly.
Controversy On What You Should Be Eating
If you've done a fair amount of research on foods that you should be eating when experiencing diarrhea, then you have probably come across contradicting information… Such as some sources telling you to eat this food and that food, while others tell you to avoid such.
One of the big problems here is the simple fact that everyone's body is different and may respond differently to different foods. One person's body may have a problem with the amount of fiber provided in one food while another person's may respond as if it is not getting enough.
If you know something on the list above is going to cause you a diarrhea, or worsen it, it goes without saying that you shouldn't eat it.