People with diarrhea should eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals—clear liquids and plain foods that are easy to digest. Diarrhea, or loose watery stools, may be caused by stomach flu, food poisoning, radiation, chemotherapy, other medications, and infections. The following diet tips may help control diarrhea.
- People with diarrhea should include binding foods such as bananas, plain white rice, applesauce, and white toast while they have active episodes of loose stools.
- Drink plenty of water or low-sugar beverages to replace the fluids lost from diarrhea.
- Drink plenty of clear liquids and electrolyte beverages such as water, clear fruit juices, coconut water, oral rehydration solutions, and sports drinks. These drinks help replenish fluids and electrolytes in the body.
- Add plain yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir to your diet.
- Eat foods high in potassium and sodium to replace the minerals lost from diarrhea.
- High-potassium foods include apricots, avocado, bananas, canned tomatoes, oranges, pears, potatoes and sweet potatoes (especially baked), and tomato juice.
- High-sodium foods include broth or bouillon, canned soup, salty snacks (chips, crackers, pretzels), seasoned rice, and pasta packets.
- Applesauce is an awesome aid to get your stomach back in working order. It's easy to digest, but still delivers important nutrients such as pectin (a type of fiber) and potassium, a mineral that functions as an electrolyte to help keep fluid levels balanced.
- Cooking vegetables such as carrots or spinach makes them easier to digest and they're perfect in egg scrambles or broth-based soups. Eggs are an easier-to-digest alternative and an easy way to meet your protein needs without getting too full, too fast.
- Adding whole grains can both soothe stomach ailments and prevent any future intestinal issues. Soluble fiber from oats draws water into your digestive tract and moves food through your body.
- Try some ginger tea bags or simply grate fresh ginger into some hot water with lemon and sip it. Ginger is anti-spasmodic and is considered very good for soothing an unsettled stomach.
- Chicken soup is also a classic choice when people are ill. The chicken component is lean meat (alternatives can also include turkey, white fish, or oven-boiled eggs) that allows you to benefit from some protein and not too much fat that could risk bogging down your system. Protein is required for repair and recovery processes around the body—just what you need after fighting off an infection.
What type of food and drinks should be avoided during diarrhea?
People with diarrhea may be on a clear liquid diet for a day until the body recovers. Below are a few foods and drinks that should be especially avoided during diarrhea.
- High fiber, whole-grain foods (bran, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain crackers, and brown rice)
- Raw fruits with skin, juices with pulp, prune juice, apple juice, and canned fruit in heavy sugary syrup
- Raw vegetables and vegetables with skins and seeds
- Gas-forming vegetables (corn, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, and peas)
- Full-fat dairy products (whole milk, cream, sour cream, ice cream, and cheese)
- Spicy and high-fat meats (fried meats or fried fish, bologna, salami, bacon, and hot dogs) nuts, seeds, and chunky nut butter
- Caffeinated or sugary drinks (coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, alcohol, and drinks that contain sugar alcohols such as xylitol or sorbitol)
- Fried, greasy foods, sweets, and desserts
- Spicy foods (pepper, strong spices, and hot sauce)
- Foods and drinks made with sugar alcohols (Sugar alcohols include xylitol and sorbitol. They are found in many sugar-free products such as candies, gums, and snack bars. Read ingredient lists to look for sugar alcohols.)
Why does diarrhea develop?
In practical terms, diarrhea develops when there is a larger-than-normal amount of water in the stool. When your digestive tract is healthy, processed food from the stomach and small intestines proceeds to the colon. In the colon, water is absorbed from the remaining waste matter until a solid stool is formed. However, if excess water is absorbed or if the processed food moves through the gastrointestinal tract too quickly, the stool won’t be solid and it will be passed in a loose or watery form.
There are various possible reasons why the colon might not be absorbing enough water or why the digested food is moving too quickly through the intestines, but here are some of the most common causes.
- Ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by bacteria and bacterial toxins
- Ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by parasites
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects the gastrointestinal tract
- Viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, or the flu
- Sensitivities or intolerances to certain types of foods; a classic example is lactose intolerance
- Some medicines including cancer drugs, antibiotics, or magnesium-containing antacids
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How to stop diarrhea fast at home
Diarrhea is generally a self-limiting illness and specific treatment is not generally necessary. Treatments are generally directed to prevent it from worsening and restore the fluid and electrolyte (like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) losses from the body.
Following home remedies may help in resolving mild diarrhea.
1. Hydrate yourself well
Loss of water and electrolytes from the body results in dehydration. If not treated appropriately, dehydration can become serious, especially in children. If a breastfed baby develops diarrhea, breastfeeding must be continued, and the doctor’s opinion must be sought.
Rehydration is the key to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea. Drink plenty of water, clear juices, and clear broths. If there is mild diarrhea, you can even drink electrolyte-rich sports drinks, such as Gatorade.? Avoid electrolyte drinks if you have large-volume watery stools. Make sure you pass clear urine at least three to four times a day despite diarrhea.
Pediatric rehydration drinks (Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or Gastrolyte) should be initiated in children and babies with diarrhea.
You can prepare a rehydration drink at home by just mixing simple kitchen items, such as salt, sugar, and water. The rule of thumb is mixing a pinch of table salt, a fist of sugar and in a liter of boiled and cooled water. This is to be sipped every 20 minutes. Oral rehydration formulations are also readily available at the drugstores. You just have to prepare the mixture in water proportionately as instructed on its label.
2. Use probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are available in foods, such as yogurt and kefir, as well as in supplement form. Their role is to replenish the loss of beneficial gut bacteria that are lost during diarrheal episodes. The beneficial gut bacteria help in keeping the digestive system healthy by maintaining the normal functioning of the bowels. Intake of probiotics might help shorten a mild bout of diarrhea.
3. Follow the BRAT diet
The BRAT diet is a type of bland diet that includes the following four foods:
- Apple sauce
All these foods are low in fiber that adds firmness to the stool and prevents it from getting watery. Bananas also help restore any potassium lost through diarrhea.
The BRAT diet does not provide all the nutrition and should be taken only during the first 24-48 hours of diarrhea. Gradually, other foods such as baked chicken breasts, chicken soup, and oatmeal can be introduced into the diet.
A study conducted showed that a rice-based diet with green bananas helped to pass of well-formed stools in children.
Other anecdotal home remedies, such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric, have also been shown to be beneficial in treating diarrhea. Apple cider vinegar and turmeric may not be suitable for everyone with diarrhea. For example, turmeric is known to interact with blood-thinning medicines, such as Warfarin.
Home remedies are not for everyone. Like medications, they can also cause unexpected side-effects. If you are on medications for some other illness, it is advisable to ask your doctor before trying any home remedies, such as taking apple cider vinegar and turmeric. Untimely medical help by completely relying on home remedies can land you in serious complications of diarrhea, such as severe dehydration.
When to seek medical help for diarrhea
It is better to visit the doctor right away if you have got diarrhea for 3 or more days. Other signs and symptoms that necessitate getting medical help (and not trying home remedies) for diarrhea include:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Dull baby
- Bloody or black stools
- Fever over 102 F (39 C)
- Decreased urination
- Dark-colored urine
- Dry skin and mouth
- Sunken eyes
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