People with diarrhea should eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals. 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 an 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 butters
- 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) that 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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