- The best foods for diarrhea are clear broth and beverages with electrolytes like coconut water.
- You can also follow the BRAT diet when you have diarrhea, which includes foods like bananas, toast, applesauce, and other easily-digestible foods.
- When you have diarrhea, you should avoid milk and dairy products, raw vegetables, processed foods, and spicy foods.
- This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
When you have diarrhea, you pass loose or watery stool more than three times a day. It’s a common problem and in most cases isn’t indicative of any underlying conditions. However, it can be uncomfortable.
There are many foods you can eat to help you stop diarrhea. But on the other hand, consuming some foods may potentially worsen your diarrhea symptoms. Here’s a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid when you have diarrhea, and how they work.
Foods that help with diarrhea
Bland foods that are easy to digest are the best foods to eat when you have diarrhea. These can include:
The BRAT diet
BRAT is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, “but can also include similar foods such as oatmeal and soup or broth,” says Amir Masoud, MBBS, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Yale Medicine.
The BRAT diet is great for diarrhea because it is made up of low-fiber foods that are easy to digest and can reduce the quantity of undigested food moving through your digestive tract. This helps your body to produce less stool.
Here’s a breakdown of each food in the BRAT diet and why they work to help treat diarrhea.
- Bananas: Bananas are full of potassium, which is helpful because your body needs to replace lost nutrients after a bout of diarrhea.
- Rice: Plain white rice is easy to digest and can help bind your stool, making it firmer as you pass it.
- Applesauce: Applesauce is made from cooked, pureed apples. The process of making applesauce breaks down the cell structures of apples, making them easy to digest but still highly nutritious.
- Toast: Toasted white bread is a great option to help with diarrhea because it’s easy to digest. You might want to avoid whole wheat bread, as it contains more fiber, making it harder to digest.
The BRAT diet is a helpful guide to some low-fiber foods, but there are many others that can help with diarrhea. A low-fiber diet contains less than 13 grams of fiber per day. Some other examples of foods you can eat include:
- Plain pasta
Clear broth is an easily digestible liquid that provides your body with sugar, salt, and other key nutrients that your body may be craving if you have not been able to eat solid food. It also has a high water content which can help keep you hydrated. Keeping hydrated is especially important because diarrhea that lasts more than a day can lead to dehydration.
“Clear broth or light soups are low in fats and proteins and this makes them easier to digest — literally giving your digestive system the break it needs during the illness,” says Masoud.
A clear broth is completely liquid and unlike other soups, doesn’t contain any solid ingredients like meats and vegetables. You can make your own broth at home or buy a can of it at your local supermarket. You can also combine clear broth with other low-fiber foods like white bread for a slightly more satisfying meal.
Beverages with electrolytes
When you have diarrhea, your body loses electrolytes, which are essential minerals that your body needs like sodium, calcium, and potassium.
Consuming beverages with electrolytes can help you replenish this loss and prevent dehydration. Here are some that you can choose from:
Sports drinks like Gatorade have lots of electrolytes but are not a good idea to drink when you have diarrhea because they contain a lot of processed sugars, which might worsen your symptoms.
Foods to avoid with diarrhea
Certain foods are more likely to worsen diarrhea symptoms and further irritate your bowels. These include:
Milk and dairy products
Milk and dairy products that contain lactose are harder to digest when you have diarrhea, even if you aren’t lactose intolerant. That’s because when you have diarrhea, your body produces less lactase than it usually would. Lactase is an enzyme your body needs to digest lactose properly.
When lactose isn’t digested properly it may worsen your diarrhea, and also cause bloating and nausea.
Spicy foods can further irritate your already sensitive bowels and digestive tracts when you have diarrhea. They might also cause a sensation known as burning diarrhea.
This happens because capsaicin — the active ingredient in most spicy foods — passes quickly through your digestive tract without breaking down properly, causing a burning sensation when you pass stool.
Processed foods often contain high amounts of salts, fats, and sugars. Examples include:
- Sugary drinks like soda
“High sugar foods or even artificial sweeteners can also worsen diarrhea by “pulling in” water and leading to more voluminous diarrhea,” says Masoud. This can make your stool even more watery.
Raw vegetables are great for you on a regular day, but they can be hard to digest when you have diarrhea. Vegetables like broccoli, beans, and cabbage can also make you very gassy.
“Not all vegetables need to be avoided, but certain ones like broccoli, cauliflower, and onions can lead to an increase in intestinal gas formation, which can make bloating and cramping when you have diarrhea worse,” Masoud says.
Diarrhea is a common problem and in most cases is nothing to worry about. Your diet plays a vital role in how you manage it. Eating low fiber foods when you have diarrhea is recommended because they are easy to digest and can help reduce the amount of stool your body produces.
On the other hand spicy foods, dairy products, processed foods and raw vegetables should be avoided until your diarrhea is treated. These foods can be hard to digest and could worsen your diarrhea symptoms.
If you have persistent diarrhea, that fails to go away in 2 to 4 days, then you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience severe abdominal pain, frequent vomiting, or blood in your stool when you have diarrhea.