What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea

Foods That Are Easier on Your Digestive Tract

While you are dealing with a bout of diarrhea, you may wonder what the right foods are to eat that will be safe and soothing for a digestive system that is in turmoil. You don't want to avoid food altogether, but need foods that might help slow things down.

The basic bland BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast)​ is no longer the diet of choice for intestinal problems as it is too restrictive. Plus, if your diarrhea is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the BRAT diet may not be ideal (especially the applesauce).

If your diarrhea is severe or lasts more than two days, it might be a sign of an underlying problem that you should talk to your healthcare provider about. Here are foods that can be easier on your digestive tract.

1
Bananas

Three bananas with their skin on, and one peeled banana
Claire Cordier / Getty Images

Bananas are bland and easily digested, making them a good choice for settling your upset digestive system. As a bonus, the high level of potassium in bananas helps to replace electrolytes that may be lost by severe bouts of diarrhea.

Bananas are also rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to absorb liquid in the intestines and thus move stool along smoothly. This can help both in slowing down diarrhea and reducing constipation. Eat a banana or two to help restore balance to your digestive system.

2
White Rice

Boiled rice in bowl, close-up
Doable/A.collection / Getty Images

Plain white rice is easily digested and is high in carbohydrates. Rice is also binding, which means that it can help to firm up your loose stool. While you are having diarrhea, eat your rice plain or cooked in chicken broth. Avoid spicy, fatty, oily, or dairy-based sauces as those aren't recommended when you have diarrhea.

3
White Bread, Pancakes, or Pasta

Four slices of white toast in four-slot toaster, close-up
Claire Cordier / Getty Images

Although whole wheat is generally a healthier option, you're better off eating white bread and other white flour items such as pancakes and pasta when you're dealing with a bout of diarrhea. White bread has very little fiber, so it's easy to digest. As you don't want to have too much fat or sugar when you have diarrhea, go easy on the butter, margarine, honey, jam, or syrup. Also, avoid sugar-free products that use sugar alcohols. The same is true for pasta, a dab of olive oil or butter is probably fine, but avoid sauces that are spicy, oily, or milk-based.

4
Mashed Potatoes

bowl of mashed potatoes
john shepherd/E+/Getty Images

Potatoes are a good comfort food option and are also high in potassium. While the skins have lots of nutrition, you should avoid them when you have diarrhea, so peeled potatoes are best. Steam, microwave, or boil your potatoes. A little salt for flavor is fine, but avoid too much butter, margarine, sour cream, or gravy. A large amount of fat and oil could irritate your sensitive system and contribute to increased intestinal cramping. 

5
Steamed, Baked, or Broiled Chicken or Lean Meat

Honey and Lime Baked Chicken Breasts
Honey and Lime Baked Chicken. Diana Rattray

Due to its bland nature, steamed white meat chicken is an easily digested source of protein. This provides a fairly safe way to get some nutrients into your body. Keep it simple, though, and avoid adding oils or butter when you cook the chicken. If you don't have a steamer or aren't confident about steaming a chicken safely, you can bake or broil the chicken instead. Just be sure to baste it frequently with water or chicken broth, so it doesn't dry out. Lean cuts of turkey, beef, pork, and fish are also acceptable.

6
Yogurt

Yogurt with raspberries in a white bowl
Will Woods / Getty Images

You'll want to avoid most dairy products during acute diarrhea episodes. However, yogurt is an exception to this rule. Look for yogurt that contains live or active bacterial cultures, or more specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Read the label carefully and choose a brand that does not have a high sugar level and does not contain artificial sweeteners. Both of those can contribute to excessive intestinal gas and loose stools. If you have lactose intolerance, you will want to look for lactose-free varieties.

7
Chicken Broth

Chicken bouillon in cup
Smneedham / Getty Images

Your grandmother had it right—chicken soup is good for whatever ails you, including diarrhea. Sipping soup can be extremely soothing, and chicken broth contains nutrients and electrolytes that can help to replace those that might have been lost by your repeated bouts of diarrhea. The warm broth will provide a little extra comfort for your sore stomach.

8
Oatmeal, Farina, or Cream of Wheat

A bowl of oatmeal with raisins on top
Jowena Chua/Getty Images

These comforting hot breakfast cereals are good choices, plus you can also enjoy cornflakes. Oatmeal has soluble fiber, as may be recommended as a bulking agent for your stool when you have diarrhea. Keep in mind that you want to limit any sugar, honey, or dairy products you might normally have with hot or cold cereal. You can add a banana to the oatmeal or cereal to sweeten it and benefit from its qualities as well.

9
Vegetables

Orange Carrots in a Basket
Carrots at Market. Photo © Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Vegetables provide important nutrition and you should include them in your diet while you have diarrhea. However, you will want to peel them, remove seeds, and cook them. Carrots, green beans, beets, acorn squash, and peeled zucchini are some good choices. If you haven't tried microwaving or steaming carrots, you'll be surprised at how sweet and tasty they are. You also need to avoid vegetables that are likely to cause gas or are harder to digest, including broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, peas, green leafy vegetables, and corn.

10
Pretzels and Sports Drink

Shaped Pretzel
Shaped Pretzel. Jill Fromer/Getty Images

You lose electrolytes (salts) when you have diarrhea and it can be helpful to replace them. Pretzels are made with white flour and baked and have salt, so they are a good choice. You may also use electrolyte-replacement sports drinks like Gatorade.

When You Start to Feel Better

A bland diet doesn't provide enough nutritional variety to be healthy long term. When you start to feel better, and your stomach starts to settle down, you ease back into a less restrictive meal plan, especially enjoying a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Don't order a combo pizza right away—your digestive system may need time to recover. Instead, try soups, steamed vegetables, and white meat such as chicken or turkey. 

A Word From Verywell

It's not pleasant to endure an occasional bout of diarrhea. With these food suggestions, you can make choices that won't further upset your digestive system.

If your diarrhea lasts for more than two days, if you have a fever, are dehydrated, have blood or pus in your stool, or have severe pain, see your doctor immediately. If you find that you are dealing with repeated bouts of diarrhea, it may signal an underlying condition that you should talk to your healthcare provider about.

Sources:

Eating, Diet, and Nutrition for Diarrhea. National Institutes of Health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/eating-diet-nutrition.

Nanayakkara WS, Skidmore PM, O’Brien L, Wilkinson TJ, Gearry RB. "Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome." Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology 2016;9:131-142.

When You Have Diarrhea. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000121.htm

Continue Reading