What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea

BRAT Diet and Other Foods While You're Having a Bout of Diarrhea

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 BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) has some good options for eating while dealing with a bout of diarrhea. But if your diarrhea is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the BRAT diet may not be ideal. There are other options on the list below, with caveats if a particular food is a bad fit for IBS. 

If your diarrhea is severe or lasts more than two days even on a bland diet, it might be a sign of an underlying problem that you should talk to your healthcare provider about. If your diarrhea passes, you can return to a healthy diet and not use these foods for the long term. Here are foods that can be easier on your digestive tract.

1
Bananas

Three bananas with their skin on, and one peeled banana
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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.

Bananas also contain a good amount of inulin, another soluble fiber. Inulin is a prebiotic, a substance that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in your large intestine. Bananas may actually help to address the underlying problem that is causing your diarrhea. Eat a banana or two to help restore balance to your digestive system.

2
White Rice

Boiled rice in bowl, close-up
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Plain white rice is digested in your stomach, thus giving your bowels a needed rest. 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, without any spices, sauces, or other additives. Rice is low in sugar, high in carbohydrates, and has fiber.

3
Applesauce

Bowl of applesauce
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Applesauce can take you back to childhood, and it is easily digested. Apples are also a good source of pectin, a form of fiber. You may be familiar with pectin used to thicken homemade jam. It acts similarly in your intestines, bulking and thickening your stool, which is very desirable when you have diarrhea.

You would not want to eat raw apples while you have diarrhea as the fiber in uncooked apples is rougher on your system, which is already upset. The cooking process makes the pectin and other nutrients easier on your system.

However, if you have IBS, applesauce might not be a good choice for you. Apples are high in FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that are associated with worsening IBS symptoms.

4
White Bread Toast

Four slices of white toast in four-slot toaster, close-up
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Although whole wheat bread is generally a healthier option, you're better off eating white bread when you're dealing with a bout of diarrhea. White bread has very little fiber, so it's easy to digest. Toasting the bread also makes it easier on your system.

It is important that you don't put anything on the toast, such as butter or jam. Instead, be sure to drink water or other clear liquids so you can swallow it easier.

If you have IBS, toasted gluten-free bread may be a better choice. Gluten-free bread will spare you from both fructan (a FODMAP) and gluten (a protein), both of which have been associated with worsening IBS symptoms.

5
Mashed Potatoes

bowl of mashed potatoes
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They're not officially on the BRAT diet, but potatoes are a good comfort food option. Due to their low fiber content, white potatoes are easily digested. Steam or boil your potatoes. While a little salt for flavor is fine, avoid the butter or margarine. The high fat content in them could irritate your sensitive system and contribute to increased intestinal cramping. 

6
Steamed Chicken

Raw chicken pieces
Don't ever eat chicken raw! Steamed chicken is your best choice for an upset tummy. Lew Robertson / Getty Images

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 the chicken instead. Just be sure to baste it frequently with water or chicken broth, so it doesn't dry out. 

7
Yogurt

Yogurt with raspberries in a white bowl
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You'll want to avoid most dairy products during acute diarrhea episodes. However, yogurt is an exception to this rule because it contains gut-healing probiotics.

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.

8
Chicken Broth

Chicken bouillon in cup
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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. Note that you don't want a chicken soup with noodles and vegetables, just plain chicken broth.

9
Oatmeal

A bowl of oatmeal with raisins on top
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Oatmeal isn't one of the original four foods on the BRAT diet. But it is a good source of soluble fiber. It also has many vitamins and minerals. Plain, cooked oatmeal has the most fiber. You should avoid instant oatmeal that has sugar, milk products, and additives that may bee too much while you are having diarrhea. You can add ​a banana to the oatmeal to sweeten it and benefit from its qualities as well.

10
Peanut Butter

peanut butter
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Peanut butter isn't found on the BRAT list, and it is high in fat. But if you have a source of natural, creamy peanut butter you may want to have a little to get a protein boost. In addition, two tablespoons of peanut butter have 1.9 grams of fiber, plus vitamin B6 and magnesium. You should avoid it if you have any sensitivity to peanuts, of course. Be sure to choose the smooth variety while your system is upset.

11
Blueberries

Blueberries Close-up
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If you're in the throes of a serious bout of diarrhea or if you have IBS, blueberries might not be suitable for the first line of defense. But as you start to bounce back, blueberries are a good re-entry food. They contain anthocyanosides which have antibacterial properties and are a good source of antioxidants. Blueberries also are another source of the soluble fiber pectin.

When You Start to Feel Better

The BRAT 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. 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.

Skrovankova S, et al "Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity in Different Types of Berries" International Journal of Molecular Sciences Oct. 2015 (10): 24673–24706.

Tyler VE, Awang D. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals (3rd ed.). CRC Press; 2009.

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