After Having Diarrhea What Should I Eat? After suffering from diarrhea, your body may be lacking important nutrients and electrolytes. Replenishing is essential to restore your system to its normal function. After the attack has subsided and all of the symptoms are gone, it is usually safe to resume a normal diet. If diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours then you should seek medical attention. The following is a list of foods that will help replenish nutrients and electrolytes as well as speed up your digestion process.
What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a bowel movement that has a loose texture or is more liquid than solid. It is a common problem that may affect a person a couple of times each year. Diarrhea will usually resolve within a week or less.
People with chronic digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease, may experience diarrhea more regularly.
In addition to loose or runny stools, diarrhea is associated with other digestive symptoms, including:
- abdominal bloating and pain
- a bubbling sensation in the intestines
- an urgent need to have a bowel movement
A person’s diet is crucial if they are experiencing diarrhea. Some foods might help relieve the symptoms of diarrhea, whereas other foods can make them worse.
Foods to eat
While recovering from diarrhea, a person should eat bland, simple foods that are easy to digest and will help absorb some water from the stool.
People with diarrhea should eat bland foods, as spicy or complex foods can irritate the bowels. Doctors often recommend the BRAT diet, which includes:
- plain white rice
- bread or toast
Other suitable foods include:
- boiled potatoes
- unseasoned crackers
- hot cereals, such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, or rice porridge
These foods may be especially helpful on the first day of dealing with diarrhea. Eating many small meals throughout the day rather than a few large ones can help keep the digestive system from becoming overworked.
Probiotic foods, such as yogurt and kefir, may help in some cases. Probiotics aid digestion by improving the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
However, dairy products can irritate the digestive system because they are difficult to digest. Due to this, a person may wish to try nondairy sources of probiotics, such as fermented soy milk, fruits, and vegetables.
A person should talk with a doctor before using probiotics.
What to drink
Liquids are also vital to recovery. People with diarrhea need to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and they should drink an additional cup of water after every loose bowel movement.
Drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration and flush any toxins out of the body.
As well as water, the body loses minerals and electrolytes through diarrhea. People should try to drink liquids containing minerals and electrolytes to replenish those lost. Sources of electrolytes and minerals include:
- soup or broth
- coconut water
- electrolyte water
- sports drinks
It’s best to wait at least 24-48 hours to eat regular foods after diarrhea
When suffering from diarrhea, your body loses a huge amount of water and nutrients it needs. You may also be unable to digest certain foods, which can make diarrhea even worse. So what can you eat, and when, after having diarrhea?
During the first few days, your digestive system won’t take well to foods you normally eat, like cooked meat, vegetables, fruits or dairy products. So it’s best to wait at least 24-48 hours before trying to reintroduce these foods to your stomach.
What should you eat after having diarrhea?
The most important thing to do when suffering from diarrhea is drink lots of fluids or clear liquids. Your body has lost hydration and electrolytes are lost from the body, which can make you feel weak, fatigued, dizzy and cause leg cramps. Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure and even turn life-threatening if it leads to hypovolemic shock.
To replenish your body:
- Keep sipping an over-the-counter oral rehydration solution or electrolyte sports drink throughout the day.
- Aim to drink a cup of water after every loose bowel movement.
- Stick to clear liquids, like clear broths, vegetable soup and decaffeinated tea.
The BRAT diet
Following the BRAT diet during this period may help, since it consists of bland foods that are low in fiber and gentle on the stomach, and can also help bind the loose stools. The BRAT diet includes:
- Rice (white rice)
- Apple sauce
Bananas contain pectin (a type of starch) that is beneficial for the digestive tract. Being a rich source of potassium, it also replenishes the body with potassium that is lost in diarrhea. One review article that analyzed several studies found that green banana pulp may reduce both diarrhea and constipation in children. Another study from 2016 found that consuming rice soups along with a rehydration solution was effective in reducing diarrhea in children.
Although many doctors no longer recommend the BRAT diet nowadays due to its low nutrition profile and risk of dehydration, studies have shown that people felt that following the BRAT diet was effective when done short-term.
One thing you can add to the BRAT diet is low-fat yogurt. Yogurt is the only dairy product that can be consumed on an upset stomach or diarrhea. As a rich source of probiotics or the “healthy bacteria,” it can help you to recover faster.
To reap the maximum benefits of the BRAT diet, remember to maintain hydration by drinking lots of water and other fluids.
When and how to resume a regular diet
You can stop the BRAT diet after 24-48 hours have passed and gradually resume a normal or regular diet.
What to eat
Start by reintroducing these foods:
- Rice porridge
- Farina or cream of wheat
- Pretzels or saltine crackers
- Boiled eggs
- Unflavored rice cakes
- Plain pasta or noodles
- Potatoes (no added butter, cream or cheese)
- Sweet potatoes
- Steamed, baked or grilled skinless chicken (devoid of fat)
- Canned tuna packed in water
What to avoid
Until you are full recovered, you should avoid:
- Fatty foods, which will be too heavy on your already weakened digestive system
- Dairy products (except low-fat yogurt), which have the potential to irritate your stomach
- Caffeinated drinks, which can increase urination, thus worsening dehydration
Should You Eat Fiber After You’ve Had Diarrhea?
You may have heard you should avoid fiber when you have diarrhea. This is not necessarily true.
There are two different types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water. It ferments readily in the colon. This type of fiber can be prebiotic. This means it acts as food for healthy bacteria in the stomach. It also delays the speed at which stools pass through and exit the body.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in the body. Instead, it absorbs water as it passes through the digestive tract. This softens and loosens stools.
When recovering from diarrhea, focus on foods with soluble fiber, like oatmeal. This will help the good bacteria in your intestines recover while building more solid stools.2
It is okay to eat soluble fiber after you’ve had diarrhea. This fiber dissolves in water and can help slow the speed at which stools exit your body.
You can keep eating bananas, applesauce, and toast while you recover. It is also important to include some protein and probiotic foods. Probiotic foods like yogurt contain healthy microorganisms.
Safe breakfast items include:
- Crisp rice cereal
- Eggs boiled or scrambled with minimal butter or oil
- Oatmeal, cream of wheat, farina, or rice porridge
- Plain, low-fat yogurt with live bacterial cultures
- Pancakes or waffles without syrup
- Unflavored rice cakes
Note that you’ll need to choose pancakes or waffles that do not contain fully or partially hydrogenated oils, which are unhealthy fats.
You can have a small amount of nonfat milk with your cereal. Otherwise, avoid it. With the exception of yogurt, dairy tends to contribute to diarrhea symptoms.
Except for bananas and applesauce, you should also avoid eating fruit. This includes fresh apples.
Lunch and Dinner Foods
Focus on increasing your protein intake during lunch and dinner. Avoid eating too much fat. You can also add certain carbohydrates to bind watery stools.
Safe food options include:
- Canned tuna packed in water, not oil
- A small portion of lean chicken, turkey, or pork
- Chicken broth
- Salty pretzels
- Plain pasta or noodles
- Sandwich on white bread with lean lunch meat
- Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash
- A small portion of carrots, green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus tips, or peeled zucchini
- A vegetable soup made with the ingredients listed above
Avoid eating whole grains while you recover.
White rice is good for treating diarrhea, but avoid whole grains like:
- Brown rice
These foods can make diarrhea worse.
Summary: The Best Foods to Eat after Having Diarrhea
1. Fluids (Plenty of Them)
When you have diarrhea, fluid replacement should be a priority. For diarrhea that is mild and short-lived, a variety of fluids will work, including broth, water and diluted fruit juices. If diarrhea lasts more than 1 to 2 days, an oral rehydration solution (ORS) should be added to prevent or treat dehydration and related complications, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AFP).
ORS products usually contain glucose, sodium, potassium and other electrolytes, and are available over-the-counter in powders for mixing with water, commercial beverages such as Pedialyte or Ceralyte. You can also make your own by following a standard recipe.
If you are dehydrated or have diarrhea that lasts more than 1 to 2 days, seek your doctor’s advice on the use of ORS.
2. BRAT Diet Foods
After a bout of diarrhea, it’s important to resume eating solid foods as soon as possible, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Historically, health professionals have recommended the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce and toast — for diarrhea management. However, this diet does not have research data to support its effectiveness or necessity, and is considered too restrictive to support adequate nutrition, per the Oregon Clinic.
While BRAT foods shouldn’t be your only source of nutrition, they can be helpful to include in your diet plan when dealing with diarrhea. They are soft, easy to tolerate and are not known to worsen diarrhea.
BRAT foods are also lower in fiber, so they may help to make your stools firmer. They can be a good starting point in your transition back to a normal diet.
Applesauce is often recommended because apples are packed with nutritional benefits, especially after an attack of diarrhea. They are excellent for cleansing your digestive system and detoxifying your body. They’re fiber-rich and contain the antioxidant power to fight infection and promote optimal health.
While apples may be harsh on the stomach, eating applesauce is a great way to ease the stomach and reap all the benefits of apples. Sprinkle some cinnamon in a small cup with applesauce. Avoid drinking apple juice, as it may worsen your diarrhea.
In addition to BRAT diet foods, try incorporating other easy-to-tolerate foods, including soups, plain pasta, potatoes, crackers, cooked cereal, soft fresh or canned fruits, soft cooked vegetables and tender, cooked meats or poultry.
While most dairy products are on the “do not eat” list for GI discomfort, yogurt is a notable exception.
Both yogurt and kefir, a fermented milk drink, contain probiotics that can restore the beneficial bacteria that your body flushes out with diarrhea.
An August 2017 American Family Physician study found that probiotics are highly effective for diarrhea caused by infection, antibiotic-associated diarrhea and even diarrhea from some gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome.
Just be sure to read labels to make sure the yogurt or kefir are low in sugar, as higher levels of sugar can potentially worsen symptoms or diarrheal losses (that’s water and electrolytes) in some patients.
If you’re eating yogurt mainly for the probiotic benefits, make sure to look for The National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures seal on packaging: It means that when manufactured, the yogurt contained at least 100 million active starter cultures per gram.
Most yogurt brands in the United States contain probiotics, but the organisms must be added after heat processing, so check the label to be sure. If it states “live and active cultures,” then the yogurt has probiotics.
Oats are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool. Eating oatmeal soothes your stomach, adds fiber to your diet and helps stop diarrhea, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Oatmeal can be calming after an attack of diarrhea; try topping with sliced banana for a nutritious meal that’ll help combat your gastro troubles.
In addition to the rice and toast prescribed by the BRAT diet, simple crackers crackers (like saltines) will provide your body with the energy it needs to recover.
Bland foods like crackers can help soak up some of the irritation-causing acid that sits in an empty stomach and prevent acid being released in the stomach, while heavier foods tend to cause more acid production, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Crackers are also beneficial because they contain salt — important for when you need to replace lost electrolytes.
- Are less likely to trigger nausea because they are odorless.
- Contain salt to help replace lost electrolytes.
6. Broth and Soup
While water is important after diarrhea to prevent dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes. Broths and soups that contain sodium are good picks that can help maintain your electrolyte levels
The best soup for diarrhea? Chicken broth is light, nutritious and gentle on your digestive system. You can buy chicken broth, use bouillon cubes or make your own homemade soup. Any of these will be warm and comforting.
Veggie broth can have similar effects. You’ll want to stay away from creamy soups, which may add more to your troubles.
Resuming Your Usual Diet
There are many foods that can help you recover from diarrhea. But when the bout is over, you may be wondering how long you’ll need to wait after diarrhea to eat normally and return to your standard fare.
A nutritious diet is important during and after diarrhea.
Continue to drink plenty of fluids, and transition your diet back a normal, healthful diet as soon as possible.
Focus on meals that emphasize fruits and vegetables, and a plan that includes whole grains, beans, calcium-rich foods such as yogurt or milk, and lean sources of protein such as fish or chicken — or plant protein, such as soy, nuts and seeds. After the diarrhea resolves, most people will be able to resume their normal diet.
Diarrhea can lead to severe, life-threatening dehydration, so contact your doctor right way if your diarrhea is severe or if it lasts more than a few days.
Also see your doctor if you are dehydrated and not able to drink enough liquids, advises the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Infants and young children are at high risk of complications from diarrhea, so contact a pediatrician if this symptom doesn’t resolve within 1 day, or sooner if fluid intake is poor or urination is decreased, or if you need guidance on managing this symptom in your child.