Doctors and nurses have long advised patients with diarrhea to follow what is known as the BRAT diet. BRAT is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast; all of which often have the effect of “binding” loose and runny stools. In addition to these items, other foods may also help with diarrhea. Knowing the right foods to eat, as well as the foods to avoid, will help manage the symptoms.
Bananas may help alleviate diarrhea and associated symptoms. Bananas are a "binding" food, which means they help increase the form of the stool and help it to pass more slowly through the intestines. Bananas are also rich in potassium, a vital nutrient often depleted during bouts with diarrhea and vomiting.
Rice is bland, easily digested and also has a binding effect on the stool. However, the fiber in brown and wild varieties of rice may actually exacerbate diarrhea. The dietary objective during diarrhea is to eat foods that are bland and low in fiber, both of which are qualities of plain white rice.
The pectin contained in applesauce helps bind the bowels, which could reduce diarrhea symptoms. As well, the natural sugar of applesauce helps to replenish the energy lost during the illness. This food works well since it is mild and well-tolerated.
Toast can help to relieve diarrhea by adding bulk to the stool. Eaten plain, it is also a bland food that provides carbohydrates which may help with energy levels.
If diarrhea results from antibiotic use, probiotic yogurt may help alleviate or prevent loose stools, says Dr. Howard LeWine, the Chief Medical Editor of Internet Publishing with Harvard Health Publications. Antibiotics reduce the number of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in the intestines that help regulate stools. Yogurt may help reintroduce these microorganisms, helping to prevent this side effect. Dairy products may not sit well on all stomachs, so start with a teaspoon or other small amount of yogurt to see if it is well tolerated before consuming a full serving.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid consuming foods high in fiber such as nuts, seeds, fruit or whole grain products. Fiber keeps the colon active and will not help reduce diarrhea. Spicy foods, fried foods and foods with high sugar content may also stimulate bowel movements. Also, do not consume caffeinated foods or beverages, and avoid full-strength fruit juices.