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Should I Eat Oatmeal When I Have Diarrhea?

author image William McCoy
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.
Should I Eat Oatmeal When I Have Diarrhea?
A bowl of cooked oatmeal. Photo Credit YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Developing diarrhea, as a result of factors such as a viral or bacterial infection, can leave you feeling miserable and shaky for a couple days. Although your appetite might all but disappear between your frequent trips to the washroom, eating the right foods, such as a bowl of oatmeal, can reduce your symptoms and help put you on the road to recovery.

Focus on Liquids First

Don't be in a rush to prepare a bowl of oatmeal as soon as your diarrhea strikes. For the initial period upon developing this gastrointestinal illness, consuming only liquids such as water, mild tea, broth and apple juice can help to calm your system and avoid worsening the condition. A liquid diet also provides hydration, which is valuable to replace the fluids you lose with diarrhea. Build your diet around these items for the first 24 hours, especially if the diarrhea is severe. Contact your doctor if the diarrhea doesn't improve in five days or you have diarrhea with a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gradually Add Oatmeal

If you're able to manage liquids for 24 hours, you can often add some bland types of food, including oatmeal, to your diet. The B.R.A.T. diet, which represents bananas, rice, apples and toast, is a standard approach to dealing with diarrhea, but other related foods, such as oatmeal, farina or cream of wheat, are also suitable. Sweeten the oatmeal only slightly and avoid adding milk if you have trouble digesting lactose. Oatmeal is ideal not only due to its bland taste but its fiber content. The soluble fiber in oatmeal absorbs water in your gastrointestinal tract to help add firmness to your stools.

Return to a Normal Diet

Provided you're able to consume oatmeal without any adverse effects, you can continue to eat this type of food as you begin to transition back toward your usual diet. A standard approach is to add foods such as chicken or turkey, cooked vegetables and eggs to your diet while avoiding foods that are excessively spicy or high in fat until you're completely over your symptoms. Limit your intake of high-fiber foods such as raw fruits and vegetables, as they can keep your stools loose.

Health Benefits of Oatmeal

In addition to helping calm your system when you have diarrhea, oatmeal can benefit your overall health in several ways. Oats are a source of protein and fiber, which can help you feel full and potentially resist the urge to snack between meals. Oats are a low-glycemic food, which means they won't cause a quick spike in your blood glucose, leading to an eventual blood sugar drop and hunger. The fiber in oatmeal also helps keep your bowels functioning regularly.

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