Foods can help or hurt when you're experiencing loose, watery stools known as diarrhea. Typically caused by a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection, sudden -- or acute -- diarrhea usually passes on its own within a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea usually derives from a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel disease or Crohn's disease. In addition to seeking any necessary medical care, eating foods such as potatoes and avoiding others can help minimize your symptoms and enhance recovery. Avoiding fiber-rich items, such as potato peels, when diarrhea is active is important for managing your symptoms.
When diarrhea flares up, accompanying pain and nausea can make eating unappealing, especially if your symptoms derive from gastroenteritis or chemotherapy. While it may be best to avoid solid foods for 24 hours if vomiting occurs as well, doing what you can to consume calories and carbohydrates -- your body's main energy source -- can help your body heal and your energy levels revive. One medium skin-on baked white potato provides about 160 calories and over 36 grams of carbohydrate. As a bland food, potatoes are also likely to be more appealing and less likely to exacerbate your symptoms the way spicy and fatty foods can, making it easier to meet your energy needs.
Sodium and Potassium Perks
Sodium and potassium are electrolytes, or minerals that affect fluid levels in your body, blood acidity and muscle function. No matter how long diarrhea lasts, you can experience dehydration, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, which means your body lacks not only fluid, but electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. Replenishing lost electrolytes is important for recovery. A baked, medium-size white potato with the skin provides 941 milligrams of potassium, 27 percent of the daily value. While potatoes contain 12 milligrams of sodium, 1/4 teaspoon of table salt adds 575 milligrams, 24 percent of the DV. Once you're able to eat normally, adding salt to your foods isn't likely necessary, as most Americans consume far too much.
Other Nutrients and Fiber Precautions
Potatoes provide an array of other essential nutrients that benefit your overall health. One medium-size russet potato fulfills 24 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that can help your body resist and heal from infections. A medium white potato fulfills 36 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Both types provide valuable amounts of B vitamins, including vitamin B-6 and folate. A standard potato also contains over 4 grams of fiber -- primarily in the peel. Most of the other nutrients are found in the flesh.
Preparation Tips and Other Foods
When enduring diarrhea, have skinless potatoes baked, boiled or mashed -- plain or with a touch of salt. If desired, add other mild ingredients, such as cooked carrots, squash or green beans. Avoid high-fat ingredients, such as butter and whole milk, and spicy additions, such as red pepper flakes, which can worsen diarrhea. Other foods you can safely eat during recovery include poached or boiled eggs, cooked beets, bananas, rice, dry toast, hot rice cereal, plain pasta and broth. For a hydrating, potassium-rich entree, add cooked, diced potatoes to a mild, broth-based soup.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Diarrhea
- University of Puget Sound: Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, White, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- Potato Goodness Unearthed: Potato Nutrition
- MedlinePlus: Fluid and Electrolyte Balance
- American Heart Association: About Sodium