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Diarrhea: Top Eight Things to Eat When You Are Feeling Awful

What to Eat for Diarrhea


Updated June 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Is your stomach acting up? Maybe you ate the wrong things, maybe you are under stress, or maybe you have absolutely no idea why your stomach is feeling so lousy. It is hard to know what to eat without making things worse. The basic BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is a good start. Here is a quick guide as to why the BRAT diet helps, as well as some other choices that are safe and soothing.

1. Bananas

Close-up of a woman's hand breaking the top of a banana
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Bland and easily digested, bananas are a good choice to settle an upset digestive system. 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. Bananas also contain a good amount of inulin, another soluble fiber. Inulin is a prebiotic, a substance that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the intestinal system.

2. White Rice and Mashed Potatoes

Talk about comfort food! Due to their low-fiber content, these starches are easily digested way up high in the GI tract. Eat your rice and potatoes plain; butter has a high fat content, which could be irritating to your system and contribute to intestinal cramping.

3. Applesauce

Like bananas, apples are a good source of pectin. However, the high fiber in raw apples makes them too rough for a dicey intestinal system. Cooking the apples makes them easier on your system to digest, thus allowing you to benefit from the pectin, sugar and other nutrients that lie within.

4. White Toast and Crackers

When your intestines are acting normally, it is important to eat whole-grain products. When you are experiencing acute diarrhea, however, it is better to turn to processed wheat foods. The removal of the outer husk of the grains in these foods results in easier digestion. As an added bonus, the salt (sodium) in crackers will be beneficial in terms of restoring the electrolyte balance.

5. Yogurt

It is generally recommended that dairy products be avoided during acute diarrhea episodes. Yogurt is a major exception to this rule. Look for yogurt that contains live or active cultures, or more specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. These active cultures are probiotics and they appear to help to establish a healthier balance of bacteria in the digestive tract.

6. Steamed Chicken

Due to its bland nature, steamed white meat chicken is an easily digested source of protein, thus providing a fairly safe way to get some nutrients into your body. Butter and oils are very hard on a delicate system, so avoid deep-fried or sautéed preparations.

7. Blueberries

Reportedly, dried blueberries have a long history of use in Sweden as a treatment for diarrhea. Dr. Varro Tyler in his book, Herbs of Choice, recommends either chewing dried blueberries or making a tea by boiling crushed dried blueberries for about 10 minutes.

The helpfulness of blueberries for diarrhea appears to be due to the fact that they contain tannins, which act as an astringent, contracting tissue and reducing inflammation and secretion of liquids and mucus. Blueberries also contain substances called anthocyanosides, which have antibacterial properties, as well as being a good source of antioxidants. Lastly, blueberries are another source of the soluble fiber pectin.

8. Peppermint Tea

Okay, this is a drink, but talk about soothing! There is nothing like sipping a warm cup of tea for a feeling of comfort. Peppermint has a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal system. It is thought to calm and relax the muscles along the intestinal tract, thus reducing spasms. Peppermint also seems to be effective in reducing intestinal gas.

Click here for more information on other herbal teas.

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Source: New Choices in Natural Healing for Women (1999) Loecher, et.al. Rodale.


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DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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