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Eating or avoiding certain foods may help manage diarrhea. Foods to eat include bananas and boiled potatoes. Spicy foods and dairy products can worsen symptoms.

Diarrhea is a bowel movement that has a loose texture or is more liquid than solid. It is a common issue that may affect a person a couple of times each year. Diarrhea will usually resolve within a week or less.

A person’s diet is crucial if they are experiencing diarrhea. Some foods might help relieve the symptoms of diarrhea, whereas other foods can worsen them.

People can manage the symptoms of diarrhea by resting, staying hydrated, and making certain dietary adjustments. While certain foods can promote recovery, others can potentially exacerbate the symptoms.

Although it is usually possible to manage occasional bouts of diarrhea at home, anyone experiencing persistent diarrhea should consult a doctor, as they may become dehydrated over time.

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While recovering from diarrhea, a person can choose to eat bland, simple foods that are easy to digest and help absorb some water from the stool. Spicy or complex foods can irritate the bowels.

Bland foods

When a person experiences digestive issues such as diarrhea, doctors often recommend the BRAT diet, which includes:

  • bananas
  • plain white rice
  • applesauce
  • 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 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 the lactose present in these foods can be difficult to digest. Therefore, 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.

Liquids are also vital to recovery. People with diarrhea need to drink plenty of water throughout the day, alongside 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:

Many foods can aggravate the digestive system and worsen diarrhea. These include:

Spicy foods

Spicy ingredients can act as irritants in the digestive system. People experiencing diarrhea should stick to bland foods, as these pose the lowest risk of agitating the digestive system.

Fried foods

It is not advisable to eat foods high in fat or oil when recovering from diarrhea. Added fats and oils from frying can be difficult for the sensitive digestive system to process and will likely make symptoms worse.

A person can try eating boiled or steamed vegetables and lean proteins instead.

Sugary foods and artificial sweeteners

Sugars that pass into the colon may disrupt the already sensitive bacteria there, worsening diarrhea. These sugars will be present in fruit juices and high sugar fruits, as well as candy and sweet baked goods.

People with diarrhea should also avoid artificial sweeteners, some of which can have a laxative effect.

High fiber foods

It may also help for people to avoid too much fiber. Fiber helps keep the digestive system active. Usually, this is beneficial, but when the body is trying to recover from diarrhea, fiber may exacerbate symptoms.

Insoluble fibers are the main type for an active digestion system. These are in various foods, including:

  • whole grains, such as wheat, brown rice, and barley
  • whole grain bread or baked goods
  • grain cereals
  • nuts and seeds

Soluble fibers, such as the pectin in apples and bananas, can actually help a person recover from diarrhea. However, a person should still try to limit their intake, at least for the first day of symptoms.

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Other foods to limit

Other foods that can irritate the bowels during diarrhea include:

  • most processed, packaged food
  • legumes, which include chickpeas, beans, peas, and lentils
  • foods that produce gas in the intestines, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • fatty meats, including sardines, pork, and veal
  • dairy products
  • nuts
  • raw vegetables

Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda, may overstimulate the digestive system and worsen symptoms of diarrhea.

Carbonated drinks may also irritate or contribute to other symptoms, such as bloating and cramps. People should also avoid alcohol when experiencing diarrhea.

Although many sports drinks contain electrolytes that may help with dehydration, they often have added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Coconut water and electrolyte-enhanced water are good alternatives.

In addition to following a diet that will help relieve diarrhea, a person can try several other remedies to make a swift recovery.

Other diarrhea treatments include bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) and loperamide (Imodium). These drugs can help relieve occasional cases of diarrhea and may be helpful to store in a medicine cupboard.

Pepto Bismol and Imodium are available over the counter (OTC) or online. However, it is advisable to consult a medical professional before using these treatments. This is particularly the case if a person is experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, blood in the stool, or a long duration of diarrhea.

People with diarrhea should also ensure they get enough rest, as putting the body under stress while dealing with diarrhea may prolong recovery.

As part of this, they should limit their physical activity, as strenuous exercise may increase the risk of dehydration.

Hydration is also vital when managing diarrhea, so people can aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Blood or mucus may appear in the stool in more serious cases of diarrhea, which can also involve fever. Anyone with these symptoms should speak with a doctor as soon as possible.

Untreated diarrhea can also lead to serious complications, including dehydration. A person with severe diarrhea may require hospitalization and intravenous electrolytes.

Anyone experiencing a fever higher than 102°F (38.89°C) or severe abdominal pains should speak with a doctor.

Parents or caregivers should carefully monitor any children with diarrhea. If the symptoms do not improve within 24 hours, they should call a doctor for guidance.

If a child shows any signs of dehydration, it is essential to seek immediate medical care. The signs include:

  • dry mouth
  • dry diaper for 3 hours or more
  • weight loss
  • crying without tears

It is important to make the doctor aware of any additional symptoms.

Some common questions about food and diarrhea may include:

What foods help diarrhea go away?

Eating bland foods can help diarrhea clear quicker and prevent stomach upset and irritation. This can include bananas, plain white rice, applesauce, toast, boiled potatoes, unseasoned crackers, and oatmeal.

What stops diarrhea fast?

Typically, the most effective way to quickly stop diarrhea includes:

  • eating bland foods
  • avoiding unsuitable foods, such as spicy or fried foods
  • maintaining hydration
  • getting sufficient rest

People can also use OTC medications such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) and loperamide (Imodium), as long as they have no concerning symptoms, such as high fever or blood in the stool.

What can a person put on toast when experiencing diarrhea?

With diarrhea, it is advisable to eat bland foods such as toast. If people wish to, they can add bananas, peanut butter, or applesauce on toast.

What foods to eat or avoid with diarrhea?

When a person has diarrhea, choosing bland foods such as bananas, plain white rice, and boiled potatoes is advisable. They can also try to have soups, broths, and sports drinks.

It is advisable to avoid fried and greasy foods such as fries, pizzas, and cheeseburgers. A person should also avoid drinking coffee, soda, and dairy products.

Many cases of diarrhea last only a few days and respond well to home treatments. Eating a simple diet, increasing fluid intake, and using OTC medications as necessary can help reduce the symptoms quickly.

In cases where the body does not respond to these treatments after a few days, a person should speak with a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

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