Having diarrhea is never fun. Indeed, it’s one of the most uncomfortable digestive problems a person can face. If you are one of the unfortunate souls suffering from this condition right now, you might be asking yourself this rather common question: what to eat when you have diarrhea?
Before we answer this question, let’s take a look at what diarrhea really is and what causes it.
Video Summary – What to eat when you have diarrhea
What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is a digestive disorder that consists of passing stools that are generally watery or loose, in a higher quantity and frequency than normal. It can be acute or chronic.
Often, diarrhea disappears on its own after 2 or 3 days, or even less. We speak therefore of acute diarrhea. But sometimes, it can last more than 2 weeks. We then speak of chronic diarrhea which generally hides a more serious health problem.
Regarding the symptoms, in addition to the frequent emission of watery stools, the person suffering from diarrhea may also suffer from fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain, and muscle cramps. It all depends on each case and the very cause of diarrhea.
The main causes of diarrhea
Often, diarrhea is either viral or bacterial. In all cases, the proliferation of certain pathogens in the digestive tract greatly alters intestinal transit. They prevent the intestines from functioning normally, causing the feces to remain very hydrated and difficult to contain through the rectum.
Viral diarrhea is the most common because it is spread very easily. The virus responsible is called rotavirus. As a preventive measure, you must have good hygiene. You have to wash your hands very regularly and especially before preparing food, before going to the table and after each visit to the toilet.
Water and conventional soap are sufficient to clean your hands, but alcohol-based disinfectant gels are more efficient. If someone you know has caught the virus, avoid direct contact with them.
For bacterial or parasitic diarrhea, it is often contracted by eating food containing the causative agents. So, you have to be very careful when cooking. Wash your hands well before touching the ingredients which also need to be washed. For meats and eggs, they need to be well cooked. For fruits and vegetables, it is important to wash them well in tap water before eating them. Also, pay attention to the hygiene of the utensils used.
Always check the expiration date of each food and avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
What to eat when you have diarrhea?
First and foremost, it is necessary to keep a varied diet when suffering from diarrhea. Try not to restrict your diet too much as this can create deficiencies for the body and lead to real food intolerance.
1. Homemade soups
One of the ways to hydrate the body when you have diarrhea is to eat soups. But be careful: not soups bought in stores, which are often too rich in salt and additives of all kinds! Good homemade soups (especially carrot soup), which in addition to providing water to our body will be very easy for your stomach to digest.
2. Cooked vegetables
When you suffer from diarrhea, vegetables can be interesting allies for your stomach. But on condition that you eat them cooked (never raw!). Indeed, in case of diarrhea, it is better to eat cooked vegetables that do not contain a lot of fiber so as not to boost your transit. Go for carrots, zucchini, potatoes, or beets!
3. Some fruits
In the case of diarrhea, not all fruits are good for our bodies. As with vegetables, be careful not to eat fruits that are too high in fiber! It is better to select fruits that contain mainly soluble fiber: as they retain some of the water present in the stomach, they allow the stool to be less liquid. The recommended fruits for when you have diarrhea are ripe bananas, apples, pears, peaches, and apple-banana or apple-quince compotes!
4. Starchy foods
Diarrhea is literally exhausting! It is therefore important to provide your body with a minimum of energy with a solid diet. Starchy foods are therefore recommended in case of diarrhea… but not just any! Opt for refined starches such as pasta, white rice, white bread, rusks, semolina, or even tapioca.
5. Lean proteins
To prevent your diarrhea from causing you to lose too much weight and muscle mass, it is important to consume an adequate amount of proteins. However, it is important to avoid fatty proteins, which could irritate your stomach even more during digestion. Go for lean protein, such as chicken breast, turkey, white fish, or ground beef. Thanks to this protein intake, you will avoid losing too much weight.
When our intestinal flora is disturbed by diarrhea, low-fat yogurts (preferably plain) are good allies; in fact, yogurts are rich in lactic bacteria. While consuming bacteria may seem scary, you should worry at all. These lactic bacteria have the particularity of rebalancing the intestinal flora! In the event of diarrhea, therefore, do not hesitate to eat plain yogurts.
7. Foods at room temperature
We often ignore it, but when our digestive tract is upside down, eating foods that are too hot or too cold can make diarrhea worse! Even if you are very hungry, it is, therefore, preferable to wait for a few minutes before jumping on your broth or plate of boiled vegetables.
Contrary to what many people think, drinking water when you have diarrhea will not increase the looseness of your stool. In fact, when you have diarrhea, you should make sure that you are intaking enough water to avoid dehydration.
Avoid mineral waters rich in magnesium and fruit juices as they increase the frequency of bowel movements. As for coffee and spicy drinks, they irritate the digestive mucous membranes.
Foods to avoid when you have diarrhea
- Forget milk because the presence of lactose may increase diarrhea.
- Fatty foods
- cereals and cereal products rich in fiber,
- raw fresh vegetables and fruits,
- oleaginous fruits such as almonds or walnuts,
- dried fruits because their high fiber content,
- Foods with vinegar
- fermentable foods
There are many causes of diarrhea. It can be a symptom of a health problem, of an intolerance or allergy to a food (e.g., lactose intolerance), or even the side effect of a drug. While it is necessary to treat the underlying issue to get rid of diarrhea permanently, the foods mentioned above can provide some relief in the short term and prevent further worsening of the problem.
Erica is an experienced nurse working in the central Florida area. She focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She is a mother of two with hobbies ranging from dancing to playing the piano.