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Foods to help get rid of diarrhea: What to Eat and What to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

What to Eat and What to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

Occasional diarrhea is nothing to worry about. The causes of diarrhea can range from a stomach flu to a specific meal or ingredient you ate that didn’t sit well. Because certain foods can worsen symptoms, it’s good to know the foods you should eat when you have diarrhea — and what you should avoid. (1)

You want to eat plain, simple foods, especially in the first 24 hours, says Peter Higgins, MD, PhD, the director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“It is best to eat thicker, bland foods, including oatmeal, bananas, plain rice, and applesauce,” he says.

Avoid These Foods When You Have Diarrhea

As important as it is to know what to eat when you have diarrhea, you should also know which foods to avoid. Certain foods can travel through your intestines very quickly and aggravate your digestion, or worsen diarrhea in other ways.

Avoid the following for diarrhea relief:

  • Fatty Foods These include foods that are fried, greasy, or covered in gravy, which can make diarrhea worse.
  • Milk, Butter, Ice Cream, and Cheese Even if the diarrhea isn’t caused by lactose intolerance — a difficulty processing lactose, a sugar found in dairy products — stay away from these foods when you have diarrhea. You may be temporarily sensitive to dairy products, even if you usually have no problem with them. Probiotic-rich yogurt may be the one exception to this rule, as some studies have shown probiotics help rebalance intestinal flora and could shorten the duration of a bout of diarrhea.
  • Alcohol and Sodas When you have diarrhea, you want to steer clear of foods and beverages that cause you to lose fluids. Alcohol can act as a diuretic, meaning it’s dehydrating, and should be avoided, Dr. Higgins says. Sodas with high-fructose corn syrup can also pose a problem if you have diarrhea. Large quantities of fructose can overwhelm your digestive system and lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea. (4)
  • Sorbitol and Other Artificial Sweeteners Some people find that artificial sweeteners have a laxative effect on their digestive system. If you have diarrhea, it’s best to pass on sugarless candy and gum, diet soft drinks, and sugar substitutes. Consuming sugars, including artificial ones, causes your intestines to produce more water and electrolytes, which can then loosen bowel movements and lead to diarrhea. (5)
  • Foods That Cause Excess Gas It’s important to eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. But when diarrhea strikes, you want to avoid choices that are likely to increase intestinal gas, such as cabbage, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower, until you’re feeling better.
  • Foods That May Be Spoiled Stay away from foods that may have been mishandled, including foods that have been out of the refrigerator for too long or improperly stored. Raw meat or fish can be problematic, too. Follow the old maxim, “When in doubt, throw it out,” and you may save yourself some stomach upset.

Other Strategies for Tackling Your Diarrhea

One of the more serious complications of diarrhea is dehydration. When you have diarrhea for any length of time, take steps to avoid becoming dehydrated by consuming enough liquids, Higgins says.

More in Digestive Health

3 Ways to Treat Diarrhea

“Look for liquids with sugar and salt — Pedialyte or full-salt soups work well,” he says. “If your urine is not clear, or you are not making much urine, you are not drinking enough.”

In terms of diarrhea treatment, Higgins says, if you don’t have an infection and are not seeing blood, you can take over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium) to slow your bowel movements. But this kind of medication should only be taken for a day or two.

If diet and simple remedies aren’t working, and if symptoms persist for more than a few days and include bleeding, gas, and bloating, you should see a doctor. Your doctor can determine whether the diarrhea is caused by a more serious condition, and can recommend treatment.

RELATED: When Diarrhea Is More Serious Than You Think

Additional reporting by María Villaseñor.

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What to Eat and What to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

What to Eat and What to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

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Medically reviewed by Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN, Nutrition — By Ana Gotter — Updated on May 11, 2023

Eating bland foods can help diarrhea go away faster and prevent stomach upset and irritation. You can follow the BRAT diet, which stands for “bananas, rice, applesauce, toast.” This diet also helps firm up stool.

Whether your diarrhea is caused by allergies, food poisoning, or a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome, diet and diarrhea are intricately linked.

Even if you have long-term conditions that affect the digestive system, your food can affect your comfort levels.

When you’re experiencing an episode of diarrhea, certain foods you eat can help your digestive system get back on track. Other foods might prolong or worsen your symptoms.

When you have diarrhea, the foods you eat and avoid can be critical to a quicker recovery. This is where BRAT foods come in.

The BRAT diet includes:

  • bananas
  • white rice
  • applesauce
  • toast made from white bread

These foods are bland and low in fiber so they won’t aggravate the digestive system. They’re also binding, so they help firm up stool. While following a BRAT diet, you can combine these ingredients, such as putting applesauce or bananas on toast.

You can eat additional foods as part of a bland diet. These can include:

  • cooked cereal, like oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, or Farina
  • soda crackers
  • apple juice that’s low in added sugar
  • baked or boiled potatoes

Drinking plenty of liquids can help you stay hydrated and replace the lost fluids. Options to try include:

  • water or sucking on ice chips
  • clear broths, like vegetable, chicken, or beef broth with any grease removed
  • electrolyte-enhanced water or coconut water with vitamins or electrolytes (try to avoid ones high in sugar)
  • solutions like Pedialyte
  • weak, decaffeinated tea

After you’ve started to recover, you can try to add in foods like scrambled eggs and cooked vegetables.

When you’re experiencing diarrhea or recovering from it, certain foods can trigger the digestive system and worsen or prolong diarrhea.

Foods to avoid while experiencing diarrhea include:

  • milk and dairy products (including milk-based protein drinks)
  • fried, fatty, greasy foods
  • spicy foods
  • processed foods, especially those with additives
  • pork and veal
  • sardines
  • raw vegetables
  • onions
  • corn
  • all citrus fruits
  • other fruits, like pineapples, cherries, seeded berries, figs, currants, and grapes
  • alcohol
  • coffee, soda, and other caffeinated or carbonated drinks
  • artificial sweeteners, including sorbitol

Many cases of diarrhea are short-lived and respond well to home treatments such as:

  • modified diet
  • increased fluid intake
  • over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as anti-diarrheal medications like Pepto-Bismol, which can help stop or slow down diarrhea
  • rest

But you may also develop diarrhea due to a bacterial infection. In these cases, a doctor may recommend antibiotics.

Taking probiotics after taking antibiotics can help prevent adverse reactions to antibiotics by introducing healthy bacteria back into the digestive system. This can also help prevent future cases of diarrhea.

If your diarrhea is severe, you may need to be admitted to the hospital to receive intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.

While many cases of diarrhea can be treated at home, if your bout is prolonged or you experience concerning symptoms, you may have an underlying medical condition. Diarrhea that lasts more than a few days without improvement or occurs with dehydration may require medical care.

If you have concerning symptoms, you may need to go to the emergency room for treatment. These symptoms can include:

  • black or bloody stools
  • severe abdominal pain
  • a fever of 102°F (39°C) or higher

If a child has diarrhea, they may need urgent or emergency care if they:

  • don’t improve after 24 hours
  • haven’t had a wet diaper in 3 or more hours
  • have a fever of 100. 4°F (38°C) in children under 3 months old or 102.2°F (39°C) or higher in children between 3 and 36 months old
  • have a dry mouth or tongue
  • cry without tears
  • have skin that doesn’t flatten if pinched and released
  • have a sunken appearance to the abdomen, cheeks, or eyes
  • have black or bloody stools

The foods you eat can cause and help your body recover from diarrhea.

When you have diarrhea, get lots of rest, drink plenty of water, and start introducing BRAT foods after a few hours. After a day or 2 of bland, soft foods, you can add in foods like lean ground chicken and scrambled eggs.

Sticking to this diet can help you recover faster and feel better sooner, so you can return to eating all the foods you love as soon as possible.

Eating bland foods low in fiber can help your diarrhea go away faster. Always remember to rehydrate to replenish lost fluids.

Last medically reviewed on May 11, 2023

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Diarrhea. (2016).
  • Nemeth V, et al. (2022). Diarrhea.
  • Weir S-B, et al. (2022). Bland diet.

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

May 11, 2023

Written By

Ana Gotter

Edited By

Heather Hobbs

Medically Reviewed By

Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

Copy Edited By

Naomi Farr

Aug 30, 2021

Written By

Ana Gotter

Edited By

Shannon Ullman

Medically Reviewed By

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT

Copy Edited By

Stassi Myer – CE


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Medically reviewed by Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN, Nutrition — By Ana Gotter — Updated on May 11, 2023

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Nutrition for indigestion and diarrhea

Author, editor and medical expert – Zavgorodnyaya Ekaterina Alexandrovna.

Editor and medical expert – Harutyunyan Mariam Harutyunovna.

Number of views: 245 277

Date last updated: 06/25/2023


Take care of your digestive system
Good eating habits
Foods and drinks that cause diarrhea
How to avoid food triggers
Keep a food diary
Eliminate foods that are not suitable for you
Do you have a food intolerance?
Is fiber a problem for you?

To normalize digestion, you need to watch not only what you eat, but also how you do it.

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Take care of your digestive system

Just because you have a sensitive gut doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. Just follow some rules in order to help your digestive system.

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Good Eating Habits

  • Eat more slowly. Your stomach needs 20 minutes to signal to your brain that it is full. Therefore, if you eat slowly, you can eat less food and, accordingly, reduce the load on the digestive system.

  • Chew your food. When you chew food thoroughly, you not only slow down the intake of food, but also help the digestive system, providing it with small pieces to digest.

  • Do not swallow food quickly. When you swallow food quickly, you also swallow air, which can lead to bloating and poor digestion.

  • Eat smaller and lighter meals. Large volumes of heavy food take longer to digest, making it harder for the digestive system to work.

  • Do not eat late at night. Your digestive system is less efficient at the end of the day, so try to eat at least 3 hours before bed.

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Foods and Drinks that Cause Diarrhea

Everyone is unique, so our body reacts differently and at different times. Foods that can cause diarrhea in one person may not cause it in another. You may also find that a product that did not cause a reaction yesterday is causing a problem today.

Check out some foods that can cause diarrhea.

  • Alcohol. Your favorite wine or other alcoholic drink can be a stomach irritant. But drinks affect everyone differently, so try not to drink those that do not suit you.

  • Spicy food. Recent studies show that fatty and spicy foods, such as Indian and Chinese dishes, may exacerbate abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Fried and fatty foods. Such food may increase the contraction of the intestinal muscles during digestion and cause diarrhea.

  • Fibrous food. Many products are rich in insoluble fiber. For example, bran and wheat are difficult to digest and can lead to diarrhea. Look on the back of a cereal package to see what types of fiber it contains and may not be right for you.

  • Too many fruits and vegetables in the diet. Eating large amounts of plums, kiwi, beans, broccoli and cabbage can cause diarrhea in some people.

  • Dairy products. Milk, cheese, sour cream and other dairy products are known to cause diarrhea. Look for non-dairy alternatives such as almond or soy milk.

  • Coffee and tea. Caffeine causes digestive problems in many people who often suffer from diarrhea. Try to limit your caffeine intake and drink herbal and green teas instead.

  • Sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners (eg sorbitol and fructose) found in diet drinks and sweets may cause diarrhea. This is partly because they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. Pay attention to the information on the packaging and try to choose natural analogues.

Remember that symptoms may not be caused by the food you just ate, but by the food you ate the day before. Also, not the food itself, but the speed, time and amount of food eaten may be to blame for their appearance.

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How to Avoid Food Provocateurs

If your diarrhea is caused by certain foods, you can identify them by keeping a diary of the foods you eat each day and when your episodes of diarrhea occur.

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Keep a Food Diary

  • Get a notebook and make entries daily.

  • Record absolutely everything you eat, including seasonings, spices (if possible), and drinks.

  • Specify the degree of stress during the day. You will be surprised how powerful the impact of stress on the digestive system can be.

  • Study the composition of food. Pasta, pizza, and sandwiches are different foods, but they can all contain wheat.

  • Start with a general approach and then look at the ingredients. This way, by learning first about the products that are not suitable for you, you will be able to determine which individual ingredients you should avoid.

  • Keep a diary for a long time. At first, you may not notice the connection, but over time everything will become clear, and you can discuss the problem with your doctor.

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Eliminate Unhealthy Foods

You may have found that eating pasta with tomato sauce causes diarrhea, but you don’t know which ingredient is causing the problem. To identify it, try eating pasta without tomato sauce, and vice versa. This applies to all types of food.

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Do you have a food intolerance?

The most common causes of food intolerance are:

  • gluten, a protein found in many types of grains, including wheat, barley, and oatmeal;

  • lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

If you think you have a food allergy or intolerance, talk to your doctor.

Back to Contents

Is fiber a problem for you?

A high-fiber diet may cause or worsen diarrhea in some people. But keep in mind that there are two types of fibers.

Soluble dietary fiber. It is found in most citrus fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and legumes. This fiber can be helpful for diarrhea as it absorbs water and makes the stool firmer.

Insoluble fibre. It can be found in bran, whole grains, rice, and the skins of some fruits and vegetables. It can help with constipation, but worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and recurrent diarrhea. This does not mean that you should avoid insoluble fiber when you have diarrhea. Just be mindful of what you eat and what effect these foods have on you.

The information in this article is for reference only and does not replace professional medical advice. For diagnosis and treatment, contact a qualified specialist.

Foods to eat and not to eat with diarrhea

A person’s diet is crucial if they are experiencing diarrhea. Some foods can help relieve this symptom, while others can make it worse.

What to eat and drink

To relieve diarrhea, it is recommended to eat soft, simple foods that are easy to digest, which will help absorb excess water from the stool. Among them it is worth noting: oatmeal, rice porridge, bananas, plain white rice, bread or toast, boiled potatoes. These foods may be especially helpful on the first day of diarrhea treatment. Frequent consumption of such food in small quantities throughout the day will help improve the functions of the digestive system.

Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kefir may help in some cases, but can sometimes further irritate the digestive system.

Fluids are vital to recovery. Persons with diarrhea should drink plenty of water, during the day it is necessary to drink an additional cup of water after each bowel movement. A large intake of fluid helps prevent dehydration and remove toxins from the body. However, in addition to water, the body also loses minerals and electrolytes. To replenish them, it is recommended to use soup-broth, electrolyte water, sports drinks.

Foods and drinks to avoid

Many foods can aggravate irritation of the digestive system and increase the severity of diarrhea. These include: spicy foods, fried foods, sweets and foods with artificial sweeteners, foods high in fiber, onions and garlic, raw vegetables, foods that lead to gas formation in the intestines (cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower), citrus fruits, fatty meat, including pork and veal, dairy products.