Foods that help with diarrhea

By Nancy Kupka, PhD, RN Mar 18, 2021 • 4 min

Diarrhea is defined as passing loose or watery stools at least three times in 24 hours.

Most cases of diarrhea are due to infections, don't require antibiotics and can be managed by controlling symptoms. But sometimes, unchecked diarrhea can result in hospitalization or, in rare cases, even death. 

Generally, dietary changes can help manage a bout of diarrhea. These modifications do not apply to people who have diarrhea due to celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic gastrointestinal conditions. These remedies cannot help ease diarrhea associated with travel either.

Foods to eat with diarrhea

When you have diarrhea, you can eat most foods, including: 

  • Beef, pork, chicken, fish and turkey that have been baked or broiled, but not fried
  • Cooked eggs
  • Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. If you have severe diarrhea, it may be better to avoid dairy products until your symptoms improve.
  • Bread products, pancakes and waffles made from refined white flour or cornbread
  • Pasta, white rice and cereals, such as cream of wheat, farina, oatmeal and cornflakes
  • Cooked carrots, green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus tips, acorn squash, zucchini and potatoes; remove any seeds
  • Gelatin, popsicles and sherbet

It also may be helpful to take probiotics for diarrhea. Probiotics contain bacteria similar to the beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the human gut. They are effective for antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children and adults. However, if you have immune system problems, talk with your healthcare provider first before taking probiotics.

Foods to avoid with diarrhea

When you have diarrhea, you should avoid the following foods:

  • Fried and greasy foods
  • Gas-producing fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, beans, peas, berries, prunes, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables and corn
  • Caffeine, alcohol and carbonated drinks
  • Dairy products if they make diarrhea worse or cause gas or bloating

In addition, these other dietary tweaks can make you feel better:

  • Drink eight to 10 cups of clear fluids, preferably water, each day. Drink at least one cup of water every time you have a loose bowel movement.
  • Avoid eating large meals and have many small meals instead
  • Eat salty foods, such as pretzels, soup and sports drinks, to help you retain water
  • Eat high potassium foods, including bananas and potatoes

When to contact your healthcare provider

Be sure to call your healthcare provider if:

  • The diarrhea worsens or does not get better in two days for infants and children or five days for adults
  • There is blood or mucus in your stool
  • You have severe stomach pain or vomit repeatedly
  • You have a temperature of 101.3ºF or greater

Most diarrhea will resolve on its own, but if it persists or becomes severe, contact your healthcare provider. They may recommend specific medications or fluid replacement therapies.

Published March 2021.

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