What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea: Foods to Eat & Avoid

Clinical review: Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
August 2022

When you have diarrhea, you should prioritize food with soluble fiber, like white bread, white rice and white pasta. You should also look to include lean meats (like chicken a fish) and fruits without the peel (as the peel can be hard to digest) into your diet, as these oods can help with digestion, reduce bowel movements and help with abdominal pain. 

In the meantime, to manage pain and loose stools, you should avoid eating processed foods and fatty foods, like premade sauces, fried food, cured meat, milk and dairy products. You should also avoid eating foods that can increase gas production, like beans, chickpeas, broccoli and fizzy drinks. 

Lots of fluid is lost through diarrhea, and therefore it is essential to increase your fluid intake by drinking water, tea and coconut water. This can help to replace any lost electrolytes and prevent dehydration.

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What to eat

You should prioritize foods that are high in soluble fiber and lean protein, like: Os alimentos que devem ser priorizados na dieta são aqueles com fibra solúvel e as proteínas magras, como:

  • Peeled fruit, like pears, bananas, apples, guava, passionfruit, peaches, and lemon
  • Fresh vegetables, like squash, celery, potato, yams, carrot, eggplant and asparagus 
  • Lean protein, like chicken, white fish, eggs, tofu, and lean cuts of beef
  • Grains with less fiber, like white rice, white bread and white pasta 

In addition, coconut water is a great resource to replace any lost potassium and and sodium. These nutrients are important for many body functions, but are excreted in large amounts with diarrhea. 

Tars without caffeine, like lemon blam, chamomile and rosemary tea are important to increase fluid intake. These teas have soothing effects that help with digestion and relieve discomfort.

What to avoid

You should avoid certain foods that can worsen diarrhea, like: 

  • Fatty foods, like milk and other dairy products, fried food, butter and heavy cream
  • Fruit peels, from pears, apples, plums and peaches 
  • Nuts, like walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts 
  • Whole grains, like whole wheat rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread and oatmeal 
  • Leafy vegetables, like lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach, chards and watercress
  • Foods that increase gas, like beans, radish, chickpears, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lentils, cucumber, sweet potato and Brussel sprouts 
  • Fatty meats, like bacon, lamb, pork, and rump steak 
  • Processed foods, like soda, premade sauces (like ketchup and mayonaise), icecream, and instant pasta 
  • Spices, like pepepr, curry, garlic and onion
  • Cured meat, like sausage, prociutto, salami and mortadella 
  • Sweets, like sugar, hello, chocolate, cookies, dried fruit and canned fruit 

You should avoid fruit smoothies as well, as these contain high levels of fructose, which can stimulate intestinal contractions and worsen diarrhea. Drinks with caffeine should also be avoided during bouts of diarrhea, as they can irritate the stomach and increase loose stools. 

Read more about which foods cause gas and bloating so that you can avoid them. 

3-day diet menu for diarrhea 

The following table outlines a sample menu that you can follow when you have diarrhea:

MealDay 1Day 2Day 3
Breakfast

1 cup of unsweetened chamomile tea + 1 french bun with 1 egg 

Rice porridge

3 crackers + 1 cup of rice milk 

Morning snack

1 baked pear, peeled 

1 medium slice of melon 

1 banana 

Lunch

Chicken soup with carrot, zuchini and rice 

Vegetable soup with potato, squach and shredded chicken 

Rice boiled with chicken and zuckini + baked potato 

Afternoon snack

Corn porridge 

1 French bun + 1 cup of unsweetened lemonbalm tea 

1 cup of soy milk + 2 crackers

Dinner

Mash potatoes with grilled fish + 1 peeled peach

Carrot mash with a baked potato + 1 peeled peach 

Cooked pasta + grilled meat + boiled carrots and asparagus + baked potato 

This menu is just an example. It is important to seek a medical consult to identify the possible causes of diarrhea and to start treatment as necessary. Check out the common causes of diarrhea and how to treat it. 

Home remedies for diarrhea

You can incorporate some home remedies into your medical treatment plan to reduce symptoms of diarrhea. Some options include: 

  • Chamomile tea
  • Coconut water
  • Carrot soup
  • Apple juice
  • Rice water

Homemade saline solution can also help to replace lost nutrients, prevent dehydration and control diarrhea. Check-out other home remedies for diarrhea that can help to speed-up recovery. 

When to take medication

Diarrhea medications should only be used if recommended by a doctor. They are often contraindicated for use during intestinal infections, as the diarrhea can actually help to eliminate microorganisms. Therefore, if you have symptoms of an intestinal infection, like a fever or bloody stool, you should see a doctor for assessment so that a cause can be confirmed and treatment can be initiated. Treatment may involve the use of a prescription antibiotics. 

When the diarrhea is not related to an intestinal infection, the doctor may prescribe anti-diarrhea medication, like loperamide and racecadotril. These help to decrease intestinal contractions to reduce loose stools. In addition, the doctor may also recommend probiotic supplementation, like Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus casei, or probiotic supplements to help fight harmful bacteria in the gut and to restore the balance of good bacteria.

When to see the doctor 

It is important to monitor your symptoms and to seek medical attention if you experience one or more of the following: 

  • If the diarrhea lasts for over a week
  • If you have signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, dry skin, decreased urine, weakness and general malaise 
  • Intense and persistent abdominal pain 
  • Dark or bloody stool 

Diarrhea can be more severe in children and older adults, and these populations require more monitoring. They should be assessed by a doctor if diarrhea lasts for over 3 days. 

Was this information helpful?

Edited by Tua Saude editing team in August 2022. Clinical review completed by Tatiana Zanin - Registered Dietitian in August 2022.

References

  • UNIVERSITY HEALTH NETWORK. Dicas Alimentares para Pessoas com Diarreia. 2016. Available on: <https://www.uhn.ca/PatientsFamilies/Health_Information/Health_Topics/Documents/Eating_Hints_for_People_with_Diarrhea_Portuguese.pdf>. Access in 23 Jul 2021
  • WORLD GASTROENTEROLOGY ORGANISATION. Diarreia aguda em adultos e crianças: uma perspectiva mundial . Available on: <https://www.worldgastroenterology.org/UserFiles/file/guidelines/acute-diarrhea-portuguese-2012.pdf>. Access in 23 Jul 2021
Show more references
  • BERNAUD, S, R, Fernanda; RODRIGUES, C, Ticiana. Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia. Fibra alimentar – ingestão adequada e efeitos sobre a saúde do metabolismo. Vol.57. 6.ed; 397-405, 2013
  • DIREÇÃO GERAL DE SAÚDE. Alimentação e hidratação: doentes com Covid-19 a recuperar em casa após alta hospitalar. 2020. Available on: <https://alimentacaosaudavel.dgs.pt/activeapp2020/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/AlimentacaoAutocuidados_Alta.pdf>. Access in 23 Jul 2021
  • ANTUNES, G, C,C, Mariana . Diarreia. tese de conclusão de curso, 2014. Instituto Superior de Ciências da Saúde Egaz Moniz.
Clinical review:
Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
Graduated in Clinical Nutrition in 2001 and has a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition. Licensed to practice under the CRN-3 in Brazil and the ON in Portugal