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If you’re experiencing diarrhea, you need to eat foods that will help relieve symptoms and speed up recovery. This is especially true if you have cancer or another condition that affects the digestive tract.
The BRAT diet—bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast—is often recommended because they’re bland and binding and help firm up your stool. Similarly, boiled vegetables may also be helpful in alleviating your diarrhea symptoms.
1. BRAT Diet
The BRAT diet is one of the best diets for diarrhea because it contains foods that can reduce symptoms and help you feel better quickly. It focuses on bland, easy-to-digest foods that won’t irritate your stomach and trigger the next bout of vomiting and diarrhea.
According to David Cutler, MD, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, the BRAT Diet is primarily meant for children who are suffering from acute stomach issues, but it can also be helpful for adults. The diet is designed to provide key nutrients, add fiber to firm up your stool, and help keep your electrolytes in balance.
It’s also a good choice for anyone who is lactose intolerant or has a medical condition that requires extra attention when eating certain foods. You may also want to consider adding probiotic supplements like Glucerna, which will boost your gut’s natural bacteria to help you recover more quickly and effectively.
This dietary approach isn’t for long-term use, however; it can lead to deficiencies in nutrients, which are essential to the body’s ability to heal and recover. “Following the diet for too long can actually make your symptoms worse,” says Guo, who suggests that the diet should only be used for a short time to get rid of diarrhea.
For a brief stint on the BRAT diet, start by limiting your intake to clear liquids such as water and broth, which can help you stay hydrated while your body fights off your symptoms. Afterward, gradually add the foods on the BRAT Diet until you’re back to eating regular meals.
In addition to the above foods, you can also eat vegetables and fruits that are high in water and soluble fiber. Bananas, for example, are known to have a special type of starch called pectin that can help your stomach absorb more fluid.
Other foods you might consider trying include rice, applesauce, and toast. These are all low in fat and can be easier to digest than other carbohydrates. They may even help ease gas and bloating in your stomach, which can cause other symptoms.
2. Soups and Broths
Broths and soups are one of the best diets for diarrhea because they are filled with nutritious vegetables, protein, and water. They also contain a lot of flavor and are low in calories.
They can also be a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that you may need to recover from diarrhea. However, they can also be high in sodium, so it’s important to choose low-sodium varieties.
Soups are any thin, broth-based liquid that’s either served hot or cold and usually contains some meat, vegetables, or both. They come in a variety of flavors, including clear soups, thick cream soups, and chowders.
You can make homemade soups with just about any vegetable and meat you like. The key is to use a high-quality ingredient like meat or fish.
If you’re preparing soup from scratch, try to use organic and/or local ingredients. This way, you know you’re getting good food and not a bunch of chemical additives.
Homemade soups are especially a good option for those with diarrhea because they’re less likely to cause dehydration. They also don’t have the extra salt that many prepackaged soups contain.
Chicken soup is a classic choice for a good reason: it’s easy on the stomach and can help solidify loose stools. You can also add other foods to your chicken soup like boiled potatoes or pasta noodles, which are both easily digested.
In addition, avoiding dairy products while you have diarrhea is essential, especially if your symptoms are caused by lactose intolerance. Dairy products can also increase gas in the stomach, which can aggravate your condition and cause more severe symptoms.
You can also eat a variety of fresh vegetables, but make sure to cook them to soften them and make them easier on your digestive system. Steaming and boiling are both good methods for cooking carrots, green beans, beets, acorn squash, peeled zucchini, and other vegetables.
3. Low-Fat Meat
Choosing lean meats is one of the best diets for diarrhea because they contain key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, as well as low levels of fat and cholesterol. It’s important to choose cuts that contain no more than three grams of fat per 100 calories, and no more than 30 percent of your total calorie intake from fat.
For example, lean ground beef has no more than 10 percent of your total calorie intake from fat, so it’s a great choice. You can also eat more protein by eating low-fat chicken, turkey, fish, and egg whites.
If you want to eat meat but are concerned about its high level of fat, try choosing the leanest cuts available and cooking them thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to read labels and select products that are labeled “low-fat.”
Other foods to include on your diarrhea diet are low-fiber fruits, such as apples and bananas, and some cooked soft vegetables, such as potatoes without the skin and peas. These are a good source of potassium, which is critical for controlling fluid balance and regulating blood pressure in the body.
Avoid fatty meats, such as pork and sausage, which contain high amounts of saturated fat, and processed meats that are packed with salt, sugar, and additives. It’s a good idea to limit your intake of these meats to a few times a week, since they can add extra pounds to your weight.
It’s also a good idea to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are a good source of vitamins and minerals. But be sure to cook these vegetables thoroughly, or use a blender to puree them, so that you can absorb their essential nutrients.
Adding fiber-rich vegetables to your diet may help prevent diarrhea, as they increase the bulk of your stool and help your body absorb more nutrients. But don’t overdo it on these vegetables, as too much fiber can irritate your digestive system.
If you’re worried about your dairy intake, talk with your healthcare provider about using a lactose-free milk product or trying other options like yogurt and kefir. These probiotics can help regulate gut bacteria and normalize bile acids.
4. Cooked Vegetables
In general, cooked vegetables are healthier for you than raw ones, since they keep more of their nutrients. They’re also less likely to cause bloating or gas, which are common symptoms of diarrhea.
Cooked veggies are also a good source of protein, fiber and iron. They’re low in fat and sodium and are an excellent choice for a quick and healthy meal.
However, a person with diarrhea should avoid eating dairy products and fried or greasy foods. These can increase gas and make the symptoms worse.
A diet that includes lots of cooked vegetables will reduce trips to the bathroom and help restore a body’s electrolyte balance. It’s also important to eat plenty of water, as diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
One of the best ways to cook vegetables is to sauté them in a pan with a bit of oil and aromatics. This method helps to soften the outside fibers and allows you to cook them quickly while retaining most of their nutrients.
Another cooking method that works well for most vegetables is steaming or boiling. Both of these methods are low in heat, which helps to retain nutrients and prevent them from escaping into the cooking water.
Stir-frying, on the other hand, can deplete nutrients. The reason is that water-soluble vitamins (like C and many of the B vitamins) tend to leach out of vegetables into the cooking water, which can reduce their nutrient value.
The key to maximizing the nutrients in cooked veggies is to cook them quickly, says Hall. The longer you cook them, the more water-soluble nutrients will be lost.
So if you’re looking to boost your daily intake of vegetables, try these tips on how to prepare them correctly:
1. Use the right cooking techniques
Some vegetables can be better suited for eating raw than others, but most are delicious when they’re cooked. For example, cooked carrots are easier on the digestive system and have more vitamin A than raw versions. They’re also higher in beta carotene, an antioxidant that can reduce risk of heart disease and cancer.