Is Yogurt Good for Diarrhea?

An upset stomach and constantly having to go to the bathroom can be unpleasant and embarrassing. Besides frequent loose stools, diarrhea can bring with it other uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, and nausea.

Often, what you eat can either ease diarrhea or make it worse. Yogurt is something that people often ask about and the answer isn’t so clear-cut. This article will discuss yogurt and how it can impact diarrhea symptoms, including what to look for in yogurt, what to avoid, and other remedies for diarrhea.

Eating yogurt

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Yogurt and Diarrhea

Some people argue that yogurt can help ease symptoms of diarrhea, while others say that it can make diarrhea worse. If someone is sensitive or intolerant to lactose, the latter can certainly be true. 

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. If you are sensitive to lactose or have lactose intolerance, then yogurt might make symptoms of diarrhea worse for you.

In these cases, it would be best to avoid eating yogurt and other dairy products—especially if you are experiencing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal (GI) related issues.

On the other hand, the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in yogurt are thought to be the main reason for its ability to help decrease diarrhea symptoms. Research suggests that yogurt that contains live probiotics may help in certain types of diarrhea.

Probiotics

Yogurt is created through the process of bacterial fermentation of milk. Specific cultures of bacteria are added to milk, which then helps convert the milk sugars (lactose) into lactic acid. This helps the yogurt thicken. However, not all yogurts are created equal. 

The starter bacteria cultures are not considered probiotics, meaning they don’t always survive and grow to have beneficial effects in your gut. To be regarded as a probiotic, the bacteria must be alive to provide health benefits. 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, or “good bacteria,” that can provide health benefits, such as helping to balance and fight off harmful bacteria in your gastrointestinal system. They are naturally present in fermented foods. They are added to some other food products and are available as dietary supplements.

If a yogurt contains live bacteria cultures, it may be considered to have probiotics. However, many researchers have agreed that to have beneficial health effects, the yogurt must contain over 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) in each serving, and also have strains of bacteria that can survive the acidic environment of the GI tract.

Depending on the type of diarrhea you have, certain strains of probiotics may help lessen your symptoms.

Probiotics may help ease acute diarrhea caused by bacteria, as well as Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea, especially if taken at the first signs of symptoms. Probiotics may also be used as a preventative measure for diarrhea associated with antibiotics. This may help decrease symptoms of diarrhea by up to one day.

What to Look For

Experts have found that certain strains of probiotic bacteria are better at treating or preventing diarrhea than others. These include Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Unfortunately, many yogurt manufacturers do not list the strain of bacteria they used nor the amount of CFUs in each serving. This makes it difficult to choose a yogurt that is good for diarrhea. 

However, some will state that their product “contains live and active cultures.” Make sure the yogurt you are buying has this statement on the container.

What to Avoid

Avoid yogurts that are high in sugar, as too much sugar might cause your diarrhea symptoms to worsen. Try to find a yogurt that contains 10 grams or less of sugar per serving.

Try a dairy-free alternative if you are lactose intolerant or find that traditional dairy probiotic yogurt makes your diarrhea worse. There are several dairy-free yogurts available that contain probiotics.

Things to Look for in a Probiotic Yogurt

When looking for a probiotic yogurt for diarrhea, look for one that:

  • Contains live and active cultures
  • Has 10 grams or less of sugar per serving
  • Is dairy or lactose-free (if you are lactose intolerant)

Home Remedies

Hydration is very important when you have diarrhea. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to replace lost fluids and electrolytes (charged minerals such as sodium, potassium, and calcium). In addition to water, drink liquids that contain electrolytes, such as broths, low-sugar sports drinks, or oral rehydration solutions.

In most cases, research has shown that restricting your diet does not help treat diarrhea. In addition, most experts do not recommend fasting when you have diarrhea. However, avoiding certain types of foods and beverages might help, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated beverages and foods
  • Drinks and foods containing fructose
  • High-fat or greasy foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Fruits such as apples, peaches, and pears
  • Foods and beverages containing alternative sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol
  • Dairy products containing lactose, if you are sensitive to lactose or are lactose intolerant

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Diarrhea shouldn’t be ignored, especially if you have tried at-home remedies and are still experiencing symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have severe diarrhea, diarrhea lasting for three days or more, or exhibit signs of dehydration (loss of fluids), including:

Summary

Eating a probiotic-rich yogurt might be able to help ease symptoms of your diarrhea and shorten the length of time you experience diarrhea. If you are sensitive to lactose or have lactose intolerance, be sure to use a yogurt that is dairy- or lactose-free.

A Word From Verywell

Diarrhea can be an unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing condition. Staying well-hydrated is essential as you can lose a lot of fluids with diarrhea. If you have diarrhea for a longer period of time or recurring diarrhea, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to find out the cause and get treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should you eat when you have diarrhea?

    You can usually follow a normal, healthy diet when you have diarrhea. In most cases, research has shown that restricting your diet does not help treat diarrhea. Be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, as well as fluids containing electrolytes if you have severe or persistent diarrhea.

  • How long does diarrhea usually last?

    Acute, or short-term, diarrhea usually lasts one to two days and goes away on its own. Persistent diarrhea lasts anywhere from two to four weeks. If you have chronic diarrhea, it can last at least four weeks with symptoms that are continual, or come and go.

  • When should you take probiotics?

    Probiotics are helpful bacteria that might be able to ease symptoms of diarrhea, depending on the type of diarrhea you have and the strains of bacteria consumed.

    Acute diarrhea may be treated with probiotics at the first signs of diarrhea. Diarrhea associated with antibiotics may be able to be prevented and treated with probiotics. This may help shorten symptoms of diarrhea by up to one day.

  • How many probiotics should you take per day?

    There is no official recommended daily amount of probiotics. If you are taking a probiotic supplement, follow the recommended dosage instructions on the package. Consuming probiotic-rich foods as part of your normal diet is considered to be safe. In general, probiotics are well tolerated with no to minimal side effects in otherwise healthy individuals.

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10 Sources
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