Foods for a Post-Diarrhea Diet

How to Maintain Good Nutrition While Recovering

Scrambled Eggs
Leah Maroney

No one can live on the BRAT diet indefinitely. Whether you are just getting over a bout of gastroenteritis or suffer from diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), at some point you will need to expand your diet to ensure the proper intake of nutrients.

While the BRAT disease—consisting of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast—has long been considered an effective home remedy for diarrhea, recent research suggests that it may not be appropriate for all people, especially children.

Moreover, limiting a diet to these four foods can severely quickly deprive a person of much-needed energy, fat, protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and calcium.

Dietary Principles

Once you've gone through the acute symptoms of diarrhea, many people will advise you to avoid fiber because it can contribute to watery stools. But, this is not necessarily true. It depends largely on the type of dietary fiber you consume:

  • Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water and readily ferment in the colon. These types of fiber can be prebiotic, adding the to healthy bacteria in the stomach, while delaying the speed by which stools pass through and exit the body.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in the body but rather absorbs water as it passes through the digestive tract, softening and loosing stools in the process.

As such, you will need to focus on foods with soluble fiber to aid in the recovery of your intestinal flora while building more solid stools.

Some gastroenterologists will also recommend a low-FODMAP diet for people with IBS. The diet involves the restriction of certain carbohydrate-containing foods described by the acronym FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols).

Unlike the BRAT diet, the FODMAP diet can be maintained a long-term basis, ideally under the supervision of a dietician to ensure that adequate nutrition is being consumed.

Breakfast Foods

While bananas, applesauce, and toast can continue to fit into the dietary routine, you will want to add some protein and probiotic foods as well.

Safe breakfast items include:

  • Crisp rice cereal
  • Eggs boiled or scrambled with a minimum of butter or oil
  • Oatmeal, cream of wheat, farina, or rice porridge
  • Plain, low-fat yogurt with live bacterial culture
  • Pancakes or waffles without syrup (check to ensure the product or mix does not contain fully or even partially hydrogenated oils)
  • Unflavored rice cakes

For the moment, you will want to skip anything but a small portion of non-fat milk with your cereal. With the exception of yogurt, dairy tends to contribute to, rather than resolve, diarrhea symptoms.

Similarly, with the exception of bananas, avoid eating fruit. This includes fresh apples.

Lunch and Dinner Foods

Lunch would focus on the increased intake of protein, the avoidance of excessive fats, and the addition of certain carbohydrates to help bind watery stools.

Safe food options include:

  • Canned tuna packed in water (not oil)
  • A small portion of lean chicken, turkey, or pork
  • Chicken broth
  • Crackers
  • Salty pretzels
  • Plain pasta or noodles
  • Sandwich with lean lunch meat (avoid whole-grain bread)
  • Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or winter squash
  • A small portion of carrots, green beans, mushrooms, beets, asparagus tips, or peeled zucchini
  • A vegetable soup made with the abovelisted ingredients

While white rice is beneficial to treating diarrhea, avoid barley, brown rice, bulgar, millet, or similar whole grains which can make diarrhea worse.

Hydration Tips

Diarrhea causes the rapid depletion of water and electrolytes from the system. To compensate for this, you will need to replace fluids on an ongoing basis even if you are finding it hard to keep them down.

If you have a loose bowel movement, drink at least one cup of fluid immediately after.

While water is best, some people will choose sugar-free sports drink to help replace lost electrolytes. Thereafter, as your stomach gets stronger, you will need to increase your intake to between eight and 10 glasses for clear fluid (ideally water) per day.

While non-caffeinated, herbal teas are great for soothing stomachs, avoid any caffeinated drink including coffee, tea, or soda. Similarly, while carbonated water may help reduce queasiness, avoid fizzy sodas or sugary drinks that can make diarrhea worse.

Sources:

Churgay, C. and Aftab, Z. "Gastroenteritis in Children: Part II. Prevention and Management." Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jun 1;85(11):1066-1070. PMID: 22962878.

Nanayakkara, W.; Skidmore, P.; O’Brien, L. et al. "Efficacy of the Low FODMAP Diet for Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Clin Exper Gastroenterol. 2016; 9:131-42. DOI: 10.2147/CEG.S86798.

Shiller, L. and Sellin, J. (2016) "Chapter 16: Diarrhea." Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease (10th Edition). In: Feldman, M.; Friedman, L.; and Brandt, L., ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Elsevier Saunders.