What To Eat When You Have Diarrhea: Foods To Eat & Avoid 2023

NCHC Writer
Dr. Kimberly Langdon, MD
Do you know what to eat when you have diarrhea to prevent making it worse? Here are foods to eat for acute and chronic diarrhea.
what to eat when you have diarrhea
Following a brat diet can help prevent diarrhea. Photo: Shutterstock & Team Design

Diarrhea can happen for many reasons.[1] What food to eat when you have diarrhea depends on what’s causing your symptoms.

Acute diarrhea is usually the result of a viral stomach flu, bacterial infection, or contaminated food. It usually goes away on its own in a couple of days.

Persistent diarrhea happens when your loose stools last longer than two weeks but less than a month. Persistent diarrhea can come from prolonged antibiotic use, infections like E. coli and C. difficile, and some food intolerances that may come and go.

Chronic diarrhea, which lasts for longer than a month, may indicate diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In some cases, eating disorders and overeating can trigger diarrhea.

Let’s take a look at some common recommendations for foods to help reduce diarrhea symptoms and give your digestive system a break.

What Foods To Eat When You Have Diarrhea

A bland diet of low-fiber foods can help you recover from diarrhea. Good foods for diarrhea include:

  • White bread.
  • Lean proteins like eggs.
  • Well-cooked veggies like green beans.
  • Noodles.
  • Boiled potatoes.
  • Rice.
  • Broth-based, bland soups.

Don’t forget to hydrate with plenty of electrolytes. In addition to water, you can drink coconut water and salty broths.

Talk to your doctor about frequent and prolonged diarrhea, because you may have a more serious condition like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disorder, or a food sensitivity like Celiac disease.

What To Eat When You Have Diarrhea

what to eat when you have diarrhea
Instead of BRAT, eat a variety of bland foods. Photo: Shutterstock

In general, what to eat and drink when you have diarrhea comes down to avoiding excess strain on your digestive system.

Gut rest is the number one best recommendation to give a sensitive digestive system a chance to heal. That means choosing foods that are easy to digest and that won’t make diarrhea symptoms worse.

What to eat and drink when you have diarrhea will change depending on the root cause of your symptoms.

In the past, the BRAT diet (eating nothing but bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) was the go-to recommendation for what is good to eat when you have diarrhea. The BRAT diet is no longer recommended[2] because it’s too restrictive, and your healing digestive system needs nutrients.

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Low-Fiber Foods

Fiber is one of the best nutrients to maintain gut health–usually. When you develop diarrhea, fiber can become the enemy. Soluble fiber can speed up transit time through the bowels, and insoluble fiber can irritate already inflamed intestinal tissue.

If your diarrhea is the result of IBS or IBD, fiber plays an uncertain role[3] in your condition. While getting adequate fiber may help prevent diarrhea for people with IBS and IBD, it may also aggravate a flare-up.

Taking it easy on the fiber will help slow digestion and allow your bowels to heal.

Easily Digestible Carbohydrates

Boiled potatoes, white bread, soda crackers, plain rice, and other foods with easily digestible starches and carbohydrates can keep your system working without overtaxing your stressed digestive system.

Well-Cooked Vegetables

Did you ever get chicken noodle soup when you were sick as a kid? Soups are a great option to get well-cooked vegetables and extra fluids into your system while you’re recovering from a stomach flu or gut inflammation flare-up.

The key is that any veggies you incorporate into a bland diet should be very well cooked and preferably low in fiber.

A salad full of raw leafy greens would probably make diarrhea worse. Likewise, soups or vegetables that are very oily, dairy-based, or heavily spiced will aggravate your digestive system.

Lean Proteins

Plain, lean proteins can make a great addition to a diet of bland foods to eat while you have diarrhea. Eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and lean fish are all usually well tolerated.

Low-FODMAP Foods

Bananas are the go-to recommendation for what to eat for breakfast when you have diarrhea, right? Not so fast.

If you have IBS or IBD, ripe bananas are high in oligo-fructans which can make diarrhea worse. Certain foods that are well-tolerated by most people may trigger a loose bowel movement in people with some digestive problems.

For people with chronic diarrhea, a low-FODMAP diet may help reduce your flare-ups and control diarrhea symptoms. Although it’s not currently considered a long-term solution[4] to IBS, there is good evidence that it can help alleviate diarrhea, gas, and pains in the short term.

What To Drink When You Have Diarrhea

It’s important to get plenty of fluids while you’re recovering from diarrhea. Dehydration is the number one severe complication of diarrhea.

Water With Electrolytes

It’s important to drink plenty of water, but if you replenish lost fluids without also replacing electrolytes, you could end up making things worse.

A general recommendation for how to stay properly hydrated is to be sure you’re getting a little salt and some carbohydrate with your fluids. If you’re in a pinch, you can add some orange juice, a little salt, and sugar to your water.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is an amazing option[5] for replacing lost fluids. It’s full of natural electrolytes including potassium which we tend to lose in especially high quantities when we have diarrhea.

Try to avoid coconut water with added sugar, as excessively sugary foods and drinks may aggravate diarrhea symptoms.

Sports Drinks 

Sports drinks have been carefully formulated to combat dehydration due to fluid loss, and they work just as well to prevent dehydration due to diarrhea. However, they can also be very sugary, so may not be your best option.

On the other hand, sugar-free sports drinks, which still have a good blend of electrolytes, frequently contain artificial sweeteners, which can seriously aggravate intestinal distress in many people.

Salty Broth 

If your system isn’t ready to handle solid foods, salty broths may be a good intermediate option for what to eat when you have diarrhea and vomiting. It’s a nutrition source that can help keep you hydrated, and usually well-tolerated when you have trouble keeping things down, especially if your broth has a little ginger in it.

Broths are a great source of needed electrolytes and micronutrients as well as helping maintain your fluid intake.

Foods To Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

We’ve taken a detailed look at what foods to eat without making symptoms worse. Now, let’s look at what not to eat when you have diarrhea.

Until your symptoms have gone away completely, you should avoid:

  • Caffeinated beverages.
  • Sugar-free candy and artificial sweeteners.
  • High-fiber foods.
  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty foods.
  • Sugary foods.
  • Carbonated drinks.
  • Dairy products.
  • Green leafy vegetables.
  • Fried foods.

If your diarrhea is part of a food sensitivity or chronic condition[6] like Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or IBD, you’ll have a specific list of triggers to avoid and will need to consult with your doctor for best recommendations.

Additional Treatments

Diarrhea is sometimes an unintended complication from certain foods and products intended to clean out bowels quickly or otherwise detoxify the body. If your diarrhea started after consuming certain teas or juices, take note of their ingredients and try to avoid them in the future, as you may have a sensitivity.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help alleviate most types of acute diarrhea quickly. Bacterial and parasitic diarrhea will need strong medications and medical attention.

If you or your child shows signs of dehydration or can’t keep enough fluids down, you may need intravenous fluids to prevent more serious issues.

When To See A Doctor

Children are at especially high risk for serious complications from diarrhea. If a child has diarrhea, call your doctor immediately if:

  • Your child has a fever over 102 F (39 C).
  • Your child has black or bloody stool.
  • Your child does not urinate (no wet diapers) for over three hours.
  • They seem unusually drowsy, sleepy, unresponsive, or irritable.
  • Diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours without improvement.
  • Your child has a dry mouth or does not produce tears when they cry.
  • You notice sunken eyes, abdomen, eyes, cheeks, or fontanelles.

People with digestive and kidney diseases should always treat diarrhea seriously. Digestive complaints can be a symptom of end-stage kidney disease. Conversely, diarrhea puts you at risk for acute kidney injury, especially if you’re an older adult.

Severe diarrhea is also worth a call to your doctor. If you’re wondering what to eat when you have watery diarrhea, your doctor may have recommendations or prescription medications that can help.

You should call your doctor about an adult with diarrhea if:

  • Diarrhea symptoms last more than two days without improvement.
  • You have a fever over 102 F (39 C) coupled with diarrhea or vomiting.
  • You show signs of dehydration such as:
    • Dark urine.
    • Not producing urine, or only urinating a little.
    • Dry mouth, excessive thirst.
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or severe weakness.
  • Severe pain in the abdomen or rectum.
  • You are vomiting blood.


Catching a stomach flu or struggling with diarrhea of any kind is no fun. Fortunately, most cases of acute diarrhea will go away on their own in just a day or two.

Sticking to an easily digestible diet while you have diarrhea can help give your intestines a chance to rest and recover and avoid making your diarrhea worse.

If you struggle with frequent or prolonged diarrhea, it’s essential you talk to your doctor to prevent nutritional deficiencies and other complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the BRAT diet the best way to treat diarrhea?

No. The BRAT diet used to be the standard recommendation for people with diarrhea, but it has been determined to be unnecessarily restrictive. Maintaining good nutrition while you recover from diarrhea is important.

Should I just stop eating if I have diarrhea?

If you are vomiting, you may not be able to keep food down. However, it’s not a good idea to withhold food until your diarrhea goes away, as depriving your system of nutrients can make things worse and make you even weaker.

How can I stay hydrated if I have diarrhea?

When you have diarrhea, you lose fluids and electrolytes. Instead of drinking too much plain water, you also need to try to replenish your electrolytes. Coconut water is a great option for rehydrating.


  1. Medlineplus.gov. (2016). Diarrhea. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/diarrhea.html#:~:text=What%20causes%20diarrhea,usually%20not%20necessary.
  2. Anon, (2023). Managing Acute Gastroenteritis Among Children: Oral Rehydration, Maintenance, and Nutritional Therapy. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5216a1.htm#:~:text=Children%20receiving%20semisolid,prescribed%20(60). [Accessed 14 Aug. 2023].
  3. Bellini, M., Tonarelli, S., Nagy, A.G., Pancetti, A., Costa, F., Ricchiuti, A., Nicola de Bortoli, Mosca, M., Marchi, S. and Rossi, A. (2020). Low FODMAP Diet: Evidence, Doubts, and Hopes. Nutrients, [online] 12(1), pp.148–148. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010148.
  4. Kalman, D., Feldman, S.R., Krieger, D. and Bloomer, R.J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, [online] 9(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-1.
  5. Kalman, D., Feldman, S.R., Krieger, D. and Bloomer, R.J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, [online] 9(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-1.
  6. O’Brien, L., Wall, C., Wilkinson, T. and Gearry, R.B. (2021). What Are the Pearls and Pitfalls of the Dietary Management for Chronic Diarrhoea? Nutrients, [online] 13(5), pp.1393–1393. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13051393.

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