When it comes to treating or preventing diarrhea, diet is an important factor to consider. During (and shortly after) an acute bout of diarrhea, it's important to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Recovery from the ailment generally involves avoiding certain foods (such as most dairy products) and eating foods that are easy to digest (such as bananas, plain rice, and toast).
Diet and Diarrhea: Is There a Connection?
Diarrhea is a common ailment suffered by children and adults alike. It is defined as loose, watery, unformed stools occurring more than three times in one day.
When it comes to treating or preventing diarrhea, diet is an important factor to consider. This is important:
- During and after an acute diarrhea attack
- In helping to diagnose causes of chronic diarrhea
- In preventing traveler's diarrhea
- In treating conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and celiac disease.
During and shortly after an acute attack of diarrhea, a "diet for diarrhea" should focus on:
- Replacing lost fluids and electrolytes
- Avoiding certain foods that can make diarrhea worse, such as fried foods
- Including foods that are easy to digest, such as plain rice.
Replacing Fluids and Electrolytes
Many people think that drinking fluids during bouts of diarrhea will make it worse. This is not true. In fact, drinking fluids is important during bouts of diarrhea to prevent dehydration, which is the loss of vital fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Proper hydration is especially important in children with diarrhea because they can die from dehydration within a couple of days.
Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes. Good choices to help maintain electrolyte levels include broth or soups (which contain sodium) and certain fruit juices, soft fruits, or vegetables (which contain potassium).
For children, doctors often recommend a special rehydration solution that contains the nutrients they need. You can buy this solution in the grocery store without a prescription. Examples of rehydration solutions include Pedialyte®, CeraLyte®, and Infalyte®.