Diarrhea is a common disease which affects both children and adults. Diet in diarrhea has an important role in both treating and preventing it. Diet is an important aspect that needs to be considered
- Both during and after an episode of acute diarrhea.
- In people with chronic diarrhea
- For prevention of traveler's diarrhea
- For treating other causes of diarrhea like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and celiac disease.
Dietary Needs During and After an episode of acute diarrhea
In a person with an acute attack of diarrhea, the diet should focus on
- Replacement of fluids and electrolytes lost from the body
- Eating foods which are easy to digest
- Avoiding foods which can worsen diarrhea
Replacing Fluids and Electrolytes
There is common misconception that eating and drinking fluids during an episode of diarrhea will make it worse. So many people tend to starve themselves when in fact you need more fluid intake. Fluid intake during diarrhea tends to prevent dehydration or the loss of vital fluids and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) from your body. Proper hydration is more important in children. They tend to become dehydrated more rapidly and can even die from dehydration within a couple of days.
Fluids recommended during diarrhea include
- Special rehydration solution that contains electrolyte (or the oral rehydration solution)
- Broth or soups (which contain sodium and other electrolytes)
- Certain fresh fruit juices, coconut water (which contain potassium).
Foods to Avoid as Part of the "Diarrhea Diet"
Certain foods can worsen diarrhea. So while diarrhea avoid foods that can make it worse like
- Milk and milk products like ice cream or cheese, but you can have yogurt. Some people especially children can develop temporary lactose intolerance after an acute attack of diarrhea. Hence avoid milk and other dairy products for about a week to ten days after diarrhea settles.
- Fried foods, chips, or foods high in fats
- Sweet foods like chocolates, cakes and cookies
- Foods rich in fiber like citrus fruits
- Fruit juices like apple juice, pear juice, and cherry juice
- Drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, or colas), sweetened beverages
Foods to Include
If you have diarrhea eat foods that are easy to digest. These include
- Plain rice, khicidi
- Boiled potatoes
- Cooked carrots and other vegetables
Using Diet to Help Diagnose Chronic Diarrhea
If your diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks ---you have chronic diarrhea. Consult your doctor if you have chronic diarrhea. Your doctor will examine you, take a detailed history, and do tests as required. At times your doctor may ask you to avoid;
- Milk and milk products as diarrhea can cause lactose intolerance
- Wheat, rye, and barley. These contain gluten. Intolerance to gluten causes celiac disease.
- Other substances depending on your history and test results
A Traveler's Preventative Diarrhea Diet
Traveler's diarrhea is caused by eating food or water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. People who travel from developed countries to countries like India, Pakistan and other developing countries are prone to develop traveler's diarrhea.
To prevent traveler's diarrhea avoid
- Do not drink tap water or use ice cubes made from tap water.
- Avoid tap water to brush your teeth.