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Which Foods Help Relieve Diarrhea?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Sometimes people suffer from long bouts of diarrhea after stomach flu or because of conditions that are ongoing, like irritable bowel syndrome. When frequent bowel movements continue for more than a couple of days, and there is no indication of parasitic or bacterial infection, certain foods can help firm bowel movements and put an end to the condition. Commonly doctors advocate the BRAT or BRATTY diet to help relieve diarrhea.

BRATTY is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, tea and yogurt. These foods, especially when eaten together, can help to firm bowel movements. In the past physicians recommended the BRAT diet only, which did not include tea and yogurt, but the BRATTY diet is now preferred given the beneficial qualities in yogurt.

Bananas have high potassium content, which is excellent for replacing lost potassium. They also have a healthy balance of starch and fruit sugars that can help firm bowel movements. Rice and white or wheat toast should be served without added spices or butter, since fats and spices may prolong frequent or watery bowel movements.

Applesauce or even whole apples are a great source of pectin, a natural bulking agent. Green tea or weak black tea, preferably decaffeinated, helps to replace lost fluids. There aren’t enough ways to sing the praise of yogurt, which contains natural live cultures that help restore intestinal balance. After a day or two of diarrhea, the body is usually depleted of good bacteria in the gut, and this depletion can prolong the number of days you have loose bowel movements. By replacing these bacteria with the live cultures in yogurt, you can restore this balance more quickly than the body would be able to do on its own.

Another reason yogurt is great is that it provides a much greater supply of protein than do other foods on the BRATTY diet. This makes it possible to stay on the diet for several days if needed without skipping on protein. It’s usually recommended that you remain on the diet until a day or two after diarrhea has ceased.

There are some common mistakes with the BRATTY diet that can negate its effects. As mentioned above, toast and rice should be served plain. Read labels of yogurt to be sure it contains live cultures and make sure it is minimally sweetened, preferably with fruit juice only, or you can eat it plain if you don’t mind the sour taste. A plain yogurt and banana shake is nice and sweet.

Don’t substitute apple juice for applesauce or raw apples. Apple juice tends to work as a natural laxative. Try to stick with decaffeinated tea and don’t use herbal teas, which might prolong diarrhea. Skip additives to your tea like milk, honey, sugar or sugar substitutes.

You should also avoid common sports drinks like Gatorade®, since their high sugar content can result in more diarrhea. To replace lost fluid try water, tea, or electrolyte replacing formulas like Pedialyte®. When you frequently have loose bowel movements, consider adding fiber supplements to your diet.

Though fiber can have a softening effect on stools, it can also help bulk it up, resulting in fewer bowel movements that are easier to pass. If you’ve never had diarrhea that lasts for more than a day or two, especially if it’s accompanied by fever, you should see a physician for more guidance. Certain bacterial and parasitic infections need treatment with medication to resolve.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon342411 — On Jul 20, 2013

Medical facilities are having a serious problem dealing with a bacteria infection called C-diff (look it up). My daughter has it and is very sick. If you take the wrong kind of antibiotic it will only get worse. Make your doctor listen to you.

By anon335946 — On May 24, 2013

I know what a lot of you are going through, and many are looking for symptom relief, even if it doesn't fix the underlying problem. Get some raw psyllium husk. Not psyllium husk powder, but the whole husks. Put a couple of tablespoons in a half glass of water, and force yourself to drink it quickly. It will absorb water and form bulk that will (often) firm up the stools.

By anon245108 — On Feb 04, 2012

Thanks for the advice. I've been dealing with diarrhea for three days now and need some relief.

By anon225864 — On Oct 28, 2011

#23, sounds like you have what I had a while back: a stomach ulcer. I had the burning sensation and when I had to go to the bathroom it was like being in hell. Go to your doctor and explain your symptoms asap! Stomach ulcers are nothing scary but can develop into worse things if left untreated.

By anon171029 — On Apr 28, 2011

my husband has had diarrhea (because of IBS supposedly) for years off and on and now it is on very bad and hard to plan anything. He is almost housebound. He's tried it all, I believe? What foods will bind a person up so then they can control it? For any and all three meals or snacks?

By anon163200 — On Mar 26, 2011

I've got diarrhea and I'm scared to go to the bathroom. I don't know what to do. In past issues, it's hurt to go to the bathroom, and it burns the anal area. I have cramps and pains, and felt stuff in my tummy move and make noises. I'm afraid this will all happen again, and right now, I have guests over for dinner. Help?

By anon151314 — On Feb 10, 2011

@ No. 14: I had the exact same problem as you and I think that you must be going through a very stressful period of your life. Your symptoms are the result of excessive stress induced acid secretion in the stomach which can be controlled by taking the drug Omeprazole. But drugs can only help so much.

The only way that you can recover is by finding out what is the source of stress in your life and dealing with it. I know how it feels like to be puking your guts out after every single meal and I got over it with medication, willpower and reducing as much stress as possible. I wish you well.

By anon135759 — On Dec 20, 2010

You cannot cure HP. yes you treat it with antibiotic pills, but it stays in your body forever. Ask your doctor.

By anon132062 — On Dec 05, 2010

I have had diarrhea for three weeks and now my stool is mainly coal black water. Cannot eat.

By mentirosa — On Nov 27, 2010

In my diarrhea treatment accompanied by vomiting, I also include seven up. I let it sit for a while so it becomes more flat and only then sip very slowly. If my stomach can handle it I gradually increase the amount.

By anon129119 — On Nov 22, 2010

I have had diarrhea since this morning accompanied by stomach cramps and I vomited once. I would like to know what beverages apart from tea and water would help me. Thanks.

By anon126003 — On Nov 11, 2010

I've had diarrhea three times in the past five weeks and it always come after nausea and terrible cramps. I have a doctor's appointment next week but I'm not sure what they can actually do. Any tips? Thanks.

By anon121885 — On Oct 25, 2010

I had a similar condition, about ten years ago, when I was also in my twenties. I would go through a month at a time of diarrhea spells, and this persisted off and on for a few years.

I was scoped, probed, scanned, x-rayed, and tested for every possible disorder (Lactose intolerance, crohn's disease, celiac disease...) In the end, I was tested and treated for a bacteria called helicobacter pylori. Ten days worth of antibiotic pills (referred to as the HP pack). And by day 11, I was literally cured. Years of acting the role of the guinea pig for medical science could have been avoided by one simple test and a few pills.

It's worth noting that HP can be a natural occurring bacteria in many (most) people, from what I now understand of it. (I believe it occurs in up to 50 percent of rurally situated people, and 80 percent of urban dwellers). But for some people it just spells trouble. Now, I'm not saying this is the cause of your symptoms, more a portrait of how easily some things can be overlooked.

I had a co-worker who also endured years of battling similar symptoms. They also found a bacteria that was easily cured with antibiotics (sadly the name of his bacteria eludes me, it also had an elaborate title) hiding within him.

If symptoms like this persist, see a gastrointestinal specialist. It took mine *one* day(!) to diagnose and cure what baffled the rest of 'medical science' for years.

Just my two cents on the topic. I hope it might help.

By anon118401 — On Oct 14, 2010

I had had diarrhea for at least a month. After week 1 I went to the doctor and he prescribed me Imodium pills.. that didn't work. Went again a few days later, and they gave me Lomotil or some crap and that didn't help either and put me on bed rest.

After so much I finally got better close to end of week three and after that, I was on bed rest for four days.

I got my energy back and I didn't go to the restroom at all for a few days (I was getting a little worried) but then finally I started using the bathroom in a smooth solid. So I started eating again. Then out of nowhere, I got it again. I changed my diet and places I ate at. Still nothing.

Finally, I was in so much pain from stomach cramps and vomiting (was vomiting through out the month) that I went to the ER. They did a cat scan and supposedly did not find anything. I followed up to my doctor that day and I think now he is finally taking me more seriously. I'm awaiting stool sample test results but I would like to know why am I not admitted to the hospital?

I've been vomiting and can't keep liquids down and I've been sick for a month. What's wrong with me? I'm 26 years old.

By anon112271 — On Sep 19, 2010

For long term diarrhea, try zinc tablets.

By anon104217 — On Aug 15, 2010

If you have an on-going stomach issue such as crohn's or you're pregnant, then the best place for you to go is the ER. I went to a walk-in clinic twice and they sent me to the er and yes, I had diarrhea and I was in the hospital for two weeks.

By anon97943 — On Jul 21, 2010

The herb slippery elm, available in capsules, is wonderful and quick-acting for diarrhea. Take three or four capsules at the onset, and follow bottle directions after that. It's an extremely safe herb.

By anon91301 — On Jun 21, 2010

Just hoping this will help who ever is out there and wondering. I have used banana flakes for years to naturally control my diarrhea and heartburn, two very discomforting conditions.

i trust my health to a product called Nana Flakes and i am sharing this only because i know that it can help you as it has helped me. but of course check it out for yourself at Nutritional Designs.

By anon77450 — On Apr 14, 2010

Diarrhea can be a medical emergency. If it has gone on for more than 48 hours in a child under two years old (or more than 24 hours in a child under four months old), if it's accompanied by debilitating stomach cramps or high fever, or if there is pus, bright-red blood or darkened blood like coffee grounds in the liquid stool.

By anon77129 — On Apr 13, 2010

There are some reasons why a person would go to the ER for prolonged diarrhea. For instance, if the person is pregnant and the diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting. It can be very worrisome. That happened to me, and I needed to stay overnight to hydrate me again. Did I want to go to the ER, no, but it was a Sunday night where else could I go?

By anon64585 — On Feb 08, 2010

Anonymous commented: "Hi, I do wish that doctors, especially ER doctors, could read this so that they send patients home somewhat informed of what could be a possible cause for the patient's problems!!!"

Response: I am wondering why E.R. doctors would be the ones seeing a high volume of diarrhea cases? Diarrhea typically isn't an emergency. Have you ever gone to the E.R. for a real emergency and been amazed at the volume of people sitting in the waiting room who don't appear to need emergency care?

People abuse the E.R. because of the policy that an E.R. cannot refuse treatment to patients regardless of ability to pay. Besides the few diarrhea cases that may be emergencies (I cannot actually think of when it would be a true emergency) people should stop the procrastination of going to their primary care physician for routine treatment.

By eddiegrice — On Dec 19, 2009

I had diarrhea for five days last week so went to the doctor. I was told to eat the BRAT diet, which did not help at all, so three days later I went back. Another doctor told me that I had an infection and no type of diet would stop the diarrhea until the virus had passed out of my system.

So if you have viral diarrhea the BRAT diet is useless. This second doctor told me the most important thing to do, though, is to continue eating because an empty bowel will cause strain as the body tries to dump the virus, but food types won't make any difference.

I was prescribed co-codamol for the pain from the stomach cramps and also buscopan, which actually stopped the cramps from occurring (so i didn't actually need to take the painkillers after 24 hours).

If you're suffering from cramps and pains, ask your doc for buscopan, it is a fantastic drug.

Another important thing to remember when you have diarrhea (as the doctor told me and this works), is to keep your sugar level up (contrary to this article).

Drinking water is required to keep fluids up but will not provide any nutrients, especially sugar, which is important to keep your energy up, especially in the case of virus. He told me to suck on some hard boiled candy every so often through the day (hard boiled candy does not make its way into the bowels, it is mostly digested by saliva in the mouth and then finished off in the stomach. So it keeps your sugar/energy up without compromising the bowel).

By anon55701 — On Dec 09, 2009

This helped me a lot. I had the toast with nothing on it (wholemeal toast), banana milkshakes and probiotic yogurt. This all helps a lot. Good luck xx

By anon41663 — On Aug 16, 2009

very interesting article. I have also been told that fresh blackberries are an excellent solution (or help) for diarrhea.

By anon14520 — On Jun 18, 2008

Anonymous commented: "Hi, I do wish that doctors, especially ER doctors, could read this so that they send patients home somewhat informed of what could be a possible cause for the patient's problems!!!"

In response to this, I'm not sure which ER you've been going to, but every doctor I have ever seen has been able to give this same advice in some shape or form. Also, I think you could be confused. Reading this will in no way help a doctor diagnose a condition as each patient has a different history and different possible causes. It's not as if this article were a substitute for four years of med school. Additionally, this article only addresses treatment of the symptoms. Symptoms are a result of a condition, not the cause of it.

By anon12593 — On May 10, 2008

Hi, I do wish that doctors, especially ER doctors, could read this so that they send patients home somewhat informed of what could be a possible cause for the patient's problems!!! Just a thought!!!

By catapult43 — On Mar 14, 2008

Of course you want to check with your doctor for any prolonged bout with diarrhea, especially if children are involved. Because so much fluid is lost during this process, it is important to keep administering sips of liquid very often, something like every 5 to 10 minutes. For children it is probably best to use commercially bought liquid solutions with electrolytes.

There are some solutions that you can make yourself. Making oatmeal drink by boiling 1 cup of oatmeal in half a gallon of water for 5 minutes, makes a thick drink that helps to slow down vomiting and fluid losses. The drink should be strained before drinking it, and is best if used frequently and in small doses. Adding herbs with high level of potassium, such as alfalfa, dandelion, or clover blossom will help too.

Plain yogurt is a safe food that helps prevent diarrhea.

A beverage made out of vinegar and sweetened with honey is another helpful drink when taken before meals that will help control diarrhea.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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