We all know that diarrhea can strike at the absolute worst of times—like on days when you have a big meeting at work, when you’re going on a date, or when you’re supposed to meet your friends at a concert.
Sure, diarrhea can be a sign of something more serious (if it lasts more than a few days or if you see blood in your stool, get that checked out ASAP). But most of the time, diarrhea isn’t a huge deal and is just a normal part of, you know, being a human being.
Still, when it does happen, you might find yourself wondering how you can stop your diarrhea as fast as possible. Turns out, your diet can either help relieve or worsen your diarrhea. Health spoke with an expert to find out what you should—and definitely shouldn’t—eat when you have diarrhea.
What foods to eat when you have diarrhea
The BRAT diet might be beneficial if you’re having excessive diarrhea, Rabia De Latour, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, tells Health. BRAT stands for: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. It’s often recommended for little kids who are having a hard time keeping their food down.
These foods are easy on the stomach, and bananas in particular might be especially beneficial because they’re rich in potassium, which you might need more of if you’re having excessive diarrhea. (FYI: Potassium is an electrolyte, and electrolytes help regulate how your cells work to keep your body functioning normally). Not a fan of bananas? Potatoes, cooked broccoli, and cooked spinach also have tons of potassium.
You should also be thinking about what you’re drinking when you have diarrhea, Dr. De Latour says. It’s crucial to stay hydrated because excessive diarrhea causes your body to lose water rapidly.
Starchy foods are also a good option since they they’re typically easier to digest. They can also help put an end to your diarrhea by “bulking up” your poop and adding firmness to it, says Dr. De Latour.
What not to eat when you have diarrhea
First of all, avoid anything that your stomach has had a hard time with in the past. “People should avoid eating anything that previously gave them GI distress,” Dr. De Latour says. That means if you have previously experienced cramping after drinking milk, “you should avoid lactose-containing products if you are having diarrhea.”
Another big “don’t” for when you’re having diarrhea: huge meals. Smaller, more frequent meals are easier to digest than larger, less frequent meals, Dr. De Latour says.
It’s good to note what you should avoid and what might be helpful when you’re having diarrhea. But keep in mind that, unfortunately, diarrhea usually just has to run its course most of the time. Dr. De Latour says, “It’s hard to stop it. It’s just going to [take] time.”
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