Diarrhoea is a disorder that we all suffer from at least a couple of times a year. In general, following a diet for diarrhoea during a few days is enough to put an end to it. This is called a soft diet, as it mainly consists of soft, easily digestible foods. They should also be astringent to better absorb water from the stools.
Diarrhoea is an intestinal disorder in which you frequently pass liquid or loose stools. It is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms, such as bloating or vomiting, amongst others. Following a strict diet for as long as the most severe symptoms last is essential to stop diarrhoea. In our article, we will give you examples of diets to help you combat this condition.
- Diarrhoea is a disorder that we all suffer from once or twice a year on average. However, it is sometimes a symptom of an illness like an irritable colon. In any case, treating it involves following a proper diet.
- The diet against diarrhoea is also known as the soft or astringent diet. The first day generally consists of only drinking liquids. After that, the treatment is a diet low in fat, dairy products, and insoluble fibre. You are allowed to eat yoghurt.
- Certain supplements can help treat diarrhoea, such as probiotics and prebiotics. The former provide live microorganisms to the intestinal flora affected by diarrhoea. The latter, on the other hand, support the intestinal microbiota.
What You Need to Know About the Diet for Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is often a temporary problem, but it can also be a symptom of conditions such as irritable colon. In these cases, it is considered as chronic diarrhoea, which lasts more than two weeks. Diarrhoea is generally caused by gastroenteritis resulting from viruses, bacteria, or spoiled food. Let’s have a look at what you should eat and drink when you have diarrhoea.
What is the right diet to treat diarrhoea?
There are no definitive studies that support the existence of a relationship between following a soft diet and an improvement in diarrhoea symptoms. However, a number of subjects did improve after taking probiotic supplements, notably those suffering from antibiotic-induced diarrhoea (1). So, can you eat anything if you have gastroenteritis (2, 3, 4)?
- On the first day of diarrhoea, it is best to only drink liquids: pharmaceutical serums, soups or infusions such as camomile, lime, or peppermint.
- Have six light meals a day. Eat slowly and chew well. Rest for half an hour after your lunch and dinner.
- Avoid laxative foods, such as citrus fruits, plums, coffee, and sweeteners.
- Spicy dishes are strictly prohibited as long as you have diarrhoea. You can add salt to your meals in moderation.
- Do not eat foods that are processed, fatty, fried or contain a lot of sugar.
- Raw green leafy vegetables can aggravate symptoms by producing gas. You can eat boiled vegetables instead.
- Avoid dairy products. In certain cases, diarrhoea can cause temporary lactose intolerance. You can eat yoghurt if you don’t feel sick afterwards.
- Eat astringent foods such as rice, potatoes, or boiled carrots. Bananas, apples, and quinces are also recommended, but in moderation during the first few days.
- Cut fibre out of your diet when you have diarrhoea. Insoluble fibre from whole foods can worsen your condition.
What liquids should be included in a soft diet?
The body can lose a lot of fluid during a diarrhoea episode. This is why it is advisable to drink broths, infusions, and certain fruit juices – except apple juice, which can make the symptoms worse. While you need a sufficient supply of water, it doesn’t contain the salts and electrolytes that your body loses due to diarrhoea (3).
Alkaline lemonade is a great source of rehydration. Add the juice of half a lemon, two tablespoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, and another half of bicarbonate to a litre of water. Avoid soft and isotonic drinks, as they contain sugars and sweeteners that are contraindicated for treating diarrhoea. In addition, stay away from very hot tea or broths, as they speed up intestinal transit (4).
When can I go back to eating normally?
You should follow a crash diet once the symptoms of diarrhoea appear. As you notice improvement, you can gradually introduce the foods you have stopped eating, discarding those that worsen your condition. Here’s how you can return to a normal diet (4):
- Reintroduce fruits: banana, quince, pears, and ripe apples without skin, in compote or baked.
- Gradually add more vegetables and greens to your diet. Fresh vegetables should only be eaten in the very last phase of your anti-diarrhoea diet.
- Introduce dairy products little by little: start with yoghurt, then cream cheese, cottage cheese and skimmed milk, and finally whole milk and sour cream.
- Grind pulses and put them in a food processor. Eat them whole only once you tolerate them well crushed.
- Meat and fish should be boiled, baked, or grilled.
- Eggs can be hard-boiled, boiled, or in an omelette, always with olive oil.
Eating breakfast when you have diarrhoea
At breakfast, you can have skimmed yoghurt or kefir. Try to eat two to four times a day, if you don’t notice a worsening of the diarrhoea. Choose probiotic products, which contain lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus Casei. Serve your yoghurt with some non-wholemeal bread or biscuits, quince jelly (ideally raw), turkey meat, chicken, or cooked ham (4).
Eating lunch during soft diets
Suffering from gastroenteritis can significantly limit what you are able to eat for a few days. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a varied diet, especially at main meals. Here are some examples of lunches for a person with diarrhoea (5):
- Vegetable broth, lean meats (turkey or chicken), fruit or skimmed yoghurt.
- Boiled rice, steamed or grilled hake or cod, cooked carrots and potatoes. A ripe banana for dessert.
- Creamy carrot soup, baked cod, toast and fruit.
- Sautéed macaroni with courgette, grilled megrim, white bread and skimmed yoghurt.
- Noodle soup, grilled sole, bread and fruit.
Examples of dinners for diarrhoea patients
You can have a grated apple for your mid-morning and afternoon snacks. This fruit is rich in pectin, an insoluble fibre with an astringent effect. You can also have a ripe banana or skimmed yoghurt. The goal is to spread your food intake over 5 or 6 meals a day. Here are some ideas of healthy dinners you can eat (5).
- Courgette cream, baked gilt-head bream and potatoes, bread and fruit;
- Grilled chicken filet, sautéed spaghetti, toast and fruit;
- Spanish tortilla, turkey meat, bread and fruit;
- Pumpkin cream, grilled ling, boiled potato, bread and fruit;
- Roast turkey, sautéed white rice, toast and fruit.
Diet Against Diarrhoea: What Supplements Are Recommended?
Most of us experience at least one episode of diarrhoea a year. Unfortunately, some suffer from this disorder more frequently, such as people with coeliac disease or irritable colon. Certain supplements like Sundt’s liposomal curcumin have proven to be effective anti-inflammatory agents to treat irritable bowel syndrome (6).
Probiotic supplements are very efficient in combating diarrhoea, especially when it is caused by the use of antibiotics. Studies have also identified a link between the intake of probiotic supplements and food and an improvement in patients with lactose intolerance. These individuals often suffer from diarrhoea, amongst other symptoms (1, 7, 8).
You will find a wide range of probiotic supplements on the market. So, how can you know which strains of probiotics are best suited for treating diarrhoea?
- Bifidobacterium Lactis. It restores the intestinal microbiota and relieves both diarrhoea and constipation (9).
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus. It reduces the likelihood of gastrointestinal disorders. In addition, it prevents and fights acute infectious diarrhoea and diarrhoea caused by antibiotics (10).
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This fungus inhibits the proliferation of pathogens. It also relieves diarrhoea in adults and children (11).
- Lactobacillus Plantarum. It treats irritable bowel syndrome and its associated symptoms, such as diarrhoea (10).
Prebiotics and the treatment of diarrhoea
In cases of diarrhoea induced by antibiotics, doctors often recommend taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements together. The latter act as food for the beneficial bacteria that flourish in our intestines, promoting the action of the probiotic supplements. The most common include fructooligosaccharides, inulin, and lactulose (12).
Diarrhoea is a widespread disorder, which many of us suffer from once or twice a year. While it generally clears up in a few days, you’ll need to follow a special diet called astringent, or more commonly, soft diet. Throughout our article, we have discussed the foods to avoid and those to include in your meals.
We have also included some recipes to bring some diversity to your anti-diarrhoeal menu. So don’t worry, it won’t all be broth and boiled rice! We have also explored the role of probiotics and prebiotics as agents to treat diarrhoea.
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