Diarrhoea is a condition characterised by loose-textured or liquid stools and is a common digestive issue that may occur for multiple reasons, including if you’re experiencing a bout of food poisoning. It is also a common symptom if you are suffering from chronic digestive diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease.
Whether you’re experiencing loose stools occasionally or as a symptom of a more chronic disease, your diet can greatly affect how you manage loose stools and your digestive system. Diet and loose bowels, therefore, have a close connection.
While certain food items can help your digestive system get back on track, most other types of food need to be avoided to prevent loose stools from becoming worse or experiencing complications such as cramps, nausea and fever.
It is recommended that you consume simple, bland food that is easy to digest and absorbs water from your stools.
Food to eat
When you are suffering from loose bowels, it is important to temporarily follow a limited diet of easily digestible food to reduce stress on your digestive system, such as the BRAT diet.
Stick to simple food choices as they may decrease the amount of waste in your colon, resulting in less frequent bowel movements. When your food has a slower transit time in your colon, it reduces diarrhoea and helps your body stay nourished.
You may then slowly change your diet to help restore your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance by including food rich in probiotics and plenty of liquids.
BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast - a well-known diet that’s recommended when managing a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, including loose stools.
The food items included in the BRAT diet are low in protein, fat, and fibre, making them easier to digest. They are also bland and binding, easing certain symptoms of diarrhoea while helping stool become more solid.
Although the BRAT diet may be helpful for short durations, there are risks associated with following this diet for an extended period, as it possesses certain nutrient and caloric deficiencies.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, probiotics or food rich in probiotics help break down the damaging toxins produced by unhealthy bacteria causing loose stools and may shorten the duration of a bout of loose stools.
Foods rich in probiotics include:
Along with simple food, you must also drink plenty of liquid to stay hydrated and to replace the liquid that you are losing to diarrhoea. Water is, naturally, the most important of these and you can even suck on ice chips while you recover.
Other liquids that help you stay nourished—without triggering further pain or discomfort—include:
Clear broths, like chicken or beef broth, with all traces of grease removed
Electrolyte-enhanced water or coconut water with vitamins or electrolytes (avoid any drinks high in sugar)
Solutions like Pedialyte
Weak, decaffeinated tea
Other types of food
Other types of food that you can consume while recovering from loose stools and those that can be included in your BRAT diet include:
Hot cereals, such as oatmeal, cream of wheat or rice porridge
Plain white rice
Food to avoid
It is also important to avoid consuming food that may irritate your bowels and make loose stools worse. Stay away from spicy food, fried food, items high in fibre, and those that are artificially sweetened.
In addition, avoid consuming most processed food, uncooked vegetables, any type of citrus-based fruits, dairy products, and fatty meats such as pork or veal.
Speak to a specialist for dietary advice for diarrhoea
Following a proper diet is key to recovering from loose stools; it is not only about consuming the right food, it’s also about avoiding certain items that may irritate your bowels. If you’re suffering from chronic digestive diseases and are experiencing loose stools as a symptom, control your diet to speed up your recovery.
For more information on a curated diet plan to recover from loose stools, contact Dr Suhirdan Vivekanandarajah, an interventional gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney.
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