Diarrhea is a condition characterized by watery stools more than three times a day due to disturbed bowel movement. Food and nutrition play a vital role in tackling the state of diarrhea. Diarrhea is a very unpleasant and uncomfortable disease. Diarrhea can be controlled easily at home by taking rest, increasing fluid, and easily digestible food items in the diet. The well-known diarrhea diet is the BRAT diet; it refers to Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. The main idea is to give rest to the body and bowel movement. Simple food releases fewer residues and stays longer in the body to keep it nourished. When the transit time is less, it becomes difficult for the intestines to extract the nutrients properly. A diarrhea diet also replenishes the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.
Following are some of the recommended dietary habits that should be included for avoiding diarrhea:
Bananas are essential sources of potassium, an important electrolyte that is lost during diarrhea. Bananas are also bland and are easily digested by the digestive system. It is also a great source of pectin and soluble fibers. Soluble fiber helps in preventing constipation and absorption of water in the intestine. Instead of apple, applesauce is recommended in diarrhea, an apple's skin contains insoluble fiber that can strain the digestive system.
When you are suffering from diarrhea, it is highly recommended that milk and milk products should be avoided even if you have standard lactose tolerance. On the contrary, yogurt or curd is recommended in the diet with active or live bacteria without artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can cause gas and loose motion.
Coconut water is highly recommended as a hydrating drink. Other soft drinks with artificial sugar should be avoided. Very hot and icy beverages should be prevented as it can affect the bowel movement. Intake of bone broth improves the fluid and electrolyte balance, which gets disturbed due to several diarrhea bouts. Coffee and tea stimulate bowel contraction and should be avoided. Alcoholic beverages like wine, beer and other cocktails should be avoided until diarrhea symptoms are improved.
Vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition. They should be cooked thoroughly after peeling and seeds should be removed to avoid bowel contraction. The baked potato's skin is nutritious and rich in fibers. Since digestion of a large amount of fibers is difficult during diarrhea, therefore peeled potato should be preferred over baked potato skin. Green leafy vegetables, corn, cauliflower, pepper, broccoli, and peas are avoided as they can cause gas.
Whole wheat bread is the healthier option for toast, but white bread is recommended as easy to digest. Pretzels and saltines are made from white flour, not from wheat, and it also contains salt, which helps increase the sodium level in the body which is lost during diarrhea. Plain white rice cooked with chicken broth can firm up the loose motion; pasta made with white flour cooked without any sauce in butter is also an option. Farina is a hot cereal that is highly nutritional and is very easy to digest. Oats can also be included in the diet, but additions like sugar, honey, or milk should be avoided.
Animal protein is highly recommended; steamed white chicken is easily digestible and is high in animal protein. Fish, turkey, beef, and pork are also some of the options.
Ice pops with added nutrition are a good source of hydrating the body. Hard candies, chewing gums with added sugar and alcohol like sorbitol and xylitol have a mild laxative effect. Ice-creams made with milk and artificial sweeteners should be avoided.
Oral Rehydration Therapy
Oral rehydration therapy plays a vital role in hydrating the body. It is a blend of sugar and electrolytes; breastfeeding and formulated feeding can also be considered ORT. ORT can treat the milder cases of dehydration, but in moderate and severe diarrhea cases, IV is recommended.
Being on a limited diet during diarrhea makes it difficult to have a balanced diet containing all the essential vitamins and nutrients. In the chronic condition of diarrhea, it is essential to sit with your doctor and nutritionist to have a proper diet plan for treating diarrhea. The diet should provide all the vital vitamins and nutrients required by the body in an adequate amount.
Diarrhea has a different impact on different age groups. Since toddlers and older adults can quickly dehydrate their bodies, parents and caregivers should take a closer look at the amount of fluid intake them.