When diarrhea strikes, no one feels much like eating. But it's important--especially for children--to drink fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. As the condition progresses, certain foods can also help.
When diarrhea first appears, sip clear liquids, especially water. Apple juice, weak tea and clear broth or bouillon are okay, too. If you can tolerate it, try gelatin, popsicles or flat soda. (Stir soda thoroughly for several minutes to get rid of all the bubbles.) Stay away from milk, since lactose intolerance could be an underlying cause of diarrhea.
For children, some doctors recommend fluids like Pedialyte or Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes. However, some doctors caution against Gatorade, as the high levels of sugar can make diarrhea worse. When in doubt, call your doctor.
As diarrhea begins to improve, most doctors recommend a very low-fiber diet known by the acronym BRAT: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. You can also add plain crackers and mild, cooked cereals like Farina or Cream of Wheat. Keep your portions small and try not to eat other foods until you can tolerate these.
Some diarrhea sufferers, especially cancer patients, need to add potassium to their diets, since diarrhea can rob you of this valuable mineral. Try potatoes and apricots in addition to bananas. If you have a kidney condition, however, check with your doctor first.
You can ease back into a regular diet as you start to feel better. Begin with bland foods like soft-cooked eggs, sherbet (not ice cream or frozen yogurt), canned fruits, cooked vegetables and lean, cooked chicken or turkey.
Foods To Avoid
To avoid recurrent diarrhea attacks, avoid the things that irritate your digestive system such as dairy products (if you're sensitive), spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in fat or fiber.
Connie Clark has written articles, books and ad copy since 1983. Clients and publications include "The Los Angeles Times," Warner Bros., Honda, Fleetwood and more. Her latest books are "Who in the World Was the Unready King?" and "Twelve Easy Plays for Catechists and Kids." She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Loyola Marymount University.