Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 05, 2020

Follow the BRAT Diet to Get Better

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Myth. Bland "BRAT" foods -- bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast -- were once recommended to treat diarrhea. But BRAT foods don't have enough of other nutrients you need, like protein and fat. You can eat bland foods for the first day or so. But you should return to your normal diet as soon as you can.

Dehydration Is a Serious Risk

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Fact. Diarrhea causes you to lose fluids. Losing too much fluid can bring on dehydration, especially in children. A child may be dehydrated if they seem thirsty, has a dry mouth or sunken soft spots on the head (infants), or is urinating less than usual or crying without tears. Adults may have similar symptoms, as well as sunken eyes and lethargy. Call your doctor if you see signs of dehydration. Your doctor may recommend drinking oral rehydration solutions, water, uncaffeinated, low-sugar sports drinks, diluted fruit juices, and broths.

Flu Shots Prevent Stomach Flu

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Myth. Seasonal flu -- or influenza virus -- can cause fever, body ache, and general misery, but it rarely causes diarrhea. Influenza is generally a disease of the airways and lungs. The sickness that some people call "stomach flu" can cause diarrhea, but that bug is different from influenza. "Stomach flu" is just a catch-all name for viral gastroenteritis, which is caused by many different germs.

Completely Avoid Fatty Foods

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Myth. Greasy, fried foods often make diarrhea worse because they're hard to digest. But eating a little fat could help ease diarrhea. The slow digestion of fats may reduce diarrhea symptoms. As long as you don't have a problem absorbing fat, add a teaspoon of mayo, a pat of butter, or a little lean meat to your next meal. It may help with your symptoms.

Drugs Can Cause Diarrhea

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Fact. Side effects of medications may include diarrhea. For example, antibiotics and some drugs for cancer, depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure may cause diarrhea. If you develop diarrhea after starting a new drug, call your doctor.

Sugary Foods Make Diarrhea Worse

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Fact. Some people reach for sports drinks or sodas to replenish lost fluids when they have diarrhea. But very sugary foods and drinks -- even natural sugars found in fruit -- may make diarrhea symptoms worse. During digestion, sugar draws fluid into the intestines, diluting the stools. Some sugar substitutes, like sorbitol, may have the same effect.

Teething Causes Diarrhea

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Myth. Many parents believe that teething triggers diarrhea in babies. But pediatricians say it's not true. Your baby may be cranky or irritable during teething. But if they also have diarrhea or a fever, talk to your doctor.

Fiber Foods May Help

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Fact. But it depends on what type of fiber you eat. Soluble fiber, found in beans, peas, oat bran, and peeled fruits and cooked vegetables -- absorbs water in the intestines and makes stools firmer. But insoluble fiber -- which is found in the skins of raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and wheat bran -- may speed up stools as they pass through the intestines.

Coffee Can Make It Worse

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Fact. The caffeine in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate might make your bowels work faster. Caffeine works as a stimulant in the intestines, making digestion speed up and causing your bowels to empty faster. Even though decaffeinated coffee has less caffeine than regular, decaf may still have enough caffeine to stimulate your bowels.

Take Medicine Once You Feel Sick

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Myth. Diarrhea often goes away on its own, so treatment isn't usually necessary. But over-the-counter diarrhea medications can offer some relief from symptoms. Avoid them if you have a fever or other symptoms, such as bloody stool. Don't give babies or children any diarrhea medicine unless a pediatrician recommends it.

Washing Hands May Keep You Well

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Fact. According to public health experts, washing your hands is still the best way to fight the germs that cause diarrhea. One review of research found that good hand washing can cut the transmission of infectious diarrhea by almost 40%. Use soap and water -- and scrub as long as it takes you to recite the alphabet.

Yogurt May Help Reduce Diarrhea

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Fact. Yogurt may help people recover from diarrhea faster. The live, natural, "friendly" bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, in some yogurt may help promote healthy digestion. Some studies have found that yogurt with live or active cultures may help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

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