Homemade applesauce in glass jar
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Follow the BRAT Diet to Get Better

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.

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Young girl drinking water
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Dehydration Is a Serious Risk

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.

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Woman wrapped in blanket reading thermometer
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Flu Shots Prevent Stomach Flu

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.

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Pat of butter spread over cracker
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Completely Avoid Fatty Foods

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.

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Orange medicine tablets pouring from bottle
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Drugs Can Cause Diarrhea

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.

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Assorted sugars in divided boxes
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Sugary Foods Make Diarrhea Worse

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.

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Teething baby with hand in mouth
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Teething Causes Diarrhea

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.

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Close up view of oatmeal and bananas
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Fiber Foods May Help

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.

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Woman pouring coffee into cup
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Coffee Can Make It Worse

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.

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Close up of pepto bismol in spoon
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Take Medicine Once You Feel Sick

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.

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Mother helping daughter wash hands
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Washing Hands May Keep You Well

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.

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Close up of woman slurping yogurt from spoon
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Yogurt May Help Reduce Diarrhea

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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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/05/2020 Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 05, 2020


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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "What Should You Eat When You Have Diarrhea?"
American Academy of Family Physicians: "BRAT Diet."
CDC: "Managing Acute Gastroenteritis Among Children," "Myths about Seasonal Influenza and Influenza Vaccines."
American Academy of Family Physicians: "Vomiting and Diarrhea in Children."
National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus: "Diarrhea."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Diarrhea."
PubMed Health: "Viral Gastroenteritis."
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging: "Diarrhea."
FDA: "High Blood Pressure -- Medicines to Help You."
Nemours Foundation: "Sorbitol."
MedlinePlus: "Teething," "Diarrhea."
American Dental Association: "Teething."
HealthyChildren.org: "Teething: 4 to 7 months."
Medline Plus: "Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber."
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging: "Diarrhea."
Rao, S. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, February 1998; vol 10(2): pp 113-118.
McCusker, R. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, October 2006; vol 30(8): pp 611-613.
American College of Gastroenterology: "Diarrheal Diseases."
The Cochrane Library: "Hand washing for preventing diarrhea."
Luby, S. Journal of the American Medical Association, June 2, 2004; vol 291: pp 2547-2554.
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Lactobacillus acidophilus."

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 05, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.