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5 Things from Your Pantry to Help with Diarrhea

Laura Kunces, PhD, RD

No matter the issue you’re experiencing in the bathroom, anything that has to do with a bowel movement tends to be a difficult topic to talk about. Diarrhea is arguably one of the worst GI issues, too. Statistics report that, on average, adults in the United States experience diarrhea once a year. But that doesn’t account for those who are suffering from IBS-D or irritable bowel syndrome-with the main issue being diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, or other. In these cases, adults can be experiencing diarrhea almost every time they use the restroom, which can be two to three loose (or more!) watery stools a day. And having acute or chronic diarrhea is not only uncomfortable, but it can result in other major health issues, limits your ability to live your life, and (in some cases) can even be life-threatening.   

It’s essential to understand what may be causing your diarrhea. When it comes on fast and goes away after a day or two, it’s likely from something you came in contact with. It could be from food that “disagreed” with you – because of ingredients you are allergic or intolerant to, a meal loaded with spices you aren’t used to, a super-sugary dessert, or maybe a leftover that wasn’t temperature-controlled and was harboring a bacteria. Alcohol can also contribute to diarrhea. 

For athletes, endurance or high-intensity exercise can sometimes cause GI issues, including diarrhea, because your working muscles pull blood away from the GI tract. Exercise stress can also weaken the gut lining resulting in a multitude of GI issues, like cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and others. It’s adding insult to injury that many sports nutritional supplements tend to be high in carbohydrates. While carbs can provide energy, overconsumption of carbohydrates or sugary foods requires extra water to be digested and can result in diarrhea as they pass. 

If your diarrhea lasts for longer than a short, random episode or two, and if you start having multiple loose stools a day, it may be from a habit, health condition, or bacterial imbalance. The most common cause of consistent or chronic diarrhea is a bacterial imbalance, which can result from many daily interactions, including medications, exposure to something in the environment, or certain health conditions. 

Note that it is not uncommon for diarrhea episodes to be followed by bouts of constipation. Physiologically, it makes sense. Your body is losing water and substrates that help keep water balance. So after episodes of diarrhea, you can become dehydrated, which can lead to altered GI motility, feelings of fatigue, lightheadedness or brain fog, skin issues, blood pressure problems, and more.    

What to do when you have diarrhea

If diarrhea is a new issue for you, and it lasts for more than a couple of days, you will want to see your healthcare professional. If this is a chronic issue you’ve been dealing with and haven’t found the right solution, look to Gutbio – Onegevity’s gut microbiome at-home to help you pinpoint specific information about your gut health and provide diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations as to how you can rebalance the bacteria that may be causing your gut problems. 

In addition, you will want to get started on a nutrition plan to support your issues in the bathroom. We’ve put together a list of 5 things you should keep in your pantry or refrigerator if you are experiencing bouts of diarrhea. 

  1. Electrolytes

Watery bowel movements will make it more challenging to keep your body in an optimal hydration state. You may notice chapped lips, dry and scaly skin, or even constipation following bouts of diarrhea – all suggesting that the water balance in your body is fluctuating and you are dehydrated. Be sure to keep a tin of powdered electrolytes on hand – something you can scoop into a water bottle, mix to your desired concentration with room temperature water, shake, and rehydrate. 

Find a mixture that includes all of the main electrolytes lost in bowel movements: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride. But don’t just purchase any brand; you will also want to make sure this product does not contain additional sugars, specifically fructose, or sugar alcohols, which may exacerbate issues with diarrhea and dehydration depending on how much you drink. Consider Thorne’s Catalyte – an electrolyte powder mix with minimal calories, no artificial sweeteners or sugars, and has a composition that is similar to sweat, so you can ensure you are adding the right mix of fluids and substrates back to your system.

  1. B.R.A.T. Diet Foods

The B.R.A.T. diet is a similar concept to the diets your veterinarian will recommend –  boiled white chicken meat and white rice for your dog with diarrhea. If you have a child, it may sound familiar because it’s what the doctor often recommends when they’re having episodes of diarrhea. B.R.A.T. is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast – a bland diet that still provides some of the essential nutrients necessary to calm your GI tract and support energy and nutrition status. Bananas and bread are not easy to keep around, so consider frozen bananas you can defrost and crackers as substitutes.

You don’t need to follow a B.R.A.T. diet forever; it’s a temporary fix. Slowly and methodically, you can add back nutrient-dense foods like eggs, chicken, cooked vegetables, and cooked cereal. You will want to avoid dairy, fruit, dried fruit, alcohol, caffeine, and fried foods until diarrhea has subsided. 

For a long-term solution, you might be advised to seek further information about what be causing diarrhea. If diarrhea came on suddenly, it could be a foodborne illness. But if you regularly have diarrhea, you will want to order a Gutbio test and look specifically at the section of the report called “Pathogens” – where Onegevity screens you sample for specific pathogens.  Other parts of the report will help you understand if you have high levels of bacteria known to cause diarrhea, inflammation, and dysbiosis. In consultation with a health-care professional, the test will help you learn which diet regimen and specific dietary supplements will resolve the issues you’re experiencing. 

  1. Fiber

Fiber is considered a prebiotic – food for the probiotics inside your gut. The two main types of fiber are insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber is deemed to be hydrophobic, meaning it does not attract water. It’s the most common type to suggest when someone is constipated because it will help move bulk along the GI tract to be excreted. Some examples include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), zucchini, cabbage, whole grains, bran, brown rice, flax or chia seeds, and rolled oats. 

Soluble fiber is the type you want if you’re experiencing diarrhea. It’s hydrophilic or attracted to water. This means the fiber will take on excess water that is in your intestines during diarrhea. Soluble fiber should help relieve symptoms and, depending on the type of soluble fiber, it may help the essential probiotics thrive and rebalance the ratios of gut bacteria so your symptoms will be resolved for good. Some of the best soluble fiber options are oats, beans, barley, and psyllium. 

If the problem isn’t fixed, more does not always equal better. If the problem doesn’t resolve, continuing trial and error may not be the best course of action. To know precisely which prebiotics (fiber source) and probiotics you can be benefitting from based on your gut microbiome composition and symptoms, take a Gutbio test. Your recommendations for diet and supplements will include pre- and probiotics as necessary to get to the root cause of your issues, not just relieve symptoms. 

  1. Dairy-free options

You are not alone if dairy products give you trouble. Thanks to genetics, 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose (the sugar in milk) after infancy,1 with it being most common in individuals of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent.

Think about going dairy-free and stocking your house with meal and snack options. Dairy-free foods can range from milk alternatives like soy or almond milk to non-dairy foods that don’t usually contain dairy in them, like meat or nut butter. No matter the case, think about avoiding dairy for a bit and monitor how you feel.

What about yogurt with probiotics? For the time being, you will want to get your probiotics from another source, at least to see if dairy is a culprit. 

  1. Gluten-free foods

This recommendation may get tricky depending on what fiber or toast you are trying to eat, but sometimes gluten can be a cause of diarrhea. Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in cereal grains, especially wheat, barley, and rye. It’s what gives bread products that doughy texture, and why gluten-free options tend to be harder and less spongy. Although only one percent of the population has an actual celiac disease diagnosis, which is an autoimmune response when consuming gluten, 6-7 percent of the population has a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).2 NCGS can result in diarrhea and other adverse gastrointestinal symptoms in the presence of gluten-containing foods. 

Try going gluten-free for a few weeks and monitor if it's this protein that can be causing your issues. Be sure to read labels on packages, but also ask a restaurant about cross-contamination, like cooking in the same oils, if you are out to eat. 

No matter what foods you’re reaching for, you should aim to understand what is causing your issue. Avoid the headache and wasted time and money of trial and error with foods and start with a Gutbio gut microbiome test. Learn how your gut microbiome is affecting your symptoms and what you can do differently with your diet, dietary supplements, and lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of continued diarrhea bouts. With your Gutbio microbiome results, you won’t need to keep these pantry options on-hand for the next time diarrhea keeps you from enjoying life! 

1.     Genetics Home Reference. Lactose intolerance. Genetics Home Reference. Accessed February 28, 2020.

2.     Igbinedion SO, Ansari J, Vasikaran A, et al. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: All wheat attack is not celiac. World J Gastroenterol. 2017;23(40):7201-7210.