7 Best Foods to Eat When You Have Diarrhea

On good days, you probably don’t think twice about dropping a deuce. But when something goes awry, it can quickly turn into a major source of stress—especially when you just can’t seem to stop pooping.

In lots of cases, diarrhea—though wildly unpleasant—is limited to a loose bowel movement that resolves within a day or so. But sometimes, things don’t get any better by the next time you go (or that next time, is, um, a little too soon after your first). In that case, adjusting what you eat can help things firm up a bit. “The key is to maintain hydration and avoid foods that are difficult to digest, might add a lot of fiber, or might contain substances that could stimulate gut muscle contractions,” David D. Clarke, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist and president of the Psychophysiologic Disorders Association, tells SELF.

It’s hard to give a blanket menu of what to eat, since there are so many different causes of rampant runs, and each person’s GI tract reacts differently to what you’re taking in. Still, experts have a few general recs to soothe your stomach. Read on for the best foods to eat when you have diarrhea—they may just pump the brakes on your (way-too-active) bowels.

1. Simple starches like toast or crackers

“You always want to start with bland foods when you have diarrhea,” Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, a registered dietitian based in Long Beach, California who specializes in digestive health, tells SELF. Think: Options rich in simple carbs, like toast or crackers, which can soothe your bubbly bowels.

Just make sure to keep it simple: Even if you normally eat toast with butter or crackers with peanut butter or drizzled with hot sauce, you may want to stick to plain while your gut’s in overdrive. That’s because fatty and spicy foods can be especially irritating to your stomach when your digestive system is already out of whack, possibly setting the stage for further, uh, upset. So try options that you find tasty enough on their own without having to rely on toppings or extras.

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2. Plain white rice or pasta

If you’re feeling something a little less snacky, try some rice or pasta as your bland starch of choice. For diarrhea, Dr. Clarke specifically recommends plain white versions: They’re good sources of carbohydrates—which you need for energy, whether you’re pooping prolifically or not—that can help bind your stools. But because they have a little less fiber than their whole-grain counterparts, they can be easier on your gut. While eating more of that nutrient is generally a good thing, you want to skip that advice when you’re dealing with diarrhea, since too much of it (especially the insoluble kind, which whole grains have a bunch of) can make your loose stools even worse.

3. Cooked vegetables

“Cooking veggies helps to soften fibers, making it easier on your digestive system,” Sauceda says. Try steaming some broccoli or carrots and combining them with other bland foods, like rice or a lean protein (which your stressed GI system will appreciate over higher-fat varieties). Sauceda also recommends eating veggies in soup—not only is the warmth super comforting, but it can also add some much-needed fluid. That’s super important you’re pooping up a storm, since you’re losing water and electrolytes with each bowel blowout.

4. Sweet potatoes

While you want to stay away from too much fiber when you’ve got the runs—especially the insoluble stuff—taking in a little bit of the soluble kind can actually be helpful. And sweet potatoes are a great way to get that, Sauceda says. “This can help give a firmer shape to your poop.” That’s because soluble fiber draws more water into your bowels, which slows your digestion down a bit.

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