What you eat and how you eat can have a major impact on your digestive system and nutrition plays a big role in many digestive disorders because what you eat has an important effect on your gastrointestinal tract. If your GI tract is abnormal in any way, your doctor will suggest specific dietary changes to help alleviate some of your systems. Some of these dietary changes may help correct and prevent the problem.
Diarrhoea — the frequent passage of loose, watery stools — is often caused by infections from contaminated food or water. The following suggestions will help ease your symptoms:
• Replace lost fluid and electrolytes with water, fruit juices diluted with water, rehydration drinks or sports drinks. Try to drink at least 1/2 glass of fluid (like clear broth, apple juice, water, fruit nectars etc) every one to two hours to prevent dehydration but drinking a large amount of fluid at one time can encourage diarrhoea.
• Avoid very hot or cold liquids, coffee, alcohol, or caffeinated soft drinks, all of which are very harmful for your digestive system.
•Read product labels and check with your pharmacist if medications and diet products contain sorbitol or lactulose, both of which can aggravate the symptoms of diarrhoea.
• If you can tolerate food, eat low-fat yoghurt with live cultures and avoid insoluble fibre until the diarrhoea has resolved.
•Eat bland, non-fatty foods that are easily digested and avoid milk, red meat and spicy and highly seasoned foods.
• If the bout of diarrhoea is a short term problem, avoid high fibre foods which can be difficult for the irritated intestine to digest and consult your doctor for further assistance.
Brat diet in diarrhoea
After the liquid diet it is advisable to follow a bland and stomach friendly diet for at least one week and once the symptoms are better, a normal diet should be started gradually. Brat diet mainly includes soft banana, soft cooked rice, apple sauce, tea and toast.
Tips to prevent diarrhoea
• Good hygiene and awareness of the sources of food contamination will help you to avoid diarrhoea.
• Wash your hands after using the toilet and changing baby's nappies.
• Frequently wash bathrooms and food preparation areas.
• While travelling, drink only bottled water and drinks made with boiled water like tea and coffee and avoid tap water or drinks that have ice made from tap water.
• Avoid meat or fish that is raw or rare or that is not served hot.
• Peel fruits and vegetables before eating.
A word of caution
Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in many sugar free candies, chewing gums and dietetic foods might be causing your diarrhoea.
For some people, even small amounts of this sweetener can cause bloating and gas and larger amounts can cause cramping and diarrhoea.
It is advisable to read labels before buying vitamin supplements and over the counter drugs and ask your pharmacist if its an ingredient in your prescription medications. '
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital