There's no question that having an upset stomach is the worst—it can easily ruin your day. While uncomfortable, cramps and stomach pain can be managed, but when symptoms persist and you need to rush to the restroom, it's time to take action fast.
"Diarrhea can be caused by many different reasons including a viral infection, a bacterial infection, food poisoning, medication, a food allergy or a food intolerance," Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian, writes in an article for Today.
You've likely already heard of the "BRAT" diet—bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast—which focuses on bland foods that are also gentle on your stomach. It was once prescribed for people with stomach ailments, but now there is debate as to whether these are the foods to do the trick. So which foods are actually scientifically proven to calm an upset stomach? According to studies, certain meals and ingredients alleviate symptoms while others help bind your stool and fix the problem altogether.
We've rounded up the top five science-backed foods for diarrhea beyond the BRAT diet. Stock a few in your kitchen just in case—you'll be so thankful that you did.
They say chicken soup is good for the soul, but it’s also good for stomach troubles. This food is more of a meal and eating it helps you replenish both the nutrients and electrolytes you’ve already lost from being sick as well as bolster your immune system. In fact, speaking of your immune system, researchers from the University of Nebraska found that 12 out of 13 brands of chicken soup helped block inflammatory white cells that are responsible for making you sick. (They believe it has to do with the amino acid cysteine that's released when you cook chicken.)
Natural Peanut Butter
When your belly isn't feeling so well, you often don't want to eat much. But it's important to still give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to get you back on track. Having even a few spoonfuls of some creamy, natural peanut butter—we're not talking about the sugar-added-type—will provide you with both vitamin B6 and magnesium. Peanut butter is known to calm your stomach, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center even recommends it for patients with gastroesophageal reflux, which can cause heartburn and indigestion.
If you don't like to eat peanut butter plain, spread it on white bread toast or crackers.
Skinless Chicken Breast
If your stomach is up for eating some meat, then good for you! The trick to bringing this food back into your diet now is that the blander it is, the better. First, remove the skin since it's a source of fat. Spices will undoubtedly cause stomach upset, so avoid them and eat the protein after it's been steamed or boiled in water or broth so it isn't dry. If you're making homemade chicken soup, simply eat the meat from the chicken breast plain after the bones have flavored the broth. By the way, you'll still get the amino acid cysteine from cooked chicken, even if it's not made in broth.
Mash up some spuds without the butter or milk (the soft consistency makes them easier to eat and this follows the same "blandness" rule). Potatoes will help you absorb fluids to keep you from becoming dehydrated, and at the same time will help solidify your stool due to the potato's high in starch and low in fiber nutrition content. Just remember to peel the skin first since it can irritate your stomach. "Starchy foods also don't sit in the stomach for long periods of time, nor do they stimulate acid reflux, which would make you feel even worse," Amit Bhan, MD, service chief of gastroenterology at Henry Ford Health System, tells Health.
According the Cleveland Clinic, most dairy products are off limits when you have diarrhea, except for kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is packed with probiotics that can "restore the beneficial bacteria that your body flushes out with diarrhea," the Cleveland Clinic website reads. "Just make sure the yogurt or kefir are low in sugar," the website advises; higher levels of sugar might end up worsening diarrhea symptoms and further deplete water and electrolytes lost while you're experiencing symptoms.