When a person passes a watery stool three or more times a day, they have diarrhoea. Good nutrition can help to prevent and control diarrhoea.
Do not stop eating when you have diarrhoea; drink lots of fluids
- Drink plenty of fluids - at least eight cups per day - to replace lost water.
- Drink soups, fruit juice diluted with water or an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
- Eat soft, mashed, moist foods such as soft vegetables and fruit, porridge from cereals, rice, bananas, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, potatoes and stews with refined maize meal, rice, barley or potatoes. Soft vegetables also include squash, pumpkins and carrots, and vegetable soup.
- Eat refined foods such as white rice, maize meals, white bread, noodles and potatoes.
- Peel and cook vegetables and fruit so they can be better tolerated.
- If fat causes problems, reduce fat intake by using less cooking oil, cutting off visible fat or skin from meat and boiling food rather than frying it. However, fat is an important energy source and should not be omitted from a diet unless really necessary.
- Do not eat foods that make your diarrhoea worse such as spicy foods and unripe or acidic vegetables and fruit.
- Discuss the use of medicines to stop diarrhoea with a doctor or health worker before taking any medication.
If the diarrhoea persists for more than three days, fever develops, blood appears in the stool or you become very weak, seek advice from a health worker.
A person should drink as often as possible throughout the day and night and every time a stool is passed. An adult normally needs about 1.5 litres or eight cups of fluid per day. In severe cases of diarrhoea this may be increased to up to three litres a day.
Preparing an oral rehydration drink
Follow the instructions and dissolve the contents of the packet in the amount of clean water that is stated on the packet.
With sugar and salt
To one litre of clean water, add half a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar. Stir or shake well. The water should taste no more salty than tears.
With powdered cereals
To one litre of clean water, add half a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of powdered cereals. Rice is best, but fine ground wheat flour, maize, sorghum or cooked mashed potatoes can also be used. Boil for five to seven minutes to make a liquid soup or watery porridge. Cool the drink quickly.