Avg. ER Wait Time

Wait times are an average and provided for informational purposes only. What does this mean?

Gastroenteritis Diet

What Is a Gastroenteritis Diet?

A gastroenteritis diet includes the kinds of foods you should eat or give to a child who has gastroenteritis . The symptoms of gastroenteritis usually last 1-2 days. However, they can last up to 10 days. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache

Why Should I Eat a Gastroenteritis Diet?

This diet can help you feel more comfortable and prevent dehydration . In the past, gastroenteritis diets have included withholding food for 24 hours and the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). However, some organizations do not recommend withholding food or the BRAT diet.

If you or your child has gastroenteritis, choose a diet that is nutritious and prevents dehydration. For most people of all ages, that diet is your normal food intake, perhaps modified slightly by limiting sugars and fatty or spicy foods.

The following information will help you make good dietary choices for yourself or your child with gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis Eating Guide

The goal of a gastroenteritis diet is to prevent dehydration. It is also important to maintain a proper balance of electrolytes. Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, are minerals your body needs to work properly. Vomiting and diarrhea can take too many electrolytes out of your body. Choose foods that will help you to rehydrate, regulate the balance of electrolytes in your body, and maintain nutrition.

Recommended Foods Foods to Avoid (Adults) Foods to Avoid (Infants and Children)
For young infants—Breast milk or normal infant formula For older children or adults—Normal food is usually best. This could include:
  • Bananas
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken or other lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes
  • Applesauce (unsweetened and in moderation)
  • Vegetables
  • Oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods or highly seasoned foods
  • Sugary foods (especially soft drinks or fruit juices)
Some adults and older children find milk products difficult to tolerate during or immediately after an episode of gastroenteritis.
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods or highly seasoned foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Juices and juice drinks (All juices are high in sugar. They should generally be avoided or consumed in moderation if you or your child has gastroenteritis.)
  • Gelatin
  • Sports drinks

You should also avoid alcohol and smoking .

Special Guidelines for Infants

Gastroenteritis is a common cause of diarrhea in infants. Follow these steps to prevent and treat dehydration in your infant:

  • If your infant is breastfed, continuing breastfeeding often. You may want to try breastfeeding more often for shorter periods of time.
  • If your infant is formula-fed, offer small amounts of formula often. Having more frequent, smaller feedings may help to reduce vomiting. Be sure your infant is receiving at least as much fluid and nutrition as usual. Extra feeding will almost certainly be necessary to avoid dehydration. Be sure to consult the doctor, nurse, or an emergency room if your infant seems ill or is not getting enough nutrition.
  • Do not dilute formula. This can prolong your infant’s illness and will not supply proper nutrition. Do not feed an infant salty foods or drinks during an episode of gastroenteritis. These can lead to a particularly dangerous form of dehydration under certain circumstances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends giving an Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) at the start of diarrhea. It is important to continue regular feedings of breast milk or formula along with this therapy. After dehydration has been corrected, the doctor may have you return to normal breast or formula feedings. Dehydration can be serious. Get medical care right away if your child is not tolerating the feedings or the rehydration solution.

Special Guidelines for Children

As much as possible during and after an episode of gastroenteritis, your child should eat normally to maintain nutrition. After symptoms improve, your child may need extra calories to make up for losses during the illness. If your child has gastroenteritis, follow these steps:

  • Give small amounts of fluid frequently.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, like fruit juices, fruit drinks, soft drinks, or sports drinks.
  • Offer your child the foods they normally eats. Avoid foods that may upset their stomach or make symptoms worse.
  • Smaller, more frequent meals may be helpful.
  • Give an ORS to your child if the doctor advises it. Remember that these solutions do not cure diarrhea. They also do not cut down on the length of time children are sick with diarrhea. But, giving an ORS may help to prevent dehydration.

For infants and children:

  • Do not withhold food.
  • Do not dilute (water down) food or formula.

Special Guidelines for Adults

For adults with gastroenteritis, these steps can help you feel better and prevent dehydration:

  • If you are vomiting, let your stomach settle before eating.
  • Suck on ice chips or take small sips of water. Drinking a large amount of liquid at once can make vomiting worse. You can also try drinking:
    • Sports drinks if you do not have a condition like diabetes that requires limiting your intake of simple sugars. You should consider diluting it with water to reduce the sugar and salt intake.
    • Clear broth if you do not need to limit your salt intake
  • Ease into eating. When you are no longer vomiting, slowly return to your normal diet. This will help to shorten the amount of time you spend having diarrhea. You could try with easy-to-digest, bland foods. You might also try eating small meals throughout the day.

Revision Information

  • Family Doctor.org—American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://www.familydoctor.org

  • Healthy Children.org—American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.healthychildren.org

  • Canadian Paediatric Society

    http://www.cps.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing acute gastroenteritis among children: oral rehydration, maintenance, and nutritional therapy. MMWR. 2003;52. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5216.pdf. Accessed February 21, 2014.

  • Colletti JE, Brown KM, Sharieff GQ, Barata IA, Ishimine P; ACEP Pediatric Emergency Medicine Committee. The management of children with gastroenteritis and dehydration in the emergency department. J Emerg Med. 2010;38(5):686-698.

  • Gastroenteritis. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/info/abdomen/diagnose/gastroenteritis.htm. Updated July 2012. Accessed February 21, 2014.

  • Gastroenteritis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/gastroenteritis/hic%5Fgastroenteritis.aspx. Updated April 4, 2012. Accessed February 21, 2014.

  • Koslap-Petraco MB. Homecare issues in rotavirus gastroenteritis. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2006;18(9):422-428.

  • Rotavirus gastroenteritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated December 30, 2013. Accessed February 21, 2014.

  • The treatment of diarrhea: a manual for physicians and other senior health workers. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2005/9241593180.pdf. Updated 2005. Accessed February 21, 2014.