Bland Diet: Everything You Need to Know

We are going to teach you what the bland diet consists of and what the foods that you should avoid are in order to achieve a correct intestinal recovery in case of having diarrhea.
Bland Diet: Everything You Need to Know
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 23 August, 2023

The bland diet is followed to treat certain acute intestinal processes that occur with diarrhea, gas, or pain. The aim is to get the stool back to its usual consistency, thus avoiding possible dehydration that could put health at risk.

It must be taken into account that the origin of diarrhea can be infectious, or it can respond to the existence of an inflammatory bowel disease, among other situations. In any case, the regimen will have to be adapted to maximize nutritional intake without increasing symptoms. Little by little, well-being will be restored.

First, you have to replenish fluids

Before starting a bland diet, you’ll need to ensure that the hydration status is optimal. A water imbalance could put the correct functioning of the body’s physiology at risk. When a lot of water has been lost through diarrhea or vomiting, this is a critical point. For this reason, special attention must be paid to it.

The first thing to know is that the best tool to ensure a good state of hydration is fresh natural mineral water. In the event that this isn’t tolerated, it’ll be necessary to consult with the doctor, as it may be necessary to administer an antiemetic to calm the vomiting. In any case, there’s also the option of providing liquid serum to improve the supply of mineral salts and avoid hyponatremia or hypokalaemia.

Once hydration is assured and vomiting has subsided, the next thing to do is start the bland diet. You have to follow a series of fairly specific steps to avoid taking steps backward in terms of recovery. Caution is always advised in these types of situations.

Preparation of the bland diet

The bland diet consists of easily digestible foods. It’s important to provide a source of complex carbohydrates but without excessive amounts of fiber. White rice will be the best choice. It can even be positive to consume it cold.

In this case, a greater amount of resistant starch is generated, which has been shown to be beneficial for the microbiota. In addition, this element retains liquid inside, promoting the compaction of the stool.

At the same time, it’s advisable to include a certain amount of protein in the diet. The chicken will be the best option at first. It provides quality nutrients but is easy to digest, thanks to its low-fat content. It should be noted that lipids can delay the speed of gastric emptying and require greater effort at the intestinal level for absorption.

While the acute phase of diarrhea lasts, it’s always advisable to limit the intake of fats. For this reason, the chicken must be cooked using very clean methods. Starting by boiling it with water is the most appropriate. Later, you can try to prepare it grilled, when you’ve already managed to tolerate a couple of intakes beforehand.

What’s decisive is to ensure that little by little, the amount of protein provided is increased. Otherwise, progressive muscle catabolism could be experienced. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, these nutrients are essential to preserve lean mass and avoid losses in strength that affect health.

If the chicken feels good, little by little, you can introduce some low-fat fish, also cooked. It’s always advisable to opt for the white variety, as oily fish contain a greater amount of lipids, which makes digestion difficult. At this time, the introduction of plain, unsweetened yogurt can also be positive, as it’s a food that has proven to be very beneficial for the intestine.

The importance of fermented dairy

A mother and daughter sitting at a table smiling at one another while they eat plain yogurt.
As it contains beneficial microorganisms for the intestinal microbiota, yogurt is an excellent option to include in a bland diet.

Fermented dairy products contain a number of beneficial live microorganisms known as probiotics. Their administration is capable of improving the health of the microbiota, helping to calm diarrhea.

This is evidenced by research published in the journal The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Its supplementation is even usually evaluated in the case of needing to take antibiotics.

Both yogurt and kefir are excellent options to include in the bland diet. Of course, it’s best to opt for the natural versions, without added sugars. These ingredients could promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria, in case the diarrhea is caused by food poisoning or dysbiosis. Also, they’re not beneficial for metabolic health.

The inclusion of a microorganism supplement can also be considered, but in this case, it’s always advisable to consult a specialist. Not all probiotics have the same quality or the same functions within the body. You’ll have to choose a strain that shows evidence when it comes to fighting diarrhea.

Within the context of supplements, it’s important to emphasize that in certain situations, benefits could be experienced through the consumption of a pill of mineral salts or vitamin C. This last nutrient stimulates the repair of the tissue, in the event that it’s damaged. However, these products shouldn’t be consumed without the prior advice of a nutritionist.

Forbidden foods in the bland diet

In the bland diet, there are a series of foods that must be avoided, as they can increase the symptoms and worsen the patient’s condition.

As a general rule, it’s best to restrict all those products with high insoluble fiber content, such as whole grains, bread, and even gas-producing vegetables such as broccoli. These products could cause more diarrhea, as could seeds.

Nor can you consume condiments or culinary spices, much less those that are spicy. Inside, they contain capsaicin, an irritant compound that increases the motility of the digestive tract, which would result in more diarrhea. Of course, alcoholic and sugary beverages can’t be ingested.

Foods allowed in the bland diet

Once chicken with rice and white fish tests are well-tolerated, the spectrum of foods consumed in the context of the bland diet can be increased, at least until normality is restored. Cooked root vegetables and other vegetables will cause easy later digestion. They also contain prebiotics, elements that have been shown to help increase the density of the microbiota.

Also, lean meats can be gradually reintroduced. It’s best to start with poultry, although later, you can try pork or lamb, although with little fat. Eggs are high-protein foods that can be part of this dietary protocol. They have a certain dose of vitamin D, a nutrient that helps modulate inflammation.

Finally, it should be noted that it’s possible to include fruit juices in a bland diet, although with some moderation. They’re tolerated drinks, but not especially suitable for metabolic health. According to research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, liquids with large amounts of sugar in them can increase the risk of developing excess weight and diabetes.

Additional Recommendations

Not only are the preparation of a bland diet and the selection of the foods that will be part of it important, but it’s also essential to take care of certain habits to improve digestive and intestinal sensation. Among them, the need to make small intakes spread out throughout the day stands out.

This way, you’ll assure that the contribution of nutrients is optimal, but that at no time will the organs that are part of the digestive system have to make an extra effort. At the same time, you’ll have to chew your food very well. This reduces pressure at the stomach level, facilitating subsequent processes.

Smoking should be avoided as well as eating within two hours of going to bed. It’s important to know that during sleep, the digestive processes slow down, which can increase the risk of waking up in the middle of the night with abdominal discomfort.

Ensuring a good state of hydration will continue to be decisive. To do this, you’ll have to consume at least one and a half liters of fresh water throughout the day. If diarrhea persists, the amount of water must be increased to compensate for the losses through the feces.

How long should the bland diet last?

A man walking out of the bathroom with his hand over his abdomen.
A bland diet should be maintained for the duration of diarrhea, which under normal conditions, doesn’t exceed a few days.

As a general rule, the bland diet should be maintained for 2 or 3 days, depending on individual sensations. It’s important to reintroduce the foods typical of a normal diet progressively, leaving the fattiest products and seasonings for last.

Therefore, recovery should be optimal. In the case of experiencing a regression, it’s best to consult with the doctor to assess if there’s damage to the structure of the digestive tract that may be conditioning the digestive process. However, in most cases, after two days, well-being will be restored and the stool will have recovered its consistency.

The bland diet, a remedy for acute intestinal problems

The bland diet is an effective remedy to control acute intestinal problems. Many cases of diarrhea are caused by infections. By modifying the diet and waiting for the action of the immune system, an optimal recovery will be achieved in a relatively short time. However, in some cases, the use of drugs may be necessary.

Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if there’s vomiting that doesn’t stop and that prevents you from consuming fluids. In this case, the water balance is jeopardized, which can generate a serious health problem.

Finally, you should know that while the acute symptoms last, a certain amount of rest is recommended. It’s essential to wait for the immune system to do its job, thus managing to regain homeostasis in the internal environment, which will allow you to achieve well-being once again.

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