Everyone needs a little help sometimes when it comes to regulating their bowels. Stress, alcohol intake, spicy cuisine and a host of illnesses can all wreak havoc upon your gastrointestinal tract. If you're dealing with diarrhea, irregularity or otherwise just need to harden your stool, stay away from fats, spices and high-fiber foods for a while and add these foods to your diet.
This acronym diet can treat diarrhea, harden stools and help with uncomfortably overactive digestive systems in general. The key elements are bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Bananas and applesauce both act as low-fiber fruits full of pectin, which acts as a natural gelatin-like substance to thicken and bind other foods. Rice (or rice cereal) and toast are both starchy and binding in the gastrointestinal tract.
Assuming lactose ingredients are not the root cause of any digestive issues, dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream are all stool-hardening foods. Low-fat products work better than oily ones because fats themselves resist binding. Yogurt and ice cream with fruit will also not help as much as plain varieties. Cream soups (without fibrous vegetables or beans) are also notably binding.
Fruits and Vegetables
The vast majority of fruits and vegetables are not binding but there are a few exceptions. Fruit juices can harden stools if they are fully strained, since the fibers of pulp will loosen the bowels. Peeled, boiled potatoes will also act as a binding food. As in the "BRAT Diet," apple sauce is also a suitable fruit source that also binds.
Breads and Grains
Whole grain bread products earn praise for their fiber content and should be left out of a binding food diet entirely. Stick with white bread, refined cereals and processed white flour products like saltine crackers, pancakes, bagels and enriched pastas. These starchy, low-fiber foods help with their binding properties and are often palatable when dealing with distressed stomachs.
Perhaps a vegetarian you know has already filled you in on this: meats make you less inclined to move your bowels. Red meats, pork, poultry and fish all will slow down the digestive system and harden your stool. Because fat and oils loosen your bowels, leaner proteins can be best for slowing your digestive system, but in general any meat will slow things down more than its oils will speed things up. Broth also helps with binding, as long as it doesn't have vegetables or beans in it.
Full of fats and devoid of insoluble fiber, virtually all sweets are binding foods. However, if it has fruit or even just seeds in it, a dessert will not be especially binding. Also avoid dessert breads made with cracked wheat to find the best binding properties.