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Diarrhea is often caused by infections of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Acute (or sudden) GI infections may be caused by bacteria (e.g., food poisoning) or viruses (e.g., “intestinal flu”). Occasionally, diarrhea is caused by changes in diet, overeating, excessive drinking, stress, or side effects of medications.

In adults, diarrhea present for more than a day can cause dehydration. Therefore, initial treatment includes replacing lost fluids while resting the digestive system.

Occasionally, diarrhea is caused by changes in diet, overeating, excessive drinking, or stress.

When to Seek Medical Advice

To obtain medical care at Boynton Health, make an appointment by calling (612) 625-3222. Adults should seek medical advice when they are:


While you are sick, fluids and other nutrients are important. In the presence of dehydration, water with salt and sugar most effectively replaces lost fluids. You may purchase oral rehydration solutions, like Rehydralyte or Cera-lyte, from a pharmacy without a prescription or make your own. To 4 cups (32 oz.) of tap water, add:


In the absence of dehydration and presence of good health otherwise, sports drinks (without caffeine) like Gatorade may suffice; you may also consider broths, soups, or eating saltine crackers along with drinking diluted fruit juices, ginger tea with sugar (ginger can help nausea), Jell-o, or drinks like Koolaid. What ever fluids you choose, start with small sips and gradually increase the amount.

Remember that adequate nutrition helps heal the lining of the intestines, so start eating even a little amount frequently and no later than 24 hours after your illness started. Continue drinking fluids. You may start with very small amounts of boiled starches with salt (like potatoes, white rice, pasta, or hot cereals like oatmeal), crackers, bananas, soup, boiled vegetables, applesauce, or dry toast. Add lean meat, tofu, or cooked egg whites (nothing fried) when tolerated.

Avoid milk products, like milk, cheese, and ice cream, for at least a week (although you may try some low fat yogurt with active cultures). Also avoid rich foods, like peanut butter, egg yolks, fried foods, and gravy, as well as alcohol, coffee, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits for about a week.

If you have further questions or concerns, please call the Boynton Health Medical Information Nurse at (612) 625-7900.


Wash your hands well before and after eating and after using the toilet, vomiting, or cleaning up after accidents. Do not share your food, utensils, plates, glasses, or towels with others. If living in a residence hall, ask friends to bring food and beverage to you; don’t go to the dining hall. Ask your provider how soon to resume work, class, sports, or going to the dining hall.

Boynton Health

410 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: 612-625-8400 | F: 612-625-1434