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What Not to Eat for Diarrhea

Foods to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

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Updated March 28, 2014

It is important to know what to eat for diarrhea. But it is just as important to know what not to eat when you have diarrhea. The last thing you would want to do is to make matters worse by eating foods that can potentially aggravate your GI system or increase the speed of intestinal contractions. Therefore, do your best to avoid the following foods when you are dealing with diarrhea:

1. Fatty Foods

Foods with a high fat content can speed up intestinal contractions and cause a reaction to a system that is already sensitized. Therefore, try not to eat anything that is greasy, fried, creamy, or covered in gravy.

2. Dairy Products

Even if you don’t suffer from lactose intolerance, it might be a good idea to avoid dairy products for a while after suffering from a bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause a lessening of the amount of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed in order for the body to digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. If this “milk sugar” goes undigested, it can result in further symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. Here are some common lactose-containing foods:

  • Butter
  • Soft cheese, such as ricotta or cottage cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Milk

3. Sugar-free Foods

Some artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect, as well as contribute to gas and bloating. So until you are feeling better, it is best to avoid:
  • Diet soda
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar-free gumSugar substitute packets for coffee and tea

4. Gas-Producing Foods

Certain vegetables have a well-documented reputation for increasing intestinal gas which could contribute to further diarrhea:

 

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Peas

5. Alcohol, Caffeine and Carbonated Beverages

For healthy individuals, beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation do not generally cause diarrhea. However, each has the potential to be a GI irritant, and thus are probably best avoided until your system returns to normal.

6. Unsafe Foods

Whether you have diarrhea or not, you should always make sure that you only eat food that has been safely washed, prepared and stored. Foods that are not safely prepared and stored put you at risk for a serious gastrointestinal illness. Always observe good food hygiene:

 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating any food.
  • Thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water before and after use.
  • Cook all foods to an internal temperature of 160 F.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately after eating.

7. Essential Reading:

Sources:

JAMA Patient Page Food-Borne Illnesses. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2003 290.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) Diarrhea

Noone, C., Menzies,I., Banatvala, J. & Scopes, J. Intestinal permeability and lactose hydrolysis in human rotaviral gastroenteritis assessed simultaneously by non-invasive differential sugar permeation. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 1986 16:217-225.

Simren, M., Abrahamsson, H. & Bjornsson, E. "An exaggerated sensory component of the gastrocolonic response in patients with irritable bowel syndrome." Gut 2001 48:20-27.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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