6 Foods that You Should Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

To keep diarrhea from getting worse, it's important to follow a bland diet and avoid certain foods that can irritate your stomach.
6 Foods that You Should Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

Last update: 15 April, 2021

There are some foods that, due to their composition, are best to avoid in cases of diarrhea. This digestive problem can have multiple causes. However, the consumption of irritating foods can worsen it or make it more difficult to relieve. Therefore, to reduce complications, it’s best to opt for a light diet.

Diarrhea occurs when stools are watery and loose, and bowel movements occur three or more times a day. In most cases it resolves itself without problems, but it may be accompanied by dehydration and excessive fatigue.

As a result, the foods added to the diet can be beneficial or harmful. Which ones should be avoided? Find out!

Eating when you have diarrhea – what should you avoid?

According to an article in the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), you can control most cases of diarrhea by adjusting your diet and lifestyle. While it’s important to keep an eye on your symptoms, diarrhea isn’t usually a sign of something serious.

Therefore, as far as diet’s concerned, it’s enough to have a lighter diet for the digestive system that also provides the nutrients that are lost due to this condition. Also, it’s better to avoid some foods that are heavy and can worsen the symptom. Let’s see in detail what they are in the following article.

1. Foods that cause gas

The first group of foods that you should avoid when you have diarrhea are foods that cause gas. Their effect will increase your discomfort and worsen your diarrhea. According to a publication in Gastroenterology & Hepatology, this uncomfortable symptom may be accompanied by bloating, abdominal pain, halitosis, nausea, and intestinal disturbances.

Among the foods that are classified as such are:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Apricot
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Dried fruit

On the contrary, options such as pumpkin, squash, and carrot puree are part of the recommended options. In case you want to eat them, it’s best to peel them and remove the seeds. Fruits such as ripe banana, apple, or peach are also recommended.

2. Fats, fried foods, and sugars

Excessive consumption of foods rich in fats and sugars contributes to the onset of diarrhea. Moreover, once this symptom is present, it can worsen if they continue to be ingested. As detailed in a publication in Harvard Health, both fats and sugars accelerate intestinal contractions and tend to provoke reactions at the digestive level.

“When fatty foods are not absorbed normally, they go to the colon, where they are broken down to fatty acids, causing the colon to secrete fluid and trigger diarrhea,” says Dr. Greenberger in the above article.

With that in mind, it’s important to avoid these foods at all costs:

  • Sausage
  • Fast food
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Sauces
  • Commercial dressings

Instead, substitute these foods for lean proteins that are cooked or boiled. The best options are:

  • Broths
  • Soups
  • Chicken
  • Veal
  • Turkey

3. Milk and its derivatives

Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, you should avoid dairy when you have diarrhea and for 48 hours after. A study published in the medical journal Paediatrics and Child Health concluded that avoiding dairy will help make sure that your discomfort doesn’t worsen or come back.

The reason why you should avoid milk is that it requires lactase in order to be digested. The problem is that when you have diarrhea, or after, the lactase in your stomach decreased and this will increase your symptoms such as:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

It might be okay for you to have lactose-free milk, but your doctor should be the one to decide whether or not you should include it in your diet. It really depends on the severity of your diarrhea.

The only dairy product that you can eat is yogurt. Since it has a high amount of probiotics, it helps get rid of diarrhea.

A glass of whole milk.
Whole milk, cheese, and other dairy products (except yogurt) may be too heavy in the face of problems such as diarrhea.

4. Coffee, soda, and alcohol

All three of these beverages are gastrointestinal irritants, as reported by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). Because of this, they can increase discomfort and diarrhea itself. Therefore, it’s best to exclude them from the diet during diarrhea.

  • You can substitute coffee with tea. The best options are chamomile, mint, and peppermint teas.
  • Try to swap soda for water or fruit infusions.
  • Alcohol should just simply be avoided because its effects create the perfect conditions for diarrhea. Too much alcohol can speed up your digestion and intensify muscle contractions, which are responsible for bowel movements.
  • In the case that your diarrhea is very strong, try to replenish your liquids with salines. 

5. Spicy foods

Foods that contain too much seasoning are irritating to the digestive system. Therefore, they can worsen diarrhea, especially if the person isn’t used to eating them. They’re generally associated with increased gas, bloating, and burning. Seasonings include curry, pepper, ground paprika, and mustard.

6. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are used as an alternative to conventional sugar. They can be aspartame, saccharin, sugar alcohols, and other options that are grouped under FODMAPs. These substances, while safe for almost everyone, tend to alter the biology of the lower intestinal tract.

According to a publication in the Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics, their excessive intake can trigger diarrhea. It is now even advised to avoid their consumption as part of the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

A woman holding sugar cubes and a packet of artificial sweetener in her hands.
Artificial sweeteners can trigger episodes of diarrhea if consumed excessively.

Tips for food preparation

Whether you have diarrhea or not, food prep is important for your gastrointestinal health. Good food prep involves the following:

  • Your fruits and vegetables have been washed and kept away from contaminating agents. Make sure your meat hasn’t been contaminated by rotten meats.
  • It’s important that your food is cooked in some way. When you are experiencing diarrhea, and a week after it, be sure that the majority of the foods that you are eating are cooked without a lot of fat or oil. Fruit is the only exception, though it’s not a bad idea to boil apples and pears.

Other recommendations for your stomach health:

  • Wash your hands before preparing and eating your foods.
  • Disinfect any surface where you prepare your foods (table, cutting board, etc.).
  • Avoid freezing and thawing foods more than twice since the changes in temperature cause decomposition.

Consultation with a physician is important

Dietary adjustments may be enough to improve diarrhea in a short time. However, if the symptom is severe or persistent, it’s best to consult a physician. The professional, after making the appropriate tests, will determine if other treatments are necessary.

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