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Cancer Health Center

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Gastrointestinal Complications (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Diarrhea


Treatment of diarrhea depends on what is causing it.

Treatment depends on the cause of the diarrhea. The doctor may make changes in medicines, diet, and/or fluids.

  • A change in the use of laxatives may be needed.
  • Medicine to treat diarrhea may be prescribed to slow down the intestines, decrease fluid secreted by the intestines, and help nutrients be absorbed.
  • Diarrhea caused by cancer treatment may be treated by changes in diet. Eat small frequent meals and avoid the following foods:
    • Milk and dairy products.
    • Spicy foods.
    • Alcohol.
    • Foods and drinks that have caffeine.
    • Certain fruit juices.
    • Foods and drinks that cause gas.
    • Foods high in fiber or fat.
  • A diet of bananas, rice, apples, and toast (the BRAT diet) may help mild diarrhea.
  • Drinking more clear liquids may help decrease diarrhea. It is best to drink up to 3 quarts of clear fluids a day. These include water, sports drinks, broth, weak decaffeinated tea, caffeine-free soft drinks, clear juices, and gelatin. For severe diarrhea, the patient may need intravenous (IV) fluids or other forms of IV nutrition. (See the Diarrhea section in the PDQ summary on Nutrition in Cancer Care for more information.)
  • Diarrhea caused by graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) is often treated with a special diet. Some patients may need long-term treatment and diet management.
  • Probiotics may be recommended. Probiotics are live microorganisms used as a dietary supplement to help with digestion and normal bowel function. A bacterium found in yogurt called Lactobacillus acidophilus, is the most common probiotic.
  • Patients who have diarrhea with other symptoms may need fluids and medicine given by IV.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: 8/, 015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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