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Diarrhea and Digestive Problem Foods to Avoid

Fried Foods: Diarrhea Trigger

Eating fried foods, which are high in fat, can result in diarrhea. Rich sauces, fatty cuts of meat, and buttery or creamy desserts can cause problems, too. Choose roasted or baked foods and light sauces that feature vegetables instead of butter or cream.

Citrus Fruit: Intestinal Distress

Because citrus fruit is high in fiber, it can cause an upset stomach for some people. Go easy on oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits if your digestion is feeling queasy.

Artificial Sugar: Diarrhea, Cramping

Chewing too much sugar-free gum made with sorbitol has been found to cause diarrhea and cramping. Eating more than 50 grams of sorbitol a day may give you intestinal trouble. It's not just gum, though -- excessive amounts of any food made with this artificial sweetener might give you diarrhea. The reason: Our bodies can't digest sorbitol.

Too Much Fiber: Gas and Bloating

Foods high in fiber like whole grains and vegetables are good for digestion. But if you start eating lots of them, your digestive system may have trouble adjusting, resulting in gas and bloating. Increase the amount of high-fiber foods gradually.

Beans: Gas and Cramping

A common source of trouble, beans contain indigestible sugars that can cause gas and cramping. The human body lacks enzymes to break down these sugars. Bacteria in our guts do the work, giving off gas in the process. Soak dried beans for at least four hours and pour off the water to eliminate some of the indigestible sugars.

Cabbage and Its Cousins: Gas and Digestive Distress

Cabbage, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables contain the same indigestible sugars that make beans gassy. Their high fiber content can also make them hard to digest if eaten in excess. Cooking can help reduce the problem.

Fructose: Diarrhea, Bloating, Cramping

Foods sweetened with fructose -- including sodas, candy, fruit juice, and pastries -- are difficult for some people to digest, leading to diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and other distress.

Spicy Foods: Heartburn and Indigestion

Some people experience indigestion or heartburn after eating spicy foods, especially after a large meal. Some research suggests that the hot ingredient in chili peppers, called capsaicin, may trigger heartburn.

Dairy Products: Digestive Trouble for the Lactose Intolerant

If dairy products trigger diarrhea, bloating, and gas. you may be lactose intolerant. This condition stems from the lack of the lactase enzyme required to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Avoid or limit dairy products. Or try an over-the-counter drop or pill containing the enzyme that breaks down lactose.

Peppermint: Acid Reflux and Heartburn

Peppermint may sound cooling. Yet it can relax the muscle at the top of the stomach, allowing food to reflux up into the esophagus and cause heartburn. Other culprits may include chocolate or coffee. Experts recommend lowering the pressure that pushes the food back up by losing weight, eating smaller portions of food and not lying down soon after eating, being alert to problem foods and avoiding them.

Dealing With Diarrhea

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. To settle digestion, eat bland -- not high fat or spicy -- foods at first. However, return to a normal diet as soon as symptoms ease -- within 24 to 48 hours -- to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to recover.

Oats: A Grain to Prevent Diarrhea and Stay Regular

Although all high-fiber foods are helpful in keeping digestion regular, cereal fibers from oats, wheat, and other grains appear to be especially effective at preventing diarrhea.

Diarrhea and Digestive Distress

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on January 17, 2014

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