When diarrhea just keeps coming back, the phrase “You are what you eat” matters more than ever. The food that you put into your body has a direct impact on how it moves through your system, which affects your bowel movements.
If you know that certain foods trigger your diarrhea, you’ll be ready to avoid them. If you aren’t sure whether your diet affects your diarrhea, it still may be wise to eat as many gut-friendly foods as you can and avoid those that can cause bowel trouble.
Your diet may or may not be the direct cause of your diarrhea. You’ll need your doctor’s help to find out the root cause. But your food choices may improve it or make it worse.
If you choose to eat things that help soothe your stomach and avoid triggers or foods that churn things up, you’re more likely to see your diarrhea become less frequent or intense.
Do you know what’s ideal to eat to improve your chronic diarrhea and what you should limit or avoid?
What’s Good to Eat?
Eat a well-balanced diet every day, which includes healthy sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates (carbs). If you restrict what you eat too much out of fear that you’ll trigger your diarrhea, you may not be well-nourished, which can cause other problems. Seek the advice of a doctor or nutritionist if you want to make changes to your diet to improve your diarrhea.
Drink enough water every day. Exactly how much you need varies for each person. It may not make your diarrhea go away, but it will keep you from getting dehydrated.
Fresh fruits and veggies are good choices for nearly everyone with frequent diarrhea. They’re packed with fiber, which can help make you more regular. If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, though, ask your doctor before you increase the amount of raw produce that you eat. It’s best to add more fiber to your diet gradually, so your body gets used to it.
What to Limit or Avoid
For some people, dairy products can trigger bouts of diarrhea. You may be lactose intolerant, which means that your body has trouble digesting lactose, a type of sugar in milk. Some dairy products at the store have the lactose removed, so you may be able to keep eating and drinking a different version of the dairy products that you love.
Fried or fatty foods can worsen diarrhea symptoms. So limit greasy foods.
Alcohol is another cause, especially if you drink large amounts. Skip the wine or beer if you know that it leads to stomach problems. Even if you can have one drink without issues, don’t have too much, because you’ll likely find yourself in the bathroom later that night or the next day.
The caffeine in coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate can wake up your gut, making it more active than it should be. This speeds everything more quickly through your bowels, and it can cause diarrhea. If you drink two or three cups of coffee a day, you may want to stop it to see if it’s the trigger for your diarrhea. For many people, smaller amounts of caffeine don’t cause diarrhea. With trial and error, you may be able to drink one or two cups of coffee without a problem.
Some people are sensitive to gluten, which can lead to diarrhea and other stomach woes. People with celiac disease, who must avoid all gluten, may or may not have frequent diarrhea. Today, it’s easier than ever to find gluten-free products at the store. If you think that gluten may be a problem, have your doctor test you. If you are gluten-sensitive, it's a good idea to check with a nutritionist to make sure your gluten-free diet still gives you all the nutrients you need.
Spicy food can trigger or worsen diarrhea for some people. If you often get diarrhea, avoid hot sauce and eat milder dishes for a while to see if it helps.
Soft drinks with sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup or sorbitol (a sugar substitute) can worsen diarrhea symptoms, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Drink water instead.