Diet and Nutrition

Foods to Avoid If You Have Diarrhea

Foods to Avoid If You Have Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a condition characterized by loose or watery stools that occur more than three times a day. Typically, the condition lasts for about two to three days and then resolves on its own. The symptoms of diarrhea include watery stools, bloating, stomach cramps, gas, and nausea.

Diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration if adequate fluids are not supplemented. Pain in the rectal area can also be experienced due to repeated passing of stools. Diarrhea is usually caused by a viral, bacterial, or amoebic infection of the intestine. Other causes might include irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, an allergic reaction, or intolerance to certain foods. Diarrhea on its own is not dangerous. However, if it continues beyond a few days, diarrhea can lead to other complications such as severe dehydration, bleeding in the stools, and drastic weight loss.

People eat nutritious foods and medicines to recover earlier. Similarly, one should also be aware of the foods he or she needs to avoid while having diarrhea. Nobody wants to make the situation worse by unconsciously eating foods resulting in an increase of muscle aches and abdominal pain.

Below is a list of foods that should be avoided when you have diarrhea:

1. Fast Food

Fast foods contain a large amount of fat, and that is why eating such foods can lead to intestinal contraction and affect the digestive tract causing diarrhea. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid the following foods in order to avoid worsening the condition:

  • Greasy or oily foods
  • Creamy foods
  • Mayonnaise
  • Foods with gravy

2. Dairy Products

Consuming too much dairy is harmful to one’s stomach and intestines. One must not eat any type of product containing dairy when they are suffering from diarrhea. Having diarrhea causes a decrease in lactase. Lactase is an enzyme, which helps digest lactose that is found in dairy products.

It is true that lactose or milk sugar is needed when someone has diarrhea. However, if it is not digested properly, it will cause nausea, bloating, and an increase in intestinal contraction. Therefore, it is best to stay away from the following dairy products:

  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Ice cream

However, there is an exception for yogurt. Although yogurt is a dairy product, research shows that it actually helps the body recover from diarrhea.

3. Alcoholic, Carbonated, and Caffeinated Drinks 

Beverages containing alcohol, carbonate, or even caffeine are prohibited when someone has diarrhea. Although they do not bear any pathogen that causes diarrhea, it is found that they can potentially be GI irritants. Thus, it would be best to avoid these beverages until you get back to your normal state.

Some people may suggest consuming flat soda, but this can also make the situation worse. Oral rehydration solution or just water seems to be the best drinks when you have diarrhea.

4. Sugar-Free Foods

Most people with diabetes take artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes while drinking tea or coffee. These sweeteners may have a laxative effect, which causes gas formation in the gut, inflammation, bloating, etc. One should avoid the following artificial sweeteners or other sugar-free foods while having diarrhea:

  • Sugar-free chewing gum
  • Diet soda
  • Sugar substitute tablet for coffee or tea
  • Sugar-free chocolates

5. Gas-Producing Foods

Foods that generate intestinal gas can cause an increase in diarrhea and worsen the situation. A patient suffering from diarrhea must not consume the following gas-producing vegetables:

  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Pulses or beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

Fruits containing the natural sugar fructose and sugar alcohol sorbitol both ferment in the gut, leading to gas and bloating. Therefore, the following fruits should also be avoided:

  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Dry fruits such as raisins and prunes

6. Unsafe Foods

One must stay away from foods that are not safely washed, prepared, or cooked. This rule is applicable to both diarrhea patients and healthy people alike. Below are some important tips to stay hygienic:

  • Wash your hands before eating any food.
  • Clean fruits or vegetables before cutting or cooking.
  • Always use clean cooking utensils.
  • Cook foods at an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Avoid eating foods that are stored in the freezer or refrigerator for too long.

7. Mishandled Foods

Foods that are not properly handled are one of the common causes of diarrhea. Mishandled foods or raw meat kept in the refrigerator for a long time should be discarded. 

8. Processed Foods

Processed foods contain a lot of artificial chemicals, salts, and coloring, which can irritate the gut lining. These foods not only prevent you from recovering but could also make your diarrhea worse.

The Bottom Line

Diarrhea is a very uncomfortable condition. If you are suffering from diarrhea, keep yourself well-hydrated and comfortable. It is important to have a clear idea of the foods that can worsen the whole situation and potentially prolong diarrhea. Staying away from the foods listed above will help decrease the frequency of bowel movements, thereby resulting in a faster recovery.

During a bout of diarrhea, the gastrointestinal tract is already weak and compromised. Consuming the wrong types of food at this time could prolong and worsen the symptoms, making life very difficult for the patient. Foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and even fiber should be avoided while suffering from diarrhea.

While under normal circumstances vegetables and fruits are considered healthy for you, if you are suffering from diarrhea, there are certain vegetables and fruits that should be avoided because of their gas-causing properties. Other foods like dairy and grain that irritate the gut should also be given a miss during an attack of diarrhea.

Maintain good hygiene by washing, cooking, and storing food well. Do not consume food that has been kept in the refrigerator for over twenty-four hours if you have diarrhea. Instead, opt for freshly cooked bland food. To ensure that you stay well hydrated, you can drink water, certain fruit juices, and sports drinks that contain electrolytes.

Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if your symptoms continue for more than three days or if you start to experience severe pain, bleeding, mucus in the stools, or fever.