Can certain foods worsen diarrhea?

Veronica YooDisease Prevention and Management

Yes, certain foods can worsen diarrhea or increase bowel movement frequency. These foods may vary from person to person, but here are some common examples:

  1. Spicy and greasy foods: These can irritate the digestive system and may exacerbate diarrhea symptoms.
  2. High-fiber foods: While fiber is generally beneficial for digestive health, it can be challenging to digest during episodes of diarrhea. Foods like whole grains, bran, raw fruits, and vegetables may worsen symptoms.
  3. Dairy products (if lactose intolerant): Lactose intolerance can lead to diarrhea, as the body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. Avoiding dairy or opting for lactose-free alternatives may be necessary.
  4. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages: Both caffeine and alcohol can have a laxative effect and contribute to increased bowel movements. It is advisable to avoid these beverages during episodes of diarrhea.
  5. Sugary foods and artificial sweeteners: Some individuals find that high-sugar foods or artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol or mannitol, worsen diarrhea symptoms. These substances can have a laxative effect and may increase gastrointestinal distress.
  6. Gas-producing foods: Certain foods, like beans, lentils, cabbage, onions, and carbonated drinks, can cause increased gas and bloating, potentially worsening diarrhea symptoms.

During episodes of diarrhea, it is generally recommended to follow a bland diet consisting of easily digestible foods. The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is often suggested as it can be gentle on the digestive system. However, individual tolerances may vary, and it’s important to listen to your body and adapt your diet as needed.

If you have persistent or severe diarrhea, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and guidance on dietary modifications.