Realizing that you've developed diarrhea, which is characterized by loose, frequent bowel movements, can quickly curtail your plans for the day. Equally frustrating is that you might not immediately know the cause of this affliction that prevents you from straying too far from the bathroom. Although a number of factors can lead to diarrhea, it's possible that your diet has caused the problem.
A high-fiber diet has many health benefits, but for some people, excessive fiber consumption can lead to diarrhea, particularly if you recently rapidly increased your intake. If you're a man, your recommended daily fiber intake is 38 grams; for women, it's 26 grams. Evaluate your diet to determine if you frequently eat high-fiber foods. Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes and fruits such as apples, oranges and berries are significant fiber sources. If you have diarrhea, temporarily decrease your intake of these foods and slowly reintroduce them to allow your body time to get used to the uptick in fiber.
If you eat food that's contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli, it's possible that you'll experience diarrhea. Food can come into contact with either of these bacteria sources when someone who handles the food doesn't have clean hands; a common culprit is someone who doesn't wash his hands after using the bathroom. Food washed with water that contains the bacteria or prepped on a dirty cutting board or kitchen surface can also give you diarrhea.
An undiagnosed food allergy or intolerance can result in diarrhea after you eat certain foods. Lactose intolerance, for example, which affects more than 50 percent of certain ethnic groups in the United States, often leads to diarrhea, bloating and other digestion issues if you consume food that contains lactose. Sugar substitutes can also cause diarrhea in some people, especially in large quantities, as can wheat consumption if you have celiac disease.
Other Causes of Diarrhea
It's possible that your diarrhea isn't related to your food. High consumption of caffeinated products such as coffee can lead to diarrhea. Other potential causes of this condition include viral infections, intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, parasites and adverse reactions to medications such as antibiotics.
- MedlinePlus: Diarrhea
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Diarrhea
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients
- MedlinePlus: High-Fiber Foods
- University of Georgia University Health Center: Lactose Intolerance
- One Medical: Why Does Coffee Make Me Poop?
- Health Canada: Celiac Disease -- The Gluten Connection