Salad Giving You Diarrhea? Here's How to Make It Easier to Digest

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story. Learn more about our affiliate and product review process here.
Washing and cooking your vegetables, limiting fiber and cooking meat can prevent diarrhea from salad.
Image Credit: kazuma seki/iStock/GettyImages

Eating salad is supposed to be good for you. But sometimes, the mixture of dark leafy greens, onions, bell peppers, lean protein and other nutritious ingredients doesn't necessarily agree with your stomach.

Advertisement

Should you stop eating them altogether? Likely, no. But, there are some changes you can make so salads won't upset your stomach, cause loose stool or worse, give you diarrhea.

Video of the Day

Video of the Day

Besides proper handling of your veggies and regulating your fiber intake, here are the reasons why salad makes you poop, and ways to still enjoy the refreshing meal while keeping your stomach happy.

Advertisement

Warning

While occasional diarrhea probably isn't anything to worry about, see your doctor if it lasts for more than two days, according to the Mayo Clinic. This could indicate a more serious health issue.

Why Does Salad Make Me Poop?

There are many different reasons why salad could make you poop. While some reasons are relatively harmless, others can be more complicated.

Unwashed Vegetables

Bacteria is one of the leading causes of diarrhea, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This is why it's so important to thoroughly wash all of your salad vegetables before eating.

Advertisement

Rinsing veggies helps remove stuck-on fecal matter left behind by rodents in the field, soil from the ground and grime left behind from bugs. These contaminants are sources of bacteria that you can easily remove beforehand to lessen your likelihood of having diarrhea.

Undercooked Meat

Diarrhea-causing bacteria can also enter your digestive tract through undercooked meats.

Advertisement

If you add diced chicken, grilled sirloin or seared fish to your salads, for example, your diarrhea may come from a foodborne illness caused by bacteria or parasites in undercooked meat, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To make sure you're eating safe meat, check it with a meat thermometer before serving. Cooking proteins up to the temperatures listed below lessens your risk of gastrointestinal upset related to foodborne illnesses.

Advertisement

Internal Temperatures for Meat

Meat

Temperature (in Degrees Fahrenheit)

Poultry

165

Beef and Veal

145

Lamb

145

Pork

145

Fish

145

Source(s): USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Too Much Fiber

Upping your fiber intake is probably something that has been drilled into your head by your doctor. But, it's possible to go overboard — especially if your body isn't used to it.

Advertisement

Adding too much insoluble fiber in particular (that's the kind of fiber that increases the bulk and movement of your stool) can create intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping, per the Mayo Clinic.

Advertisement

Tip

Try to aim for about 22 to 34 grams of fiber per day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, depending on your diet, age and sex assigned at birth.

If you find eating a large salad is making you run to the bathroom, opt for a small salad alongside a meal made with easy-to-digest foods like soup, fish or a sandwich with white bread.

Then as your body gets used to more fiber, up your intake a little every few days. Eventually, you'll be able to bump up your intake without the uncomfortable side effect of diarrhea after eating fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Advertisement

How Much Fiber Is in Lettuce?

One cup of lettuce (depending on the type) has about 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fiber. Other sources of insoluble fiber include, per Mount Sinai:

Sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, nuts, beans, lentils, peas and other vegetables — all great for salads.

Food Sensitivity or Allergy

If salad is giving you diarrhea, you may be sensitive or allergic to one of its ingredients.

Food sensitivities and allergies can happen with any type of vegetable or salad toppings — especially nuts, seeds, cheese and creamy salad dressings.

Advertisement

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a sensitivity and allergy because both can cause gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea. But if you also swell up, have rashes or find it difficult to breathe after eating a salad, it's more likely you have a food allergy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

While there's no cure for allergies or intolerances, there are tests you can take at the doctor to determine your allergens. Otherwise, you'll have to avoid the trigger food altogether, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Related Reading

IBS or Crohn's Disease

Some salad ingredients — like onions, tomatoes and acidic dressings, for example — can upset your stomach if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), causing gas and diarrhea, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Advertisement

If you want to follow a diet that eases IBS symptoms, you can try a low-FODMAP diet typically recommended by gastroenterologists, which limits a type of short-chain carbohydrates (aka, sugars) called fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols that the small intestine absorbs poorly to help cramping, diarrhea, constipation and bloating.

Lettuce is on the list of low-FODMAP foods, so it might be good for those with IBS.

Some other low-FODMAP foods include, per Johns Hopkins Medicine:

  • Eggs
  • Certain cheeses like brie, cheddar and feta
  • Almond milk
  • Grains like rice, oats and quinoa
  • Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
  • Fruits like grapes, oranges, strawberries and blueberries

How Long Does Salad Take to Digest?

After you eat any food, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Food then takes about 36 hours to move through the entire colon.

While simple carbohydrates like rice and pasta take about 30 to 60 minutes to pass through the stomach, adding in protein and fats may make this time longer, per the Cleveland Clinic.

When you eat raw vegetables, like lettuce found in salads, it may digest a bit quicker than most foods because of its high fiber and water content. But, this will all depend on your sex assigned at birth, metabolism, physical activity levels, underlying health conditions and other factors, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

How to Make a Salad That Will Prevent Diarrhea

If you're craving a refreshing salad, there are still ways to make one that'll keep diarrhea and an upset stomach at bay. Here are some tips.

Cook Your Vegetables

Raw vegetables can be tough to digest because of their high fiber content, per the Cleveland Clinic.

That's why it can be helpful to cook the vegetables you're planning to add to a salad. Try sautéing peppers and onions, baking broccoli and asparagus in the oven or steaming peas and corn before mixing in your bowl.

Even though some nutrients like fiber are reduced when cooked, cooking vegetables with olive or avocado oil may actually help you absorb key antioxidants, according to Purdue University.

Related Reading

Limit Beans and Cruciferous Vegetables

If salads make your stomach upset, reducing the amount of fiber-rich foods you've added may help.

Advertisement

Try avoiding high-fiber ingredients like beans, lentils, broccoli and cauliflower (or eat them in moderation), to reduce the bloating, gas and pain you may feel after eating.

Wash Your Vegetables

As mentioned above, unwashed vegetables can carry bacteria that cause diarrhea and stomach upset. Thoroughly washing your veggies before eating is an important step to salad making.

You can try washing lettuce using a salad spinner ($29.95, Amazon), or wash and dry it with a microfiber cloth like this Salad Sling ($23.99, Amazon).

You can also soak other veggies prior to cooking or slicing them to ensure they are as clean as possible before adding to your salad, according to the University of Maine.

The Bottom Line

Salads can upset your stomach or cause diarrhea if vegetables are not washed, contain too much fiber or if you're allergic or sensitive to its ingredients.

This doesn't mean, however, that salads are completely off the table, or that you can't eat a balanced diet without them.

While salads are a nutritious meal, they are not the end-all, be-all of vegetable eating. There are plenty of other ways to get raw and cooked vegetables into your diet, including making smoothies, soups, veggie noodles and more, per the University of Notre Dame.

Related Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

references

Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...