Eating more vegetables is supposed to be healthy for you and beneficial for your digestive tract. If the ingredients aren't handled properly or if you're not used to the fiber surge, however, your plate of leafy greens can leave you with uncontrollable loose stool after eating. Occasional diarrhea probably isn't anything to worry about, although if it lasts for more than two days, it's time to see your physician.
Diarrhea After Eating Salad? Wash Your Veggies
Bacteria is one of the leading causes of diarrhea, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains. This is why it's imperative to thoroughly wash all of your salad vegetables before eating. 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.
Cook Your Proteins
Diarrhea-causing bacteria can also enter your digestive tract through undercooked meats. If you add diced chicken, grilled sirloin or seared fish to your salads, as examples, your episodes of diarrhea may come from a foodborne illness caused by bacteria or parasites in meat. Check all proteins with a food probe before serving. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service states that all poultry needs to reach a minimal internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, while beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish and seafood each need to be at 145 degrees F. Cooking proteins up to these temperatures lessens your risk of gastrointestinal upset related to foodborne illnesses.
Cut Back on Portions
Upping your fiber intake is probably something that has been drilled into your head by your health care provider. You can go overboard and get too much fiber, though, especially if your body isn't used to it. If you find that eating a large salad is leaving you running for the bathroom, opt for a smaller salad next time. Eventually you want to work your way up to between 22.4 to 33.6 grams of fiber per day, the recommended intake from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. (The exact recommended intake varies by both gender and age.) As your body continues to get used to fiber, increase your intake a little at a time every few days. Over time, you should be able to enjoy your big salad again, without the uncomfortable side effect of diarrhea shortly afterward.
Get Tested for Food Reactions
If all else fails, it might be time to visit your doctor and talk about food allergies and intolerances. You could be allergic — or intolerant — to a certain type of vegetable; toppings, such as nuts; or lactose from cheese or creamy salad dressings. It can be difficult to distinguish between an allergy and an intolerance since 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 to be a sign of a food allergy. No cure exists for allergies or intolerances; you'll just have to avoid the trigger food altogether.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Danger Zone" (40 °F - 140 °F)
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Diarrhea
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Food Allergy Research & Education: Symptoms
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: The Digestive System and How It Works