Although dietary changes may not resolve the causes of chronic diarrhea, avoiding certain foods may relieve symptoms. With chronic diarrhea, you may have frequent, loose stools for one month or more. A functional bowel disorder, prolonged infection, food allergy or gastrointestinal surgery may cause chronic diarrhea, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, or NDDIC. Loss of fluids and electrolytes due to loose or watery stools can put you at risk for dehydration if your diarrhea is left untreated, the NDDIC cautions.
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Fatty or Greasy Foods
High-fat, greasy foods such as french fries, doughnuts, cream sauces or fatty cuts of meat may aggravate diarrhea, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, or UPMC. Your health care provider may suggest that you follow a bland diet of low-fat, starchy foods such as bananas, potatoes or white rice while you’re having diarrhea to add bulk to stools and prevent fluid loss. Bananas and potatoes also provide potassium, an essential electrolyte that your body may lose during episodes of diarrhea, the UPMC notes.
If you have frequent episodes of diarrhea but haven’t made any recent changes in your diet, your health care provider may recommend that you undergo a fasting test, which requires eliminating certain foods to rule out a food allergy or intolerance. If you have diarrhea after consuming milk, yogurt, cheese or ice cream, you may have an allergy to lactose, a form of sugar found in dairy foods, the NDDIC notes. Your provider may suggest that you try a digestive enzyme supplement to help you tolerate dairy foods.
Bread, cereal or other foods made with wheat flour may cause diarrhea if you have a wheat intolerance, according to the NDDIC. Your health care provider may suggest a fasting test that excludes wheat from your diet. Wheat can also trigger diarrhea in some people who have irritable bowel syndrome, a functional bowel disorder that causes increased sensitivity to certain foods. While you are having diarrhea, substitute potatoes or white rice for wheat products.
Heavily spiced, hot foods such as chili, salsa, curry and hot pepper may worsen your diarrhea. The UPMC recommends that you emphasize soft, mild foods such as rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, bananas and canned fruits or vegetables. Although a bland diet can’t meet your long-term nutritional needs and probably won’t be very pleasing to your palate, these foods may help relieve diarrhea. Drink water, electrolyte replacement drinks, clear juices and broth to replace fluids and avoid dehydration, the NDDIC advises.
Foods that are high in insoluble fiber, or roughage, may make diarrhea worse, the UPMC states. Broccoli, cauliflower, corn, fruits or vegetables with skin contain this indigestible form of fiber. Vegetables that cause gas or indigestion, such as beans, onions, garlic or cabbage may also aggravate diarrhea. Eating small, low-residue meals several times a day may be easier for your digestive system to tolerate than three large, high-fiber meals, the UPMC states.