A large bowl of buttered popcorn sitting on your lap improves any movie-watching experience, but sometimes your snack might not agree with you. Buttered popcorn and diarrhea aren't typically related, but there are reasons you might experience this gastrointestinal issue with this snack.
If you notice diarrhea after eating popcorn, consider its fiber content or other ingredients in your popcorn toppings. For example, it could be the lactose in your butter topping or the sheer amount of food you've consumed that can cause your symptoms.
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Read more: How Healthy is Popcorn?
Consider the High Fiber Content
It's possible that the high fiber content of popcorn is the culprit of your popcorn intolerance and diarrhea — high-fiber foods pass quickly through your digestive system.
Although the fiber content of popcorn is high, with 3 grams of total dietary fiber in 3 cups of popped popcorn, according to the USDA, it's not likely this amount of fiber on its own will result in diarrhea. According to the National Academies of Sciences, adult men need 38 grams of fiber per day while women need 25 grams.
If your overall diet is high in fiber, however, the cumulative effect could be enough to result in diarrhea. Additionally, fiber in popcorn could intensify your symptoms if you already have diarrhea.
Recognize Lactose Intolerance
It's possible that the butter, rather than the popcorn, is the cause of your diarrhea. If you have lactose intolerance and consume a dairy product that contains lactose, such as butter, diarrhea is a typical side effect.
People of certain racial backgrounds, including African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and American Indians have a higher risk of lactose intolerance than those of European descent, according to Mayo Clinic.
Speak to your doctor to be tested for lactose intolerance or eliminate lactose sources from your diet and note if this condition's side effects, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain, disappear.
The butter topping on your popcorn is also high in fat. And eating a lot of fat, or large amounts of food in one sitting can also cause diarrhea, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Other Potential Causes
Diarrhea is often the result of bacterial infections, which could occur if your popcorn, butter or serving bowl came in contact with a bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This contamination can occur if someone prepares your snack after failing to wash their hands upon using the washroom, for example, when you buy popcorn at a movie theater.
It might also be possible that your diarrhea isn't related to your popcorn consumption; diarrhea can also occur if you have a viral infection or an adverse reaction to medication.
Read more: Popcorn Nutrition Facts
Seek Diarrhea Treatment
Experiencing diarrhea isn't typically a cause for immediate concern, but if the condition exists for two days or longer, contact your family physician, as advised by Cleveland Clinic.
Other reasons to call your doctor include dehydration, a high fever or the appearance of blood in your stool. When you have diarrhea, consume clear liquids on the first day and move to items such as applesauce, bananas and toast on the second day.
- USDA FoodData Central: "Snacks, Popcorn, Oil-Popped, White Popcorn, Salt Added"
- Mayo Clinic: "Lactose Intolerance"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Stool Changes and What They Mean"
- National Academies of Sciences: "Macronutrients"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Food Poisoning Symptoms"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Diet and IBS"
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.