7 Foods to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • White kidney beans in a brown pot macro and bread

    Diarrhea is the passing of loose or watery stool. Diarrhea can be linked to bacteria or virus, medications, laxative usage, food intolerance, liquid diet, intestinal disease, stress, or anxiety. Diarrhea from overeating is very common among adults as well. If you get diarrhea after spicy foods or from eating too much, learn what foods to avoid to help your bowel settle down again. Your doctor can help you identify the cause of your diarrhea and treat any underlying condition. To help your system get back on track, avoid these foods when you have diarrhea.

  • 1
    Most Fruits

    During diarrhea your bowel becomes irritated and inflamed. To help calm your bowel down, avoid eating fruits. Most raw fruits, like apples, pears, and grapes, are considered “non-binding,” which means they have a laxative effect on the bowels. That’s the opposite of what you want when you have diarrhea. Two exceptions: bananas and applesauce. Bananas and applesauce have a binding effect on bowel contents, firming up the stool and reducing diarrhea symptoms.

  • 2
    Whole Grains

    While the general dietary advice is to eat plenty of whole grains—whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats—as part of a healthy diet, whole grains make the list of diarrhea foods to avoid. When you have diarrhea, you want to temporarily reduce bulk in your bowel—whole grains actually add to that bulk. Instead, reach for products made of refined grains, like white bread, saltine crackers, and white rice to calm your bowel and ease diarrhea symptoms. After your diarrhea subsides, by all means bring whole grains back into your healthy diet.

  • 3
    Ten varieties of beans and pulses

    Because diarrhea causes loose, watery stools, people sometimes think they should eat more fiber to firm up the stool. Actually, eating high-fiber foods like beans makes diarrhea worse. To get over diarrhea more quickly, you should choose low-fiber vegetables like green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, or zucchini over high-fiber options like pinto, lima, or black beans.

  • 4
    Dairy Products

    Fatty foods can cause or worsen diarrhea, so steer clear of full-fat dairy products like whole milk, cheese, and yogurt. Furthermore, an irritated bowel may have more trouble than usual digesting lactose—a natural sugar found in milk. If you find it hard to say “no” to dairy while you have diarrhea, choose nonfat milk, low fat cheeses, and yogurts with active cultures, which may help rebalance your gut microbiome. You also can try adding lactase drops to your milk to help your bowel digest lactose better during a bout of diarrhea.

  • 5
    Processed Foods

    Any type of processed food can worsen a bout of diarrhea especially when diarrhea is caused by overeating. Processed foods tend to be high in fat which can set off your digestive system. To ease your diarrhea symptoms, avoid fast food meals, fried foods, processed snack foods like potato chips, and processed meats like salami and hotdogs. Opt instead for simple, bland foods like broth, white toast, and lean proteins like chicken or turkey breast. These foods will soothe your irritated bowel and relieve your diarrhea.

  • 6

    As a stimulant, caffeine spurs the bowels to contract which can be painful when you have diarrhea. During the day or two of a bout with diarrhea, try to avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and sodas. Instead, drink plenty of pure water. You can flavor your water with lemon or cucumber slices to make sipping more palatable. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so choosing water over caffeine helps rehydrate you, as well as reducing bowel irritation.

  • 7
    Glass of red wine

    Wine, beer, and spirits all irritate the bowel’s lining, so you’re wise to steer clear of alcohol during a bout of diarrhea. Alcohol also causes dehydration, which means you should reach for water or an electrolyte replacement beverage if you’ve been dealing with diarrhea. Other excellent fluids to ease diarrhea include broths, popsicles, gelatin, and decaffeinated or herbal teas. These fluids will help you rehydrate while calming irritated bowel tissue.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 16
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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