Eating When You Have Diarrhea


Diarrhea can be a side effect of chemotherapy. If you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours, or if you have pain and cramping, call your doctor. Changes in your diet can help. Drink plenty of fluids that contain key chemicals and minerals so you don't become dehydrated. Beverages with potassium in them, such as fruit juice and sports drinks, are especially good. Your doctor can prescribe medication if your diarrhea is very bad. Learn more about the causes of diarrhea and medicines that can help.

When and how to eat if you have diarrhea:

  • Try a clear liquid diet — water, weak tea, apple juice, clear broth, frozen pops, or plain gelatin — as soon as diarrhea starts or you feel it's going to start. Clear liquids keep the bowels from working too hard and help prevent irritation.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. Your body may find smaller amounts easier to digest.
  • After 2 days of diarrhea, start a liquid diet and add low-fiber foods as you can tolerate them. This will help lessen bowel irritation and will give you some nutrients.
  • Drink at least a cup of liquid after each bout of diarrhea so you don't become dehydrated.

What to eat if you have diarrhea:

  • Eat foods that are high in pectin, such as applesauce, bananas, and yogurt. Pectin, a water-soluble fiber, helps reduce diarrhea.
  • Eat foods that have a lot of potassium, such as fruit juices, sports drinks, potatoes without the skin, and bananas. Potassium is often lost through diarrhea.
  • Eat foods that are high in sodium, such as soups, broths, sports drinks, crackers, and pretzels. Salt helps you retain water so you don't become dehydrated.
  • Get enough protein. Try lean baked beef, pork, turkey, or chicken, or well-cooked eggs or tofu. This can help you avoid fatigue.
  • If you like certain fruits and vegetables, eat them cooked, not raw. Some raw fruits and vegetables can make diarrhea worse. Try soups made with cooked asparagus tips, beets, carrots, peeled zucchini, mushrooms, or celery; tomato puree; or a baked potato without the skin.
  • Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic, or carbonated beverages and very hot or cold foods. They may irritate your digestive tract.
  • Avoid using tobacco products. They may irritate your digestive tract.
  • Avoid high-fat, fried, greasy, and rich foods. They can promote diarrhea.
  • Avoid foods that cause gas, such as chewing gum and carbonated beverages. They can irritate your digestive tract.
  • Limit milk and milk products. They may be hard to digest and promote diarrhea.
  • Avoid nuts, raw fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and bran products. They can be irritating to your digestive tract.

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