Managing diarrhoea

Can managing your diet help with diarrhoea?

If you have diarrhoea it can often be difficult to know what and when to eat. Will it make it worse or should you be guided by appetite? There’s no clear answer, because everyone’s experience is different. It often depends on the cause of diarrhoea in the first place.

Know the foods that trigger your diarrhoea so you can avoid them.

Which foods may cause diarrhoea?

There are foods that are more likely to cause diarrhoea or thought to make it worse. Keeping a food diary, recording when you experience diarrhoea and what you had been eating, can help identify foods you may be sensitive to.

Think about the following foods and whether they could be a trigger for your diarrhoea:

  • Fried or fatty foods Creamy or fried foods can trigger diarrhoea if they pass through the digestive system without having been properly digested
  • Spicy foods Can cause loose stools for some people
  • Caffeine Caffeine is found in tea, coffee and chocolate
  • Concentrated fruits Such as dried figs, dates, raisins and prunes
  • High fibre vegetables Such as dried beans, corn and cabbage family vegetables
  • Dairy foods When you have diarrhoea, lactose found in dairy foods may be hard to digest
  • Fructose Fruits and juices contain fructose and it can be added to foods and drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners Such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol – these are found in sugar-free gum, lollies and some medications

It’s not just about what you eat

Think about the way you eat too. Try smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day and rest after eating. Relaxing after eating can slow the rate at which food passes through the gut.

Aim to sit for 20 to 30 minutes after a meal to allow your food to digest

Management of acute diarrhoea

If you do have acute diarrhoea, whatever the cause, you may find the following foods help introduce you back to your normal eating routine:

  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Yoghurt (unless you are lactose intolerant)
  • Smooth peanut butter, a small amount at a time
  • White bread
  • Lean meats
  • Cottage cheese
  • Canned fruits in small quantities

It’s important to remember that if you are limiting your diet, it can put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies so always check with your healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet to help manage your diarrhoea.

What drinks should you avoid with diarrhoea?

It’s not just food, but drinks can also be the cause of diarrhoea or make symptoms worse.

 

  • Full strength juices contain levels of fructose, which can worsen diarrhoea
  • Caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee and tea can have a laxative effect
  • Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and liquor can make diarrhoea worse
  • Diet drinks containing sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol may worsen diarrhoea
  • Prune juice can have a laxative effect

Rehydrating your body

Drinking water is top priority – to replace fluids, or prevent dehydration, a specially formulated oral rehydration solution is recommended.

If you find it difficult to keep liquids down, or if your diarrhoea persists, see a healthcare professional. Dehydration can quickly become an issue especially with young children so don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.

Can exercise help relieve diarrhoea?

If you feel that stress or anxiety is the cause of your diarrhoea, then exercise can be a useful way to help manage it. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to relieve stress, lower anxiety, and improve sleep.

 About 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can start to reduce anxiety

A 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout in reducing anxiety

Can exercise cause diarrhoea?

Although exercise is recognized as having significant benefits for our health, there is evidence that certain types of exercise can contribute to digestive issues, including diarrhoea. For example, it’s common for long-distance or marathon runners to experience urgency with diarrhoea. There’s a number of possible causes, including a drop in blood flow to the bowel during extreme exertion, or an increase in the rate that the bowel contents are moving through the gut.

Managing diarrhoea when exercising

If your symptoms are mild and only occasional, altering your exercise routine may help. That may involve reducing the intensity of exercise and adjusting the timing of when you eat in relation to exercise.

Travel advice

Traveller’s diarrhoea affects millions of people who travel each year. It can occur anywhere, but high-risk destinations are in Asia, as well as the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America.

Take steps to avoid Traveller’s Diarrhoea 

  • Be careful in choosing food and drinks
    Eat only cooked, hot foods, avoiding food that is sitting out on a buffet. Wash any raw fruits and vegetables in clean water or peel them. Avoid ice in drinks and buy bottled water, preferably carbonated. Eat at reputable and clean restaurants.
  • Wash your hands
    Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you if soap and water is unavailable.

Be prepared with Gastro-Stop Plus

Pack Gastro-Stop Plus before you leave home in case you do get gastro when you’re away, and make sure you also take some oral rehydration sachets for your next holiday.

If you do find yourself struck down with diarrhoea, remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids. If you have other symptoms such as a fever or notice blood in your stools, make sure you seek medical advice first before taking any anti-diarrhoea medications.