Diet can help relieve temporary diarrhea resulting from radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other medications. Some foods and liquids increase the risk of developing diarrhea, while others are known to control diarrhea. This page is intended to provide tips on which foods and liquids to choose during this time.
One necessary and effective approach is to begin restoring lost liquids if the stool has been noticeably heavy and mostly liquid. Drink about 1 cup of liquid immediately following each loose stool or mostly watery discharge. Also try to include some foods that have some calories. Depending on your taste preferences, you may want to select from sports drinks (e.g., Gatorade), bouillon, and broth-based soups. Try to avoid carbonated, alcoholic, and caffeinated beverages, and chocolate because they could worsen diarrhea. Try to avoid becoming dehydrated. Drinking at least 8 glasses of liquids (weak herbal teas, gelatin (Jell-O), and water) between meals will prevent dehydration. Some people tolerate liquids at room temperature better than if either too hot or too cold. You may wish to limit or avoid milk until diarrhea is no longer a problem. Yogurt with probiotics is a good source for calcium, and it also helps to restore the health of the colon.
Foods to Eat
BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Apples, Toast. Bananas may be more effective when they are green, and use low-fiber or white bread for toast. Other foods to eat during episodes of diarrhea include crackers, pretzels, apricots, applesauce, mashed potatoes, noodles, cream of wheat or cream of rice, smooth peanut butter, eggs prepared any way but fried, skinless poultry, mild white fish, lean beef, low-fat cottage cheese, and canned vegetables. It is best to eat small, frequent snacks and meals instead of larger meals.
Foods to Avoid
- Greasy, deep-fried, fatty foods, and rich sauces because these may worsen diarrhea. Sugary or very spicy foods may also be bothersome.
- Sugar-free gums and candies usually contain sugar alcohols (sweeteners) that may cause diarrhea.
- Any foods that form gas will likely be a cause for diarrhea also. Some of these foods are: onions, beans, cabbage, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, and popcorn.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you experience black, bloody, or tarry stools, moderate to severe cramping and bloating, dizziness, or a fever. If you have a significant change in bowel habits and/or you have bothersome symptoms, call your doctor.