When Diarrhea Strikes: What Trigger Foods to Avoid

In some cases, what you put in your mouth can trigger awful stomach problems – almost as if you’d taken a fast-acting laxative. Here are some prime suspects that bear watching.

Cut back on spicy, fried, and sugary foods. These are common diarrhea culprits, so bypassing them could make a real difference.

Remember how some sweeteners can trigger indigestions? That’s also how sugar-free eating may cause diarrhea. In both cases, the offending sweetener is sorbitol, a popular sugar substitute in many sugar-free foods and treats. It doesn’t take much of this little sweetener to cause gas and bloating. A few more grams and you could feel cramping and diarrhea. If you are sensitive to this product, don’t forget to check labels. Sorbitol also lurks in vitamin supplements, over-the-counter drugs, and some prescription medications.

Diarrhea can also be a symptom of a food allergy. Allergies affect more than 20 percent of Americans. If you’re allergic to a particular food, allergy symptoms will strike with an hour or so after you eat it. You can blame over 90 percent of all food allergies on just eight edibles – peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, etc.), milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, and soy. So if you’re experiencing diarrhea, think about what you ate. If the answer frequently includes a common allergy food, try avoiding that food and see if your symptoms improve.

If a recent meal included wheat, rye, barley, or oats, you may be allergic to gluten, a mixture of proteins found in many grains. This inherited allergy, called celiac sprue disease, can severely damage the lining of your intestines. If you think this may be causing your problems, find out how to choose foods that don’t hurt in the celiac disease chapter.

Caffeine stimulates your bowel muscles as well as your brain, so it can cause diarrhea. Watch out for side effects from caffeinated coffee, tea, or cola. Nicotine and alcohol can cause digestive problems, too. Although these may not count as foods, eliminating them could make your diarrhea go away.