Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Managing Diarrhea Through Diet

Diarrhea is a common complaint of those with GI issues and diet can play a role in worsening or lessening this symptom. Registered Dietitians (RD) offer a valuable service to anyone wanting to improve their health or manage a disease through diet. I've worked with several RDs during the course of my career in the medical field and also privately sought weekly appointments with a RD to teach me and my now ex-husband about the diabetic diet to help my husband at the time manage his Diabetes appropriately.

I visited with one of the RDs I work with about tips to help lessen diarrhea and upset stomach for those with GI issues. She advised the following:
  • Avoid or Limit: Fatty, Fried, and Spicy Foods
    • High fat foods slow stomach emptying and cause the digestive system to work overtime which can cause nausea, bloating and stomach pain and harm healthy gut bacteria and increase unhealthy gut bacteria. Fatty foods are broken down to fatty acids causing the intestine to release fluid, resulting in diarrhea. 
    •  Greasy foods are high in fat and not healthy fats that are found in foods such as avocados, fish, extra virgin olive oil and butter
    • If you're eating a lot of protein, switch to lean meat choices rather than those with higher fat content and cook your meat by baking, broiling, or steaming rather than higher-fat methods such as frying
    • Spicy foods contain capsaicin, an irritant to the body, which irritates the lining of the stomach and intestines thereby creating a laxative effect in order to quickly remove the capsaicin irritant
      • Eating spicy food with some dairy can help reduce or neutralize the effect of capsaicin on the digestive system
  • Be mindful of your fiber intake and sources:
    • Soluble Fiber helps to bulk the stool by absorbing water and slow digestion
      • Soluble fiber sources include white breads, rice, potatoes, dried beans, oats, oat bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries and peas
    • Insoluble Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps food pass through more quickly through the GI tract
      • Insoluble fiber sources include wheat bran, whole grains, cereals, seeds, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables
  • Small frequent meals throughout the day are easier to digest than 2-3 large meals
  • Limit sugar intake, especially artificial sweeteners
    • Sugar stimulates the release of water and electrolytes in the gut resulting in diarrhea
    • FODMAPs include fructose, artificial sweeteners, and lactose that are a poorly digested sugars
  • Limit caffeine as it stimulates the intestines resulting in increased bowel movements or diarrhea
    • Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, most sodas as well as coffee and chocolate flavorings
Gluten can cause diarrhea, and other bothersome symptoms, for someone who is gluten-sensitive as gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine for these individuals.

 Additional diet information regarding managing diarrhea may be found at International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.

I heard through Familial Adenomatous Polyposis groups several individuals reporting improved GI symptoms by following the Anti-Inflammatory Diet as well. The idea is to avoid foods that may trigger or worsen inflammation in the body as some foods or ingredients have this effect on the body. In 2014, I participated in a health study and followed this diet with noticeable improvement to my GI symptoms. You can read about my experience with the diet here.

Every person is different and while some foods may be more upsetting than others to one person versus another, these are some general recommendations that may be helpful. Always consult your physician and consider enlisting the help of a Registered Dietitian in your area for personalized care and recommendations.

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