Foods to Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

When you have diarrhea, it's important to know what to eat and what to avoid. You don't want to aggravate your digestive system more by eating the wrong things.

This article will walk you through what to eat, what to avoid, and why, so you don't make your diarrhea worse.

Eat
  • Yogurt

  • Chicken or turkey

  • Broth-based soups

  • Spinach, green beans, zucchini

  • Plain water or Pedialyte

Avoid
  • Most dairy

  • Fatty, greasy foods

  • Sugar substitutes

  • Beans, broccoli, cabbage

  • Peaches, pears, plums

  • Caffeine and alcohol

Dairy Products

Milk being poured into a glass

seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Getty Images

Avoid most dairy products. Even if you don’t have lactose intolerance, you may have trouble digesting them.

Dairy products contain a sugar called lactose. Your body digests lactose with an enzyme called lactase. Diarrhea can deplete lactase.

Undigested lactose can increase gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. Common lactose-containing foods include:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Sour cream

A Healthier Choice

Yogurt is an exception. It contains probiotics that are good for digestion. Choose plain yogurt. And skip those with a lot of added sugar.

Fatty Foods

Fast food

Digital Vision / Getty Images

Fatty foods can speed up intestinal contractions. That almost guarantees worse diarrhea. Avoid foods like:

  • Creamy foods
  • Fast food
  • Fatty meat
  • Gravy
  • Greasy foods
  • Fried foods

Healthier Choices

Lean protein is a better choice. Reach for white meat chicken or turkey.

Broth-based soups are better than cream-based.

Recap

Dairy and fatty foods can increase diarrhea. Yogurt and lean meats are better choices.

Sugar-Free Foods

sugar-free candies

Juanmonino / E+ / Getty Images

Some artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can have a laxative effect. They can also increase gas and bloating. Until you're feeling better, avoid:

  • Diet soda
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Sugar substitutes for coffee and tea

Healthier Choices

Instead, choose water or unsweetened/lightly sweetened tea (especially herbal or decaf). A small amount of sugary candy is probably okay if you have cravings. Just don't overindulge.

Gas-Producing Foods

Bowl of Baked Beans

Andrew Olney / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Certain fruits and vegetables can cause gas. More gas can mean more diarrhea. Avoid gassy foods until your stomach has settled down.

The gassiest ones include:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Dried fruits (apricots, prunes, raisins)

Healthier Choices

Some better choices include:

  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Honeydew
  • Cantaloupe
  • Pineapple

Recap

Artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, and gas-creating foods are best avoided when you have diarrhea. Instead, choose unsweetened or lightly sweetened food and drinks. Try to avoid gassy foods entirely.

Alcohol, Caffeine, and Carbonated Beverages

Cheers with beer

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonation don't cause diarrhea. But they can irritate your digestive system. It's smart to avoid them until you feel better.

Don't drink flat soda, either. Your grandmother may have sworn by it. But some soda ingredients can make diarrhea worse.

Healthier Choices

Better choices include:

  • Hydrating drinks like Pedialyte
  • Water
  • Herbal or decaf tea (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)

It's important to replenish fluids lost from repeated bowel movements so you don't get dehydrated.

High-FODMAP Foods

Red apples in basket on dark wood
Westend61 / Getty Images

Do you have diarrhea from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? You may want to avoid high-FODMAP foods. Studies suggest they can trigger IBS symptoms.

FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates found in many common foods. Some common high-FODMAP foods include:

  • Garlic, onions, and legumes
  • Apples, mangos, peaches, and cherries
  • Most dairy products
  • Honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup
  • Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pistachios
  • Wheat, rye, barley, and couscous

Healthier Choices

You may feel better choosing low-FODMAP foods. They include:

  • Eggs and meat
  • Almond milk
  • Rice, oats, and quinoa
  • Potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini
  • Grapes, strawberries, blueberries

Recap

Alcohol, caffeine, carbonation, and high-FODMAP foods can worsen diarrhea. Stay away from soda, even if it's flat. Try hydrating beverages, water, and herbal or decaf tea.

Unsafe Foods

beef on sticks being grilled

Alexey Kopytko / Moment / Getty Images

Food poisoning can cause diarrhea. Protect yourself by safely storing, preparing, and handling food.

Good food hygiene involves:

  • Washing hands before handling food
  • Washing raw fruits and vegetables
  • Cleaning sinks and counters before and after use
  • Cooking food to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Promptly refrigerating or freezing leftovers

Summary

Foods that make diarrhea worse include:

  • Most dairy
  • Fatty foods
  • Artificial sweeteners/sugar substitutes
  • Gas-producing foods
  • Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks
  • High-FODMAP foods

Making healthier choices can help soothe your digestive system and keep diarrhea in check.

A Word From Verywell

Diarrhea usually clears up in a few days. Still, you'll be more comfortable if you can get rid of it faster or keep from making it worse.

If diarrhea lasts more than a few days, or if it's severe or getting worse, get medical attention. That'll help you avoid possibly serious complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What foods should you avoid if you have diarrhea?

    When you have diarrhea, certain foods can aggravate your digestive system and make it worse. Avoid most vegetables, fruits, legumes, dairy, fried or fatty foods, and artificial sweeteners. Coffee, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can also make diarrhea worse and should be avoided until you feel better. 

  • Is yogurt good for diarrhea?

    It depends. Unless you are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins, yogurt is the one dairy recommended for treating diarrhea. Yogurt contains probiotics, which can help balance intestinal flora and ease diarrhea. Look for blends that are low in sugar and have lactobacillus probiotic strains.

    People lactose intolerant or allergic to milk can benefit from dairy-free yogurt or probiotic supplements.

  • What can I eat or drink to stop diarrhea?

    If you have diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte drinks to stay hydrated. An age-old recipe to stop diarrhea is known as the BRAT diet. Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are commonly recommended to bind up loose stools and stop diarrhea.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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