5 worst foods for diarrhea: Dairy, hot peppers, high-fructose & more

From spicy peppers to insoluble fibre, there are a variety of foods that can cause or make diarrhea worse. (Photos via Getty Images)
From spicy peppers to insoluble fibre, there are a variety of foods that can cause or make diarrhea worse. (Photos via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

If you’ve experienced a rough bout of food poisoning or the flu, you’ve likely spent all day (or days) on the toilet. But are there other causes of diarrhea besides eating spoiled food or being sick?

As your diet plays a substantial role in digestive functions, you may want to avoid certain foods that may lead to an upset stomach.

Read on for a list of foods that can cause diarrhea.

milk, cheese and yoghurt against a white background
Many people have problems digesting dairy. (Photo via Getty Images)

1. Dairy

Dairy is a common food allergy that can creep up on you later in life.

In fact, the 2016 Census reported that about 44 per cent of Canadians have lactose intolerance, a condition where you have a difficult time digesting dairy products.

Everyone is different, but, if you’ve found a correlation between consuming dairy and having diarrhea, it may be best to avoid this trigger food as much as possible.

Texture of red hot chilies
If your stomach is already upset, you may want to avoid spicy foods like hot peppers. (Photo via Getty Images)

2. Spicy foods

You may love hot or spicy dishes. But if your stomach is already upset, you may want to avoid these foods as some of the ingredients can lead to diarrhea.

Peppers contain capsaicin, the element that gives spicy food it's heat — but can also irritate the stomach lining.

When you feel the burning sensation that capsaicin causes, your body tries to remove the irritant as quickly as possible and have it spend less time in your small intestine, where your body typically absorbs excess liquid.

Because the human body is efficient at removing irritants, the fecal matter that comes out after eating spicy food tends to have a higher moisture content than the average bowel movement.

Heads of cabbage for sale at a farm stand near Churchtown, Lancaster County, PA.
Foods high in insoluble fiber, like cabbage, can lead to diarrhea. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Foods high in insoluble fibre

You need fibre in your diet to keep things moving, and you may have heard that eating high fibre foods can help with constipation.

While soluble fibre keeps you regular because it absorbs water and slows digestion, insoluble fibre draws liquid from your body into your digestive tract and increases your rate of digestion.

Insoluble fibre is helpful in moderation or if you’re experiencing constipation because it gets things moving. However, suppose you’re not constipated but still eat foods high in insoluble fibre, such as cabbage and carrots. In that case, your digestive tract will move too quickly to adequately digest the food and reabsorb the fluid, leading to diarrhea.

a bunch of red apples close-up
For some people, consuming too much high-fructose foods like apples can cause digestive upset. (Photo via Getty Images)

4. High-fructose foods

Although fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet, an excessive amount of fructose — the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables — can come with the unfortunate side effect of diarrhea.

Fructose qualifies as a high-FODMAP food (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides and polyols), which is a type of carbohydrate that’s hard to digest. Apples, mushrooms, asparagus and honey are high-FODMAP examples.

High-FODMAP foods are more challenging for your body to digest because they draw in more water. That can cause an upset stomach, leading to gas, bloating and diarrhea.

person eating fried chicken and fries
Foods that are fried or high in fat often cause digestion problems. (Photo via Getty Images)

5. Fried foods and foods high in fat

Foods that are fried or high in fat often cause digestion problems.

Although your body can process small amounts of fatty foods with ease, excess fat content in food isn’t well absorbed in your digestive tract, often leading to diarrhea.

The fat that does not absorb travels to your colon to be broken down into fatty acids. But during this process, your colon secretes fluids as part of the process, and diarrhea may occur.

Know your foods and how they affect your body

Although you can get away with the occasional scoop of ice cream or a portion of french fries, you may want to think twice about ordering a Philly cheese steak if you’re prone to an upset stomach.

However, everyone’s body is different. You may have allergies or intolerances preventing you from eating some of the above foods, but you may be able to comfortably enjoy others.

Your best bet is to understand how certain foods affect your digestive functions. Pay attention to which foods give you diarrhea so you can avoid them in the future.

If you suffer from chronic diarrhea or an upset stomach that isn’t resolved by avoiding trigger foods, consider speaking with your doctor to rule out any non-food related issues.

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