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10 Common Foods That Can Cause Diarrhea

by Paul-Martin Foss

Diarrhea is a common condition with many causes. While it is never comfortable, severe cases can lead to dehydration and even death. While diarrhea can result from infection or as a side effect from certain diseases or medications, there are some common foods that can also give you diarrhea.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine can cause diarrhea in some people. Because it is a stimulant, it can accelerate the rate at which food moves through the intestines. The most common dietary sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, chocolate, and sodas.

2. Fatty Foods

Foods with a lot of fat in them can be difficult for the body to digest. Ingesting too much high-fat food at one sitting can lead to diarrhea.

3. Fiber

Fiber is often used as a laxative or remedy for constipation. Consuming foods high in fiber can cause diarrhea, particularly if you don’t normally consume large amounts of fiber.


FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols. It is a catch-all term that includes fructans, fructose, lactose, and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol that are often found in sugar-free and diet foods. The list of foods containing FODMAPs is long, but many people who have switched to a low FODMAP diet report fewer symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as diarrhea.

5. Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It can diarrhea and severe intestinal distress to people who suffer from celiac disease. Even those who are not celiac may find that they are sensitive to gluten and may suffer diarrhea or stomach discomfort when consuming grain products.

6. Lactose

People who are lactose intolerant may experience diarrhea after consuming dairy products, especially milk. Lactose intolerance is present least in people of Northern European descent but is highly prevalent among those of Asian, African, South American, or North American Indian descent.

7. Quinoa & Amaranth

Quinoa and amaranth are two pseudo-cereals that are often consumed as part of a gluten-free diet. However, they can both cause diarrhea. If quinoa and amaranth are not soaked to remove the saponins that coat the seeds, that could cause intestinal distress or diarrhea. The high fiber content in quinoa also causes diarrhea in some people, as does the lysinuric protein in amaranth to people who are intolerant of that protein.

8. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods, especially those that contain large amounts of hot peppers, can cause diarrhea.

9. Sugar

Eating foods that contain a lot of sugar draws water into the intestines, which can result in loose stool. Fructose is a particular culprit, as the body can only digest a certain amount of fructose at one time. Too much fructose consumption can result in diarrhea.

10. Vitamin C

Excessive intake of vitamin C over and above what the body can absorb can lead to loose stool. It’s almost impossible for this to happen through eating food containing vitamin C, such as citrus fruits. This is normally the result of taking too much vitamin C in pill form, normally once someone begins to take several grams of vitamin C in a single day.

Determining if Diarrhea is Due to Food

If you think that your diarrhea is due to a certain food, you can try to eliminate that food from your diet. Once it is eliminated, you can try to add it back in and see if you get diarrhea. If you do, you’ve likely determined that that food is the cause of your diarrhea, and you should take steps to avoid it in the future.

If diarrhea occurs along with blood in the stool, with a fever, or occurs for an extended period of time, it’s likely, not due to food but rather due to an illness or infection.

Treating Diarrhea

Because diarrhea dehydrates the body, it is important to take in lots of fluids. Aside from drinking water, you can drink non-caffeinated tea, diluted fruit juice, electrolyte-containing drinks such as Gatorade, or ginger ale. Consuming soup broths is also a good way to remain hydrated.

Over the counter, antidiarrheal medications can also help stop diarrhea.

Severe Cases of Diarrhea

If diarrhea continues for more than 48 hours, you should see a doctor. This also applies if diarrhea contains blood or if you suffer from severe stomach pain. When caring for infants or the elderly who have diarrhea, make sure that they remain well-hydrated. Be on the lookout for symptoms of dehydration, including increased heart rate, decreased urination, and dizziness or confusion.

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