Skip to main content

We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. By using this site, you agree to these terms.

If you’re sprinting to the bathroom or having diarrhea after you eat, one of these seven foods may be the culprit.

What do spicy takeout, coffee and dairy products have in common? They can all make you have to “go” after you eat them.

Why do you need to go to the bathroom after you eat?

Ever feel like your food goes right through you? Using the bathroom after eating or drinking is a normal part of the body’s digestion process. But for some people, certain foods trigger an urgent need to go to the restroom shortly after eating.

If you have to run to the restroom after a meal or snack, you may have an overactive gastrocolic reflex. This reflex is a normal reaction that can make you have to poop. It’s triggered by food entering the stomach.

For most people, digesting food is a slow process that happens over a few days. But, if you have an overactive reflex, you may notice that certain foods have a laxative effect.

Foods that cause diarrhea after eating

Wondering which foods make you poop? It could be one of these.

1. Coffee

Running to the bathroom in the morning? Your daily cup of joe may be to blame.

Many people have a bowel movement after drinking this morning staple. “The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant,” explains Amitpal Johal, MD, gastroenterologist and chair of gastroenterology at Geisinger. “It can help you feel more alert, but it also stimulates your digestive system. This makes it work faster and less efficiently, potentially causing loose stool or diarrhea.”

Some people even get the effect from decaf coffee, too.

“It’s likely that chemicals in coffee, like gastrin and cholecystokinin, also contribute to the after-coffee bathroom trip, but the effects of these chemicals aren’t completely understood,” adds Dr. Johal.

2. Sugar substitutes

Certain “diet” or sugar-free foods can cause gastrointestinal distress. “Some people may have trouble digesting the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks and foods,” says Dr. Johal. These sugar substitutes include:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Sorbitol

Artificial sweeteners can have laxative effects, especially when paired with other triggering foods. For example, adding a sugar-free sweetener to your coffee might lead to diarrhea.

3. Fast food

Ever wonder why your stomach rumbles when you eat greasy food? Fast food, like french fries, burgers or fried chicken, can cause (or worsen) diarrhea.

“Fast foods and greasy foods are hard on the stomach, especially if you aren’t used to eating them,” Dr. Johal says. “The fats found in fried and fast foods are difficult for the body to digest. These fats make their way into the intestines, causing irritation and diarrhea.”

4. Spicy cuisine

If you live for extra-hot chicken wings and the most spice possible, they may not bother your stomach. But if you tend to stick to the mild side instead of the wild one, spicy foods could spell trouble.

Chili peppers and other hot foods can irritate your digestive tract. The chemicals that give food its heat, like capsaicin in peppers, are hard to digest. That means your body may not break them down during digestion.

“As they pass through the digestive system, they can irritate the linings of the stomach and intestines,” says Dr. Johal. “To avoid irritation, the stomach and intestines contract to push the foods through quicker, which can result in loose stools.”

5. Alcohol

Happy hour might be a good time — for everything but your stomach.

Drinking a few glasses of wine or having a beer or two is not only a source of added calories. It can also irritate your stomach and speed up digestion.

Plus, alcohol is a depressant. It slows down your nervous system, resulting in less control over digestion. This is why hangovers often come with watery stools.

6. Dairy

Some research has linked dairy products to inflammation in the body. The sugars, saturated fats, lactose and proteins in dairy are difficult to digest, and as the body copes with them, it causes inflammation.

However, people who are lactose intolerant are even more sensitive to dairy. Many people of different descents have trouble digesting lactose, including those who are:

  • East Asian
  • Arabic
  • Jewish
  • West African
  • Greek
  • Italian

When you’re lactose intolerant, you may have nausea, cramps, gas and diarrhea after eating:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt

“If you regularly have diarrhea after eating dairy, talk to your healthcare provider,” Dr. Johal suggests.

7. High-fiber fruits and veggies

Fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins and nutrients. They’re definitely healthy, but certain produce can have you running to the bathroom — especially high-fiber choices like:

  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Garlic

Try eating fewer fibrous foods if they upset your stomach — or try other types. And avoid pairing them with other problematic foods, like dairy.

How to avoid diarrhea after eating

If your after-dinner routine includes a trip to the restroom, these tips can help you say no to the go.

Change your plans

When you love pizza but pizza doesn’t love you, you can still enjoy your favorite. To reduce the likelihood of an upset stomach, try ordering a pie with dairy-free cheese.

You can also swap out your regular toppings for something lighter (think grilled chicken instead of pepperoni). And blotting your slice with a paper towel removes excess grease that can cause an upset belly.

Track your triggers

Start by looking for patterns for what’s behind your frequent post-meal bathroom runs. Do you get sick every time you eat ice cream, or just once in a while? And do certain flavors make things worse?

Dr. Johal recommends taking a closer look to find any triggers that send you straight to the restroom. For example, if your favorite fried rice makes you sick, consider a menu swap. Look for safer dishes like soup or steamed vegetables.

Identifying your triggers tells you which foods are safe — and which to stay away from.

Start a supplement

Whether you’re planning a special meal or you just want to eat your favorite foods without getting sick, a digestive enzyme supplement may be the answer. You can get them over the counter at most stores. These products can help you digest certain foods like dairy more easily.

Not sure where to start? Talk to your healthcare provider. They can recommend the right supplement for you.

Eat smaller meals

Another way to cut down on bathroom visits after you eat: Try eating smaller meals more frequently. Eating less food in a sitting reduces stress on your digestive system, which can keep it working normally.

If you’ve tried these methods and still aren’t getting relief, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend a treatment plan that helps you feel your best, no matter what you’re eating.

Next steps:

Learn about gastroenterology care at Geisinger
Constipated? Here’s how to get things moving again
What does it mean to be lactose intolerant?

Content from General Links with modal content