No. 1 foods for No. 2's
Is your cup of joe making you go? Drive thru have you speeding to the bathroom? Or does happy hour have a less-than-happy ending?
Using the bathroom after eating or drinking is a completely normal part of digestion, but for some people, certain foods can trigger urgent trips to the restroom or even diarrhea, sometimes shortly after eating.
If you notice you’re taking urgent trips to the bathroom or you have diarrhea regularly, try avoiding these foods:
Everyone’s favorite cup of joe may be a reason you’re running to the bathroom.
“About 30 percent of people say that coffee causes them to have bowel movements,” said Geisinger gastroenterologist Duane Deivert, DO. “Because caffeine can stimulate your digestive system, it makes it work faster and less efficiently, causing loose stool or diarrhea. Caffeine doesn’t explain the whole story, however, since decaf coffee has the same effect on people.”
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.
2. Sugar substitutes:
“Seeing ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free’ on a label may be a red flag if you get diarrhea from food,” said Deivert. “Some of the natural and artificial sweeteners in diet drinks and foods, such as aspartame, sucralose, maltitol and sorbitol, may not digest properly for some people.”
Sugar substitutes can cause laxative effects, especially if paired with other harsh foods. For example, adding a sugar-free sweetener to your coffee might send you to the bathroom.
3. Fast food:
Your fast food might be making your trip to the bathroom equally fast—especially if greasy foods aren’t a part of your normal diet.
“Fast foods and greasy foods are hard on the stomach—especially if you aren’t used to them,” said Deivert. “Fats are difficult for the body to digest, particularly fried food fats found in fast food. These fats make their way into the intestines which causes irritation and diarrhea.”
4. Spicy food:
If you eat spicy foods often, you may have no problem with them. If you’re someone whose mouth burns at the sight of a chili pepper, it could be doing even worse things to your stomach.
Chili peppers and other spicy foods can irritate your digestive tract, especially if you’re not used to them. The chemicals that make food spicy, like capsaicin in peppers, are hard to digest, so they aren’t broken down in digestion. As they pass through the digestive system they can irritate the linings of the stomach and intestines. To avoid irritation, the stomach and intestines contract to push the foods quicker—resulting in loose stools.
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. Alcohol is also a depressant, which slows down the nervous system. This can result in less control over digestion. This is why hangovers are often accompanied by watery stools.
Dairy is a source of inflammation in the body. The sugars, 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. About 65 percent of the world population has difficulty digesting lactose. It is especially common in people of East Asian, Arabic, Jewish, West African, Greek and Italian descent.
People who are lactose intolerant may experience nausea, cramps, gas and diarrhea from milk, cheese, yogurt and more. If you regularly experience diarrhea after eating dairy, you should talk to your doctor.
7. High-fiber fruits and veggies:
While high in nutrients and vitamins—and a large part of a healthy diet—some fruits and vegetables can cause you to “go” more often because they’re high in fiber. Fruits like prunes, figs, dates, raisins and more contain fiber and sorbitol, which can cause laxative effects. Vegetables such as garlic and onions are high in fiber and contain chemicals that can irritate the digestive tract and cause loose stools.
Fruits, vegetables and fiber are all important parts of a balanced diet. But if you find certain fruits or vegetables cause diarrhea, consider substituting other fruits or vegetables.
Duane Deivert, DO, is a gastroenterologist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-275-6401.