Having loose stools or diarrhea? These foods could be the cause.
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 — maybe with diarrhea — shortly after eating.
If you notice you’re sprinting to the bathroom or having diarrhea regularly, one of these seven foods may be the culprit:
Your beloved cup of coffee may be a reason you’re running to the bathroom.
Many people have a bowel movement after drinking this morning staple. “The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant,” explains Dr. David Talabiska, gastroenterologist 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 may even get the same effect from drinking 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. Talabiska.
2. Sugar substitutes:
Seeing “diet” or “sugar-free’” on a label may be a red flag if you get diarrhea from eating certain foods. “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,” explains Dr. Talabiska.
Sugar substitutes can cause laxative effects, especially when paired with other triggering foods. For example, adding a sugar-free sweetener to your coffee might result in an urgent bathroom visit.
3. Fast 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,” says Dr. Talabiska. “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 food:
If you eat spicy foods often, you may have no issues with them. But if you’re someone whose mouth burns at the mere sight of a chili pepper, you may have a problem.
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,” explains Dr. Talabiska. “To avoid irritation, the stomach and intestines contract to push the foods through quicker, which can result in loose stools.”
Drinking a few glasses of wine or having a beer or two is not only a source of added calories, but it can also irritate your stomach and speed up digestion.
And alcohol is a depressant — it slows down your nervous system, resulting in less control over digestion. This is why hangovers are often accompanied by watery stools.
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 have difficulty digesting lactose, and it’s especially common in people of East Asian, Arabic, Jewish, West African, Greek and Italian descent.
People who are lactose intolerant may have nausea, cramps, gas and diarrhea after consuming things like milk, cheese or yogurt. “If you regularly experience diarrhea after eating dairy, you should talk to your doctor,” suggests Dr. Talabiska.
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. “This can be especially true if you aren’t used to eating large amounts of fiber,” adds Dr. Talabiska.
Fruits like prunes, figs, dates, raisins and others contain fiber and sorbitol, which 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.
Though fruits and vegetables are important parts of a balanced diet, if you find that certain produce causes diarrhea, try eating smaller portions or substituting other kinds.
(H3) Next steps:
Constipated? Here’s how to get relief.
Free e-book: Download “Your guide to gut health"