Dairy, hot peppers & more


From spicy chili peppers to insoluble fiber, there are a variety of foods that can cause or exacerbate diarrhea.(Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please contact a medical professional.

If you’ve had bad food poisoning or the flu, you’ve probably spent a day (or a day) on the toilet. But apart from eating spoiled food and being sick, what else can cause diarrhea?

Diet plays an important role in digestive function, so you may want to avoid certain foods that can lead to an upset stomach.

Read our list of foods that can cause diarrhea.

Milk, cheese and yogurt against a white background

Many people have problems digesting dairy products. (Photo via Getty Images)

1. Dairy products

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

In fact, the 2016 Census reported that about 44% of Canadians are lactose intolerant, meaning they have trouble digesting dairy products.

Everyone is different, but if you find a correlation between dairy consumption and diarrhea, it may be best to avoid this trigger food as much as possible.

red pepper texture

If you already have an upset stomach, avoid spicy foods such as hot peppers. (Photo via Getty Images)

2. Spicy food

You may like hot or spicy food. However, if your stomach is already upset, we recommend avoiding these foods. This is because some ingredients can cause diarrhea.

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is the element that gives spicy foods their heat, but can also irritate the lining of the stomach.

When you feel the burning sensation caused by capsaicin, your body tries to get rid of the irritant as quickly as possible and not spend excess water in your small intestine where your body normally absorbs it.

The human body is more efficient at removing irritants, so stools after eating spicy food tend to have a higher water content than the average bowel movement.

Cabbage heads for sale on a farm near Churchtown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Foods high in insoluble fiber, such as cabbage, can cause diarrhea. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Foods high in insoluble dietary fiber

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

Soluble fiber absorbs water and slows down digestion, keeping you regular, while insoluble fiber draws liquids into your digestive tract, increasing digestibility.

Insoluble fiber is helpful in moderation or if you are experiencing constipation. Suppose, however, that instead of constipation, you are eating foods high in insoluble fiber, such as cabbage and carrots. This leads to

Bunch of red apples closeup

For some people, consuming too many high-fructose foods like apples can cause indigestion.(Photo via Getty Images)

4. High fructose foods

Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet, but too much fructose (a natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables) can have the unfortunate side effect of diarrhea.

Fructose is classified as high FODMAP foods (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides, and polyols), a type of indigestible carbohydrate. Apples, mushrooms, asparagus, and honey are examples high in FODMAP.

High-FODMAP foods absorb more water, making it more difficult for the body to digest.

person eating fried chicken and fries

Fried and high-fat foods often cause digestive problems. (Photo via Getty Images)

5. Fried food, oily food

Fried and high-fat foods often cause digestive problems.

Your body can easily process small amounts of fatty foods, but the excess fat content in foods is not well absorbed by your digestive tract, often leading to diarrhea.

Unabsorbed fat moves to the colon where it is broken down into fatty acids. During this process, however, the colon secretes fluid as part of the process and diarrhea may occur.

Know your food and how it affects your body

You can scoop ice cream and fries once in a while, but if an upset stomach bothers you, you might want to think twice about ordering a Philly cheesesteak.

However, everyone’s body is different. Allergies or intolerances may prevent you from eating the foods listed above, but you may be able to eat other foods comfortably.

Your best bet is to understand how certain foods affect digestive function. You can watch for foods that cause diarrhea so you can avoid them in the future.

If you’ve avoided trigger foods and still suffer from chronic diarrhea or upset stomach, consider talking to your doctor to rule out non-food related problems.

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