How Can Healthy Food Cause Diarrhea in a Healthy Person?

Foods that are not problematic as such, may still cause diarrhea (lose bowel movements) even if you don’t have any bowel disease. Why?

1. Overeating

Continuing eating when you already know that you have enough may result in lose bowel movement(s) some hours later. This is especially true in children because their short bowels cannot digest large amounts of food at once. An excessive amount of any food, especially sugary and fatty foods (cakes, ice-cream, etc.) and fiber-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, vegetable broths or cereals) may be the cause.

Food that is not chewed enough is hard to digest, irritates the bowel and causes loose stools with pieces of food in it.

Excessive amount of fruits, chewing gum or “low calorie foods” high in fructose or sorbitol may cause diarrhea, especially in children. High amount of fructose or sorbitol from these foods can not be absorbed all at once, so they stay in the intestinal hollow, drag water into it thus causing diarrhea. Bloating and diarrhea appearing after only small amount of mentioned foods occurs in fructose malabsorption.

Exaggerating with salad dressings and sauces (mayonnaise, tomato juice, etc.) may cause diarrhea from combination of irritant spices and artificial sweeteners like HFCS.

2. Over-drinking

Toddlers, when fed with excessive amounts of fruit juices (especially an apple juice) may develop the so called toddler’s diarhea – a toddler has chronic diarrhea but looks healthy and does not lose weight.

Excessive amount of soda sweetened with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup, denoted fructose-glucose syrup in some countries) or sorbitol drank in a short time may be irritating just like excess of fruits. Soda, tea, coffee or energy drinks containing caffeine, teine or taurine may also trigger diarrhea if drank in excess.

Alcohol

Excessive amount of alcohol can reduce ability of small intestine to absorb nutrients, which therefore stay in the intestinal hollow, drag water into it, thus causing diarrhea.

Reasons for Diarrhea in Chronic Alcoholism:

  • Chronic pancreatitis affects production of digestive enzymes
  • Folate deficiency (lack of folate in diet) impairs intestinal absorption
  • Alcohol speeds up contractions in intestinal muscles, thus shortening “bowel transit time”.

Diarrhea may lessen in the weeks after termination of alcohol abuse, if pancreatic function returns to normal (8).

3. Some Foods Do Not Go Together

Having one or more lose bowel movements after eating meat with chocolate, cucumbers with marmalade, different alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks or liquers one after one, yogurt and cherries, fruits with vegetables, etc. is a well known issue.

4. Food Sensitivity

Almost everyone has some food that he/she just can’t eat without having bowel problems later. Someone can’t eat fruit yogurts and another one horse meat. This is often due to psychological rejection of the food or from bad memories to a food incident in the past. Some people get irritated by certain spices.

Many old people can’t tolerate dairy products since their intestines don’t produce enough enzyme lactase that digests milk sugar lactose. Disorder is called lactose intolerance and can appear at any age (rarely in infants though).

Some people get diarrhea after eating cereals containing gluten. A disorder known as celiac disease often starts in childhood.

Reacting to several foods with diarrhea shortly after the meal, is a symptom of the so called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); no organic changes in the bowel can be found.

Diarrhea, itchy lips and skin are symptoms of food allergy.

Eating out may cause diarrhea from stress or from unusual foods. Diarrhea after fast food or eating in a cleanless restaurant may be from food poisoning.

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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on December 1, 2009