What‌ ‌Are‌ ‌the‌ ‌Foods‌ ‌That‌ ‌Cause‌ ‌Diarrhea?‌

Updated on March 18th, 2020
foods that cause diarrhea

Having to attend to an upset stomach can be a frustrating ordeal. Diarrhea, a condition characterized by loose or watery stools, may appear to be harmless, but it is the second leading cause of death in children(1) below the age of 5 years! It is also the leading cause of malnutrition in children under the age of five years. In adults, diarrhea occurs in some form or the other at least once a year.

It is a symptom that indicates a stomach infection and is a result of the body trying to get rid of the bacteria or virus by excreting it. However, certain foods can also trigger diarrhea, and you should take care while consuming them.

You could monitor your diet and your bodily response to the ingestion of these foods, and it may help you track down the underlying cause of diarrhea. Hence, knowing about these foods could help in identifying conditions such as Celiac or Atkins disease or Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome.

Foods That Cause Diarrhea

1. Sugar

Image: Shutterstock

Foods that are loaded with sugar could be the culprit behind your loose stools. Large-scale consumption of sugary foods, including high-sugar fruits, can cause water to enter the intestines that result in diarrhea. Foods that contain a high fructose level include:

  • Grapes
  • Apple juice
  • Soda
  • Agave

The body cannot process all the sugar in one go and, hence, consuming more sugar than the body can break down results in diarrhea. Nearly 30 to 40% of people have trouble breaking down and absorbing a significant portion of fructose that they consume.

About 75% of individuals who consume more than 40 to 80 grams of fructose per day will be more likely to have diarrhea.

[ Read: Sugar Intake Is Actually Healthy ]

2. Milk/Lactose

One may often find themselves wondering – does milk cause diarrhea? The answer to this question may depend on one’s ethnicity(2), Family history, and stomach culture.

Many people who are lactose intolerant will notice that dairy and dairy-based products are the most common foods that cause diarrhea. This condition is more prevalent amongst Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans.

However, some individuals with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate dairy products in limited quantities, especially aged food items that have lower lactose content. In their case, items such as kefir, yogurt, and hard cheese may not cause diarrhea.

[ Read: Treat Diarrhea Naturally ]

3. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners

You may feel that artificial sweeteners could be a healthier substitute for sugar. But you are in for a rude shock – even natural, artificial sugar alcohols, such as mannitol, erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol, which function as a healthier alternative to sugar, may cause diarrhea.

Due to the inability of the body to break down and absorb these products, consuming artificial sweeteners in large quantities could, in fact, have a laxative effect!

[ Read: Foods To Avoid for Upset Stomach ]

4. Caffeine

Caffeine-rich beverages and drinks could cause diarrhea in some people. Since caffeine is a potent stimulant, it stimulates the digestive system to accelerate the movement of food through the intestines.

Further, the addition of other digestive triggers such as milk, sugar, and artificial sweetener to caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, could be a common trigger for diarrhea.

5. Garlic and Onions

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onions are a part of the allium family, which is packed with insoluble fiber. At the same time, they also contain juices, which, when broken down by the stomach acids, release gases that irritate the stomach lining and the bowels.

All these triggers are worsened by the fact that garlic and onions are also fructans, which means that they contain complex carbohydrates that are difficult to digest.

[ Read: Home Remedies for Diarrhoea ]

6. Broccoli and Cauliflower

Due to the high concentration of nutrients and vegetable-based fibers, broccoli and cauliflower could also cause diarrhea. The condition could get even worse if your body is not well-adjusted to a high-fiber diet.

Unless you usually eat broccoli or cauliflower regularly, consuming a heaping portion of these vegetables could cause diarrhea, gassiness, or even constipation.


FODMAPs or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols are a category of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. Several foods that fall in the FODMAPs category, such as garlic, onions, and artificial sweeteners, have already been covered individually in this article.

Some other food items that count as FODMAPs include:

  • Wheat
  • Soft cheese
  • Legumes
  • Figs
  • Mangoes
  • Lychee
  • Coconut water

Those with irritable bowel syndrome will react more strongly to FODMAPs.

[ Read: Diet for Diarrhea ]

8. Spicy Foods

Spicy Food
Image: Shutterstock

Spicy foods and seasoning are some of the most prevalent culprits of food-related diarrhea. Certain spices are capable of irritating your stomach lining, which could result in gas formation, burning sensation, diarrhea, and bloating.

Typically, foods that are loaded with chili peppers and curry seasoning could cause such a reaction.

9. Gluten

Gluten is typically found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Gassiness, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are the most characteristic signs(3) of gluten intolerance. In fact, over 50% of gluten-sensitive individuals(4) experience diarrhea regularly.

Celiac disease(5), an autoimmune disorder that affects nearly 1% of the population, is a more severe form of gluten intolerance. However, 0.5 to 13% of people may also display non-celiac gluten sensitivity(6). Consumption of gluten could lead to the inflammation of the intestine.

[ Read: Best Soups for Diarrhea ]

10. Junk Food

Can greasy junk food cause diarrhea? The answer is a resounding YES!

Junk foods are rich in saturated fats, which the body finds difficult to digest. Further, due to its low nutritional content, such foods simply pass through the body as they have little or nothing to give.

Now that you know the various foods that cause diarrhea, you can avoid them and find healthier and gut-friendly alternatives. Maintain a food symptom diary to identify more foods that could be the cause of diarrhea.

However, if you encounter blood or pus in stools or fever, consult a physician immediately as it is unlikely that it is caused by food. Take special care of your diet when dealing with diarrhea, and your body will thank you!


1. What causes diarrhea immediately after eating?

The following foods could cause diarrhea immediately upon consumption:

  • Dairy or dairy products
  • High-fructose fruits
  • Foods rich in magnesium
  • Sugary drinks and soda

2. Is frequent diarrhea a sign of cancer?

Frequent or recurring diarrhea coupled with blood in stools could point to pancreatic, lymphoma, renal, or colon/colorectal cancer. Moreover, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also cause diarrhea.

3. What to eat when you have diarrhea?

Some common foods to eat with diarrhea include:

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Apples
  • Toast
  • Cooked cereal
  • Soda crackers
  • Applesauce
  • Chicken broth
  • Electrolyte water

4. What can you add in a drink to cause diarrhea?

The addition of the following items could cause diarrhea:

  • Instant coffee
  • Sugar
  • Artificial sweetener
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