Nutrition Guide:
For People Living with Cancer Diarrhea

How can I cope with diarrhea?

Many things can cause diarrhea including radiation therapy, chemotherapy and certain mediations. It is important to watch what you eat if you have diarrhea since diarrhea can cause dehydration. Take special care to:

1) Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluid everyday. This will replace lost fluids. Water, juices (except prune juice), broth or consomme, ginger ale, Gatorade jello and weak tea are all good sources of fluid.

2) Watch how long you have diarrhea. If it lasts more than 2 days, contact your doctor. Unfortunately, these is a lot we do not know about the effects that foods have on diarrhea. The treatment of diarrhea is different for each individual. The following suggestions have been used by people with cancer who were trying to cope with diarrhea. You should not try these all at once, rather try a couple suggestions at a time to find those that work best for you. This will prevent you from avoiding some foods unnecessarily.

  • Limit foods that contain caffeine such as coffee, strong tea and cola beverages
  • In some cases milk and milk products such as milk, cheese, pudding and ice cream can made diarrhea worse. Reduce your use of these foods to see if your diarrhea gets better. If you think these may be a problem, talk to your dietitian or doctor for more information. Lactose-free milk or soy beverages may be better tolerated.
  • Limit your use of high fat foods such as fried foods, fatty meats, high fat desserts, excess butter, margarine, higher fat milk products (homo milk, cream) and greasy snack foods
  • Try to reduce the amount of fiber in your diet. Fibre is found mostly in fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds. See Low fiber foods
  • Some people find that removing the skins, seeds and membranes from fruits and vegetables makes these foods easier to digest. Canned or well-cooked fruits and vegetables may also be easier to digest.
  • Try eating several small meals throughout the day
  • Limit your used of dried fruits, berries, rhubarb, legumes (lentils, kidney beans, lima beans), peas, corn, broccoli, spinach and nuts. They may make diarrhea worse for some people
  • If you have gas or cramping you may find it helpful to avoid foods that can increase gas production. These include dried peas and beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, brussels sprouts, carbonated beverages, beer and chewing gum
  • When diarrhea is no longer a problem, gradually resume a normal diet

Next: Constipation

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