The Most Common Diarrhea-Causing Foods

Updated on March 17, 2021

Picture: JillWellington 

There are many causes for diarrhea, such as irritable bowel syndrome, alcohol consumption, viruses, and food intolerances. However, several food types are more commonly associated with diarrhea than others, even in people without intolerances. Sometimes, this is because they contain spices, colonic stimulants, oil, and artificial ingredients. Some people may also not know they have an intolerance until they try a specific food. If you’ve been experiencing diarrhea, consider whether any of the following food types may be contributing. 

Spicy Food

After looking for remedies for diarrhea that can help your current situation, you may be wondering why you’re experiencing it in the first place. If you have recently eaten spicy food, it may have played a role. If your body isn’t used to spicy food, you can suffer from nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Sometimes, capsaicin in chili peppers is the culprit. While helpful for some ailments, it’s also an irritant during the digestive process. 

Milk and Dairy Products

We’re often told that we need to drink plenty of milk to support healthy bone and joint development. While it’s true that the calcium in milk can assist with healthy bones, the lactose in it may cause diarrhea and stomach upset. This may signal an intolerance. Lactose intolerance can form later in life and can even run in families. It’s caused by your body being unable to break down the sugars in dairy. Instead of trying to break them down, it disposes of them quickly, which presents as diarrhea. 

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar substitutes, or artificial sweeteners, are present in a broad range of products, like chewing gum, diet drinks, and even some toothpastes that form part of your oral health routine. Some of these substitutes and sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect. It can be worth reading the ingredients of any product claiming to be sugar-free to see whether they include artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin. 


Coffee may have several benefits, but it can also be responsible for your sudden bout of diarrhea. The caffeine in coffee works as a stimulant. Alongside making you feel more alert, it also stimulates your digestive system, leading to urgent bowel movements. Most of the time, this initial bowel movement is healthy. However, while a single coffee may not lead to diarrhea, several a day might. 

Fast Food

The saturated fats and trans fat in fast food are not only bad for heart health, but they also aren’t doing your digestive system any good. Anything that has been cooked in bad fats may lead to diarrhea or make the diarrhea symptoms you already have much worse. Our bodies are not able to break down fried, fatty, and greasy foods with ease. Without much nutritional value either, our bodies attempt to remove them as quickly as possible. To combat this problem, consider grilled fast food treats instead. 

Identifying the cause of diarrhea is not always straightforward, especially as it’s a symptom of many conditions and illnesses. However, if you’ve been experiencing loose stools and haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it, consider whether you’ve been consuming an excess amount of any of these food types above.

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