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Cancer and Nutrition: Foods to Manage Diarrhea

During cancer treatment, you need enough calories and protein. But the foods you choose can also help you cope with side effects of cancer and its treatment. One side effect is diarrhea. Diarrhea is when you have bowel movements that are frequent, loose, and watery. It happens when waste passes too fast through your bowel. Your body can’t absorb enough water from it.

Foods to eat

These are good food choices if you have diarrhea:

  • Yogurt

  • Cottage cheese

  • White rice

  • Noodles

  • Potatoes with skin

  • Farina or cream of wheat

  • Eggs cooked until the whites are solid (not fried)

  • Smooth peanut butter

  • White bread

  • Canned, peeled fruits

  • Well-cooked vegetables

  • Chicken or turkey without skin, lean beef, and fish (not fried)

It may help to eat small meals and snacks often instead of 3 large meals a day. Eat foods rich in potassium, such as bananas. This can help replace electrolytes lost from diarrhea.

Foods to stay away from

Make sure to not eat:

  • Fatty or fried foods

  • Raw vegetables

  • Fruit seeds, skins, or stringy fibers

  • Vegetables with a lot of fiber such as broccoli, corn, dried beans, cabbage, peas, and cauliflower

You may also need to not have milk or dairy foods. You may not be able to digest the lactose in these foods. These can make your symptoms worse.

Getting enough to drink

Diarrhea may cause dehydration. This means you don’t have enough water in your body. It is vital when you have diarrhea to drink a lot of fluids. Drink liquids that are at room temperature. If you have a sudden bout of diarrhea, drink only clear liquids for a short time. This lets your bowel rest. And it replaces the fluids lost during the diarrhea. 

Taking medicine

Your healthcare provider may also advise medicine to help stop diarrhea. Take this medicine exactly as directed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brown, Kim, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/10/2018
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