Diarrhea is defined as frequent passage of loose or watery stools and can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.  Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and weight loss if it is not well-controlled.  

Signs of dehydration are: thirst, dark yellow urine color, urinating less frequently than normal, light-headedness, dizziness, poor skin turgor, or dry skin.

Your physician will discuss medications to help you manage your diarrhea, but there are some dietary tips you can also incorporate to help increase control.

  • Your body may tolerate several smaller meals throughout the day better than three larger meals.  
  • Foods that tend to increase diarrhea are greasy, fried, fatty, or high sugar foods.  It’s best to limit these.
  • Some people don’t tolerate milk products well during treatment.  If you find that you are one of these people, consider trying dairy alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, and/or rice milk products.  
  • Soluble fiber works to soak up fluid and form a gel in your bowel, which can slow bowel movements down.  Foods high in soluble fiber are: applesauce, bananas, smooth peanut butter, white rice, barley, the insides of apples and pears (peel them), and oatmeal.  
  • Other foods that may be beneficial include: marshmallows or sugar-free gelatin (mix gelatin with liquid and drink before turns into jello consistency) and foods high in pectin such as: bananas, banana chips, plantain chips, citrus fruits, applesauce, apples, and plums.
  • Insoluble fiber is considered to be “roughage” and is found in bran, nuts, vegetables, fruit peels.  It is a good idea to limit these types of foods when having diarrhea, as they can hasten motility through the GI tract.



Consider Limiting

Meat/meat substitutes

Baked/broiled beef, pork, chicken, liver, turkey, veal, eggs, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt

Dried peas and beans such as lentils, kidney beans, or white beans; nuts, seeds, and chunky peanut butter; meats that are spicy, fatty, or have gristle

Breads, cereals, rice, pasta

Bread and rolls made from refined, white flour; barley; white rice; hot cereals like cream of wheat, cream of rice, oatmeal; refined cold cereals like cornflakes, rice krispies; pancakes, waffles, cornbread, muffins, refined crackers like club or graham

Whole grain breads, tortillas, pastas; bran and other whole grain cereals; brown or wild rice

Fruits and vegetables

Canned or cooked fruits, canned vegetables, sweet or baked potato without skin, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato puree

Fresh, unpeeled fruits; dried fruits; raw vegetables

Condiments, beverages, and desserts

Salt and pepper, mayonnaise, bland salad dressings

Salsa, relish, spicy salad dressings


Gelatin, sherbet, fruit pie

Any made with nuts, seeds, or coconut


Decaffeinated coffee, tea, or pop; Gatorade; Powerade

Caffeinated coffee, tea, or pop; juices

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