The Top 6 Foods Giving You the Runs

The Top 6 Foods Giving You the Runs


Diarrhea is one of the most uncomfortable realities we can experience. Not only does it often come with bloating and stomach pain, but it can also come unexpectedly (and embarrassingly) at the worst times.

It’s often difficult to know what the cause of diarrhea is, especially since there are many potential factors to consider. For example, this can be the result of an infection, or of irritable bowel syndrome. Diabetes, alcohol abuse, and certain medications can also cause diarrhea to occur.

Despite these factors, there’s one thing that often escapes people’s minds when thinking of the root cause for this condition. And, surprisingly, the cause of this uncomfortable phenomenon may lie in the foods you’re eating.

Here are six foods, according to Medical News Today, that may be causing this uncomfortable condition:

1. Sugar and sugar substitutes

Foods that are high in sugar can cause diarrhea. When people eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, water enters their intestines, which can result in very loose stools.

Fructose is a component of table sugar and is also found naturally in fruits. Some fruits contain more fructose than others. Some examples of foods high in fructose include:

  • apple juice
  • grapes
  • agave
  • soda

The body can only digest a certain amount of fructose at one time. Consuming more fructose than the body can absorb, may cause diarrhea.

Dr. Norton Greenberger, a gastroenterologist and Harvard Medical School professor, states that “75 percent of people who ingest more than 40 to 80 grams of fructose per day will get diarrhea.”

Another source estimates that approximately 30 to 40 percent of people have trouble absorbing significant amounts of fructose.

Sugar alcohols, including sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and erythritol, are commonly used to sweeten foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.” These sugar alcohols are not well absorbed by the body and can cause diarrhea in some people, especially if consumed in large amounts.

People should be sure to check the ingredients list of foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added,” such as chewing gums, candy, and protein bars, to see if they contain any sugar alcohols.

2. Caffeine

a woman drinking a cup of coffee
As caffeine is a stimulant, it may cause diarrhea.

Drinks and foods that contain caffeine can cause diarrhea in some people. Caffeine is a stimulant and accelerates the rate that food moves through the intestines.

Common dietary sources of caffeine include:

3. High-fat and spicy foods

Fried foods and other foods that contain a lot of fat can cause diarrhea because they are difficult for the body to process.

Although it is no longer commonly used by the food industry, a fat substitute known as Olestra can cause diarrhea. People should check labels of fat-free products, such as potato chips, to see if it lists Olestra as an ingredient.

Spicy foods, such as those that contain hot peppers, are another common cause of diarrhea.

4. Lactose

People who are lactose intolerant may experience diarrhea, in addition to other symptoms, after they consume dairy products. Lactose intolerance is prevalent among African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans.

Some people with lactose intolerance may be able to tolerate small amounts of dairy products that are aged or those that are lower in lactose. These products include yogurt, kefir, and hard cheeses.


Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols are a category of carbohydrates called FODMAPs. High-FODMAP foods are difficult for some people to digest and may cause diarrhea.

Some categories already mentioned in this article, like fructose, lactose, and sugar alcohols, are considered FODMAPs. The list of high-FODMAP foods is extensive, but a few other examples include:

  • artichokes
  • beans
  • garlic
  • onions

A low-FODMAP diet can be challenging to follow due to a large number of restricted foods. If someone thinks that FODMAPs may be the cause of their diarrhea, a registered dietitian can provide education and guidance.

6. Gluten

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, and barley, and many of the people who have problems digesting it have a serious illness, such as celiac disease. When someone has celiac disease, their immune system reacts to gluten and triggers damage to the small intestine.

People that do not have celiac disease may still have issues tolerating gluten. If someone suspects that gluten may be responsible for their diarrhea, it is important that they see a doctor for proper testing before starting a gluten-free diet.

As research has found, these six foods may be the things that are causing sufferers so much pain and discomfort. However, with so many other factors that cause diarrhea, how do you know that food is the culprit?

According to the article, food may be the cause of diarrhea if the sufferer has been making recent changes to their diet. For instance, if a person is adding gluten back in to a previously gluten-free diet, this can cause stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

In addition, dairy products can often be the cause of diarrhea. However, this is typically the case when the person has an existing allergy to dairy.

Keeping a food diary can be very useful in determining if diarrhea is because of the food you’re eating. By recognizing patterns between the foods we consume and the resulting effects these have on the body, we can more easily determine how the foods we’re eating are helping (or hurting) us.