As we age, our digestive systems can become more sensitive to certain types of foods and methods of food preparation. While you once may have handled the spiciest of foods without breaking a sweat, now that super-hot chicken curry gives you the digestive drama known as diarrhea—uncomfortable, unformed, watery stool.
Sometimes diarrhea occurs because of an underlying condition, or as a side effect of a medication (see “Other causes of diarrhea”). However, diet is often the cause.
The following can cause loose stools or make them worse.
Sugar. Sugars stimulate the gut to put out water and electrolytes, which loosen bowel movements. If you ingest a lot of sugar, you may develop diarrhea. One of the biggest offenders is fructose, which is found naturally in fruits (such as peaches, pears, cherries, and apples) or added to foods and drinks, such as applesauce, soda, and juice beverages. “Seventy-five percent of people who ingest more than 40 to 80 grams of fructose per day will get diarrhea,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Norton Greenberger, a Harvard Medical School professor. Another offender: artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol (found in sugar-free gum, candy, and medications).
Dairy foods. These contain lactose, which some people have a hard time digesting. Watch out for cheese, milk, and ice cream, among many other products.
FODMAPs. Fructose, artificial sweeteners, and lactose are part a group of poorly digested sugars that can cause diarrhea, known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). Other sources of FODMAPs include wheat, rye, onions, garlic, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), honey, pistachios, cashews, asparagus, and artichokes.
Gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, beer, and even salad dressings. People who are gluten-sensitive may have a hard time digesting gluten and get diarrhea as a result. In people with celiac disease, ingesting gluten provokes the body to attack the lining of the small intestine, which can cause serious damage.
Fried or fatty foods. Some people have a hard time digesting creamy or fried foods. “When fatty foods are not absorbed normally, they go to the colon, where they are broken down to fatty acids, causing the colon to secrete fluid and trigger diarrhea,” says Dr. Greenberger.
Spicy foods. Spicy sauces may mask high fat content, especially in Tex-Mex dishes or curries. And there’s this unpleasant side effect: “If you eat a lot of hot spicy foods, you may get burning in the rectum,” says Dr. Greenberger.
Caffeine. Caffeine speeds up the digestive system. It’s found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many sodas, and foods flavored with coffee or chocolate.
Dr. Greenberger recommends identifying the foods and drinks that seem to trigger your diarrhea. Keeping a food journal is a great start, and so is seeing your doctor to make sure something else isn’t responsible for your symptoms.
If food is the culprit, Dr. Greenberger says trying a FODMAP-free diet should get rid of diarrhea in a week or two. Be-cause many FODMAP foods such as fruits and vegetables are good for health, it’s best to work with a dietitian to develop a FODMAP-free menu that includes other healthy foods.
Chronic diarrhea can interfere with your life, at home and at work. Even if it is not severe, its unpredictability and urgency can make you reluctant to socialize. And some people hesitate to bring the problem to a doctor’s attention because they think it’s not serious, or because it’s embarrassing. Dr. Greenberger recommends that anyone with chronic diarrhea contact a doctor, particularly if there are other warning signs, such as low appetite or weight loss. “The causes and cures for chronic diarrhea are complex,” says Dr. Greenberger. “Don’t try to figure it out on your own.”
|Other causes of diarrheaDiet is one of several causes of diarrhea. Others include:bacterial or viral infectionsurgery to a part of your digestive systemexcess alcohol consumptionmedical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.In older adults, diarrhea often turns out to be a side effect of medication. “Things like antibiotics and anti-gout medications can cause diarrhea by altering movement in the gut and the bacterial population in our intestines,” says Dr. Norton Greenberger, a Harvard Medical School professor. “But there are also 20 or 30 gut disorders that can cause loose bowel motion.”|
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1 NIV
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4 NIV
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV
I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30 NIV
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV
For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit? Romans 15:13 NIV
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 NIV
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