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Diarrhea may have several causes including chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the abdomen, infection, medications, and emotional stress.  Some cancer therapy causes an intolerance of lactose, a substance found in milk.  Lactose intolerance may result in diarrhea when milk or milk products are eaten.

If diarrhea is severe and prolonged, loss of fluids and minerals may occur.  Long-term, chronic diarrhea can result in nutritional deficiencies since the rapid passage of food through the intestines prevents adequate absorption of nutrients.

Follow these suggestions to help cope with diarrhea:

  • Try eating foods that are low in fiber:
    • Yogurt
    • Rice or noodles
    • Applesauce, grape juice
    • Cream of wheat
    • Ripe bananas
    • Smooth peanut butter
    • White bread
    • Tender or ground meats
    • Pureed vegetables
    • Cottage cheese, cream cheese
    • Eliminate foods that may contribute to diarrhea:
      • Greasy, fatty, or fried foods
      • Raw vegetables and fruits
      • High-fiber vegetables such as corn, cabbage, broccoli, peas, beans, and cauliflower
      • Strong spices such as hot pepper, curry, and Cajun spices
      • Licorice
      • Try a clear liquid diet the first 12-24 hours of sudden, short-term diarrhea.  This will allow the bowel to rest while replacing fluids lost as a result of diarrhea.
      • Eat small frequent meals throughout the day.
      • Serve liquids at room temperature. Avoid very hot and cold foods.
      • Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, except at mealtimes.
      • Limit foods and beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, strong tea, some sodas and chocolate.
      • Sodium and potassium are minerals that may be lost during times of diarrhea.  Eat plenty of foods and liquids that contain these minerals.  Good liquid choices include bouillon or fat-free broth.  Foods high in potassium that do not cause diarrhea include bananas, peach and apricot nectar, and boiled or mashed potatoes.