Coping with diarrhoea
With some cancer treatments, the bowel may become irritated and sensitive, causing temporary changes to your bowel habits. If this is a problem, see your dietitian regularly during treatment.
Diarrhoea means your bowel motions are urgent, watery and frequent. You may also get abdominal cramping. Diarrhoea may have several causes including chemotherapy, radiotherapy to the abdomen or pelvis, infection, food sensitivity and emotional upset.
Whatever the cause of your diarrhoea, a change of diet often helps. Try the tips that follow. If unexplained diarrhoea lasts more than a couple of days or if it is causing you discomfort or distress, see your doctor or dietitian.
- Drink plenty of liquids (water, diluted soft drinks or fruit juices and weak cordials) to replace lost fluids.
- Eat small meals often. Try to eat three small meals and three snacks each day.
- Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine and spicy foods as these can make diarrhoea worse.
- Avoid fried or greasy foods.
- Think about how much milk you drink. Some people develop a temporary intolerance to the sugar in milk (lactose) when they have diarrhoea. If you think milk may be a problem, try soy milk or lactose-reduced milk. Cheese and yoghurt in small amounts are usually OK.
- If diarrhoea continues, you may find reducing your fibre intake temporarily helps. Try these tips:
- skins, pips and seeds from fruit and vegetables
- wholegrain bread, bran-based and muesli breakfast cereals
- nuts and legumes such as lentils, dried beans, dried peas and baked beans.
- soft well-cooked peeled vegetables and fruit or canned fruit
- small amounts of fresh fruits, such as ripe melon and bananas
- white bread, white rice and pasta
- cornflakes, rice-based breakfast cereals such as Rice Bubbles and well-cooked rolled oats and semolina
- lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.
If you continue to experience diarrhoea then speak to you doctor or pharmacist about taking an anti-diarrhoea medication.