Maintaining bowel health is essential for a healthy stool, and diet is a big part of the ongoing effort to increase digestive health. Loose stools are often a troublesome occurrence for people who have experienced a bout with cancer, illness or had stomach surgery. Although these issues may lead to a problem with the bowels that lead to loose stools, dietary habits are often the culprit as well.
The types of stool you release may indicate the measure of your health. For instance, hard or lumpy stool may mean you are suffering from dehydration or not getting enough soluble fiber. A liquid stool is often the result of illness or infection that causes the body to release foods too quickly to absorb water and passes out in a liquid state. A thin stool may indicate a blockage in the colon. Stool colors may vary from pale grey to brown to red, and much of the color is dependent on the food you ingest.
Loose stools may be caused by food contamination from bacteria, or medications. In addition, they may be related to illness from viral infection, vitamin usage or bodily trauma. If you have recently traveled to another country you may be suffering from contamination from unsanitary water. If diarrhea comes on suddenly and others you have eaten with have it, you may have food poisoning. Any changes in medications or vitamin intake should be monitored for any accompanying changes in bowel movements.
Foods to Avoid
Foods that contain sorbitol, fructose and lactose may make diarrhea worse in many people, especially if you have a lactose intolerance. Use a digestive enzyme that contains lactase when you drink milk or eat products that contain dairy. Consuming coffee or alcohol may also cause diarrhea in some people. Some supplements such as magnesium or vitamin C may lead to loose stools as well. Yogurt with active cultures may help relieve loose stools that are caused by bacteria.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and increases stool bulk by binding to foods in the digestive system. Eating insoluble fiber may help to firm up loose stools and allow more normal excretions. Try eating foods such as cabbage, bran, whole grains, nuts and cauliflower to thicken stools. Products with psyllium may also thicken liquid stools.
Doctors may recommend BRAT, or a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, for loose stools. These foods are easily tolerated and have the high fiber content necessary to increase stool bulk. In addition, it is advisable to eliminate as much olestra as possible from the diet. Olestra is a fat substitute that is often found in chips, cheese puffs, crackers and popcorn. According to a Penn State University publication, olestra passes through the digestive system and is not absorbed, which can lead to diarrhea.
Increase the amount of liquids to put back any fluids you may be losing due to diarrhea and loose stools. Losing water through your stool may cause you to become dehydrated. This can lead to illness and promote a cycle of your body producing more liquid stools. Rehydrate by drinking sports drinks or eating vegetable soups that contain essential nutrients.