Cancer treatments and medicines can cause your bowels to move much more often and become very loose (diarrhea). Uncontrolled diarrhea can lead to weight loss, fluid loss (dehydration), poor appetite and weakness.

If you have diarrhea, try avoiding high-fiber foods, which may make it worse. These include nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), dried fruits, and raw fruits and vegetables. You also should avoid high-fat foods, such as fried and greasy foods, because they can make diarrhea worse. Stay away from gas-causing foods and carbonated drinks, too. Be sure to sip fluids during the day to prevent dehydration. Once the diarrhea has stopped, slowly start eating foods containing fiber.

Ways to Ease Diarrhea

  • Drink plenty of mild, clear, noncarbonated liquids during the day. Drink liquids at room temperature. They may be easier to consume than very hot or cold drinks.
  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks during the day.
  • Avoid greasy, fried, spicy or very sweet foods.
  • Limit milk or milk products to two cups a day. Yogurt and buttermilk are OK.
  • Avoid drinks and foods that cause gas, such as carbonated drinks, raw vegetables and chewing gum. (You may drink carbonated beverages if you leave them open for at least 10 minutes before drinking.)
  • Drink and eat high-sodium foods like broths, soups, sports drinks, crackers and pretzels.
  • Drink and eat high-potassium foods like fruit juices and nectars, sports drinks, potatoes (cooked with skins on) and bananas.
  • Increase soluble-fiber foods like applesauce, bananas, canned peaches and pears, oatmeal and white rice.
  • Drink at least one cup of liquid after each loose bowel movement. Try water, sports drinks or bouillon to replace sodium and electrolytes needed in the body.
  • Avoid sugar-free gum and candy made with sugar alcohol (i.e., sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol).
  • Call your doctor if diarrhea continues or increases, or if your stools have an unusual odor or color.

Managing Diarrhea

  • Call your doctor or nurse to ask about suggested over-the-counter medication and appropriate doses.
  • If loose or liquid stools do not stop after six to eight movements in less than 24 hours, contact your provider.
  • Make sure you are drinking clear liquids (anything you can see through) only until liquid movements stop, and then proceed to the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast).