Food guide if you have bowel problems

The following foods may increase or reduce bowel symptoms. This is only a guide as foods can affect people differently.

Foods that stimulate the bowel

If you have problems with diarrhoea, soft stools or frequent bowel movements eating less of these foods may help. Eating more of them may be helpful if you have constipation:

  • some types of fresh, tinned or dried fruit. For example, grapes, fruits with stones, such as apricots, plums and prunes, and most berries except blueberries
  • fruit juices such as prune, orange, apple and grape juices
  • vegetables such as sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, onions, radishes spinach and sweetcorn
  • baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses
  • bran and foods high in insoluble fibre
  • spices such as chilli, curry and ginger
  • caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, cola drinks and some energy drinks
  • nuts, linseeds and popcorn
  • sugar-free foods containing sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol. For example, sugar-free chewing gum, some mints, sweeteners and diet drinks and foods
  • chocolate
  • alcohol – especially beer and red wine
  • some supplements, such as the mineral selenium or high doses of vitamin C, which the body only needs in small amounts.

Foods that may cause wind

If you have a lot of wind the foods you should avoid include:

  • vegetables such as sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, onions, radishes, spinach and sweetcorn
  • baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses
  • nuts
  • bran cereals
  • eggs and dairy produce
  • beer and fizzy drinks
  • chewing gum
  • sorbitol – a type of sugar found in some artificial sweeteners, in some sugar-free foods and in apples, pears and peaches.

Tips to help control wind

Some people find that peppermint oil, live yoghurts, probiotic drink or charcoal tablets help to control wind.

Regular meals, eating more slowly, not swallowing air or eating and drinking at the same time can also help.

Foods that may help make bowel motions firmer

If you have problems with diarrhoea, loose stools or frequent bowel movements, including these foods in your diet may help:

  • apples and pears with their skins removed
  • bananas
  • potatoes
  • yoghurt
  • white bread (not high-fibre), boiled white rice and pasta (not wholemeal).
  • chicken and fish.

Back to Long-term and late effects

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