Food guide if you have bowel problems

The following foods may cause or help bowel problems. This is only a guide, as foods can affect people differently.

Foods that may cause wind include:

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

Foods that may be helpful in controlling wind

Foods that may be helpful in controlling wind:

  • live yoghurts or probiotic drinks.

We have more information about managing if you have wind.

Foods that may help make your stools firmer

Foods that may help make your stools firmer include:

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

Foods that stimulate the bowel, and make stools softer or more frequent

Foods that stimulate the bowel, and make stools softer or more frequent include:

  • some types of fruit (fresh, tinned or dried) – grapes, fruits with stones (such as apricots, plums, peaches and prunes), and most berries (except blueberries)
  • fruit juices, such as prune, orange, apple and grape juices
  • vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, peas, peppers, spinach and sweetcorn
  • beans, especially baked beans, kidney beans and chickpeas
  • bran and foods high in insoluble fibre
  • greasy foods and fried foods
  • spices such as chilli, curry and ginger
  • caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, cola drinks and energy drinks
  • nuts, linseeds and popcorn
  • sugar-free foods containing sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol (such as sugar-free chewing gum, some mints, sweeteners, diet drinks and foods)
  • chocolate
  • alcohol, especially beer and red wine.

These foods should be limited if you have problems with diarrhoea, loose stools or frequent bowel movements. These foods may be helpful if you have constipation.

Back to Long-term and late effects

Changes in how your bowel works

Treatment for rectal cancer may lead to changes in how your bowel works. These can usually be managed successfully over time.

Managing bladder problems

There are ways to manage changes in the way your bladder works. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re having problems.