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.

Wind

After treatment, some people have more wind than before. Tell your doctor if this is a problem.

Causes of wind include:

  • certain types of food
  • constipation
  • some medicines, such as Fybogel and Lactulose
  • bowel conditions (such as diverticular disease)
  • small bowel bacterial overgrowth.

If you have too much wind, the following tips may help:

  • cut down on foods and drinks that you notice can cause wind
  • eat meals at the same times each day
  • do not eat and drink at the same time
  • use exercises to strengthen the muscles used for bowel control (pelvic floor exercises)
  • change from Lactulose or Fybogel to laxatives that cause less wind
  • take peppermint oil, live yoghurts or charcoal tablets.

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.