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Dietary Tips

Certain foods are known to stimulate gut reactions in general, and in those with bowel incontinence, or accidental bowel leakage (ABL), eating too much of these might provoke unwanted reactions.

For example, meals that are too large or high in fat, fried foods, coffee, caffeine, or alcohol may provoke symptoms of abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Dietary Tips: Foods that cause gas, cramping or diarrhea

Eating too much of some types of sugar that are poorly absorbed by the bowel can also cause cramping or diarrhea (e.g., sorbitol, commonly used as a sweetener in many dietetic foods, candies, and gums; and fructose, also used as a sweetener and found naturally in honey as well as some fruits).

Some foods are gas producing (e.g., beans, cabbage, legumes, cauliflower, broccoli, lentils, Brussels sprouts, raisins, onions, bagels) and eating too much may cause increased gaseousness.

Other foods can be odor forming with gas. These foods may include: alcohol, asparagus, beans, cabbage, chicken, coffee, cucumbers, dairy products, eggs, fish, garlic, nuts, onions, prunes, radishes, and highly seasoned foods.

The influence of diet on incontinence is unique to each individual and there is no generalized dietary advice that will work for everyone.

A physician can take a brief dietary history and with a 2–3 week diary of dietary intake, symptoms, and any associated factors (e.g., daily obligations, stressors, poor sleep, medications) can help identify dietary and/or other factors that may impact symptoms of incontinence, or ABL.

A knowledgeable health care professional (e.g., physician or registered dietician) can provide dietary guidance while assessing individual circumstances and helping make sure that nutritional needs are being met through a balanced diet, and healthy eating habits.

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IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

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