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Some chemotherapy may affect the cells that line the intestine. This may cause diarrhea. Diarrhea means having three or more bowel movements in a day that are more watery than usual. Sometimes you may also have cramps.

Call your doctor if you have severe diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours or if you have pain or cramping.

Often the diarrhea can be controlled by making changes to your diet. It is best to start by limiting your diet to fluids only. This gives your bowel a chance to rest. Drink mild, clear liquids warm or at room temperature. Cold or hot liquids increase intestinal muscle contractions and may make the diarrhea worse. A clear liquid diet may not give you all the nutrients that you need, so begin adding solids when you start to feel better (3 – 5 days). Gradually add foods such as steamed rice, cream of rice, bananas, applesauce, mashed potatoes, dry toast, and crackers. These foods are low in fiber and bulk. Again, it is best to eat these foods warm or at room temperature.

Management of mild-to-moderate diarrhea includes dietary modifications and treatment as recommended by your doctor. In severe cases, your healthcare team may give you anti-diarrhea medicine, or prescribe intravenous (IV) fluids to replace the water and nutrients that you have lost. In many cases, fluids can be administered on an out-patient basis and do not require hospitalization. Do not take any over-the-counter medications for diarrhea without asking your doctor or nurse first.

What you can do
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Do not become dehydrated.
  • Eat small amounts of food throughout the day instead of three large meals.
  • Eat potassium-rich foods. Diarrhea can cause you to lose this important mineral. Good sources of potassium. include bananas, potatoes, and peach and apricot nectars.
  • Eat low-fiber foods.
  • Avoid fatty, greasy and spicy foods.
  • Avoid coffee, regular teas and carbonated drinks with caffeine.
  • Avoid citrus fruits and foods high in bulk and fiber.
  • Avoid milk and milk products if they make your diarrhea worse.
  • Keep the rectal area clean to avoid the chance of getting an infection.


Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
Tel: 905-895-4521   |   TTY: 905-952-3062
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