10 Foods That Can Cause Diarrhea

Updated in August 2022

Some foods are more prone to cause diarrhea due to their increased risk for food poisoning. Foods that can cause diarrhea include raw food, undercooked food or unwashed food, as these foods may contain toxins that irritate the intestines and lead to inflammation. 

In addition to diarrhea, these foods can also cause other symptoms, like vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, cramps, tremors, headaches and muscular pain. 

It is also important to remember that children and pregnant women are at most risk for developing an intestinal infection. These populations present with more intense symptoms as their immune systems are weaker. Therefore, they should avoid or reduce consumption of these types of food.  

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Check-out 10 foods that can cause diarrhea below:

1. Raw or undercooked eggs 

Raw or undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella sp. bacteria, which can cause symptoms of an intestinal infection like fever, belly ache, intense diarrhea, vomit or diarrhea with blood and headaches. 

To prevent a salmonella infection, you should ensure you eggs are always well cooked. You should also avoid using sauces or broths that call for raw eggs. Children should especially avoid eating raw eggs as they are more sensitive to severe diarrhea and vomiting. 

2. Raw salad

Raw salads are at a higher risk of being contaminated if they are not properly washed and prepared. Consuming raw fruit and vegetables outside of your home can be risky for children and pregnant women, who are more prone to catch an infection like toxoplasmosis and cysticercosis.

To prevent an infection, you should ensure you vegetables are well-washed by soaking them in chlorinated water 30 minutes prior to consuming. After soaking the vegetables, you should rinse them under running water to remove any remaining substances. 

3. Canned food

Canned food can be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which can be present in foods like artichoke, sausages and pickles. This bacteria causes botulism due to the production of toxins. An infection with this bacteria can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and impact muscular contractions, which can be life-threatening. 

To prevent this condition, you should avoid eating canned food that is stored in dented cans or cans that have been baked. You should also avoid consuming canned food that is stored in cloudy or dark liquid. 

4. Undercooked meat 

Raw or undercooked meat can be contaminated with microorganisms like, Toxoplasma gondii protozoa which can lead to toxoplasmosis, or with parasites that can lead to teniasis. You should avoid eating undercooked meat, especially if you are unsure about the quality of the meat. Adequately cooking meat can kill all microorganisms present, which is why fully cooking it is so important.  

5. Sushi and seafood

Eating raw or inadequately stored fish or seafood can lead to intestinal infections that cause stomach and intestinal inflammation. These infections are associated with symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

To prevent contamination, you should avoid eating sushi at unknown locations with visibly poor hygiene. Oysters should always be stored in cold environments. Fish with a strong odor and gelatinous texture may not be safe for consumption. 

6. Unpasteurized milk

Unpasteurized milk, or raw milk, is rich in many bacteria that can cause intestinal infections. It is associated with illnesses like salmonelosis and listeriosis, and can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. 

Therefore, you should always opt for pasteurized milk that is refrigerated in supermarkets, or milk branded as UHT, which is milk that is treated at high temperatures to remove any possible bacteria. 

7. Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses, like brie, camembert and rennet, are high in water content, which can promote growth of bacteria like Listeria sp. This can lead to headaches, tremors, seizures and meningitis, which can be life-threatening. 

To prevent this condition, you should opt for harder cheeses, or cheeses that are safely processed. You should also avoid purchasing cheeses that are not refrigerated, like at the beach or a market for example. 

8. Mayonnaise and other sauces 

Mayonnaise and homemade sauces made with raw eggs, or other sauces that are left outside the refrigerator for a long time, may be rich in bacteria that can cause intestinal infections. 

You should avoid eating homemade mayonnaise and sauces, especially at restaurants or during picnics, as these sauces tend to be left at room temperature. Storing sauces outside of the refrigerator increases the risk for bacterial growth.  

9. Reheated food 

Leftovers from home or at a restaurant are one of the most common causes of food poisoning, usually because they are not properly stored. Not storing or refrigerating food can promote bacterial growth.

To prevent this, you should store leftovers in clean containers with a sealed lid. It is important to remember that food can only be reheated once, and should be thrown out after heating up. 

10. Water

Water is one of the main ways illnesses like hepatitis, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and amebiasis are transmitted. These conditions are associated with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, but can lead to liver problems if left untreated. 

You should opt for mineral water or boiled water to drink or cook, to ensure the water is not a source of illness for the whole family. Adequate hand hygiene is equally as important.