affects the cells lining the intestine, it can cause
(watery or loose stools). If you have diarrhea that continues for more than 24 hours, or if you have pain and cramping along with the diarrhea, call your doctor. In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe a medication to control the diarrhea. If diarrhea persists, you may need intravenous (IV) fluids to replace the water and nutrients you have lost. Often these fluids are given as an outpatient and do not require hospitalization. Do not take any over-the-counter medications for diarrhea without asking your doctor.
Some tips that your doctor may recommend include:
Drink 8-12 cups of clear fluids a day. This will help replace fluids you have lost through diarrhea. Clear liquids, such clear broth, sports drinks such as Gatorade, or ginger ale, are best. If these drinks make you feel nauseous, try diluting them with water. Drink slowly and make sure drinks are at room temperature. Let carbonated drinks lose their fizz before you drink them. You can also try oral rehydration solutions (adults) or Pedialyte (children).Ask your doctor if you should try a clear liquid diet to give your bowels time to rest. A clear liquid diet does not provide all the nutrients you need, so only stay on this diet for the time highlighted by your doctor.Eat five or six small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.Include certain foods in your diet, such as: Potassium-rich foods—Diarrhea can cause you to lose this important mineral. Bananas, oranges, potatoes, peach, and apricot nectars are good sources of potassium.Eat low-fiber foods—Low-fiber foods include white bread, white rice or noodles, creamed cereals, ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruit without skins, cottage cheese, yogurt without seeds, eggs, mashed or baked potatoes without the skin, pureed vegetables, chicken, or turkey without the skin, and fish.Avoid certain foods or drinks, such as: Foods that cause gas, such as dried beans, cabbage, broccoli, and soy productsHigh-fiber foods, which can lead to diarrhea and cramping. such as whole grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, popcorn, fresh and dried fruitMilk and milk products, including ice creamFried, greasy, or spicy foodsHot or very cold liquidsCoffeeTea with caffeineAlcoholSweetsTo ease irritation, use moistened wipes or water to clean yourself after bowel movements
While diarrhea is a common side effect of chemotherapy, there are steps that you can take to control it. If you are not finding any relief, be sure to tell your doctor right away. In some cases, you may need to take medication or have tests done to look for an infection. Remember that your doctor and other healthcare providers are there to support you during your treatment.
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Accessed March 7, 2014.
Understanding chemotherapy: A guide for patients and families. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003025-pdf.pdf. Accessed March 7, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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