- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Nutrition and cancer
- Treatment side effects and nutrition
Diarrhoea is when your bowel motions become watery, urgent and frequent. You may also get abdominal cramping, wind and pain. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis, some types of surgery (e.g. bowel), medicines, infections, reactions to certain foods, and anxiety can all cause diarrhoea.
If the tips below don’t work, ask your doctor about anti-diarrhoea medicines. Having diarrhoea can be exhausting, so rest as much as possible. For further support, you can call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
How to manage diarrhoea
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. Water, diluted cordials and oral hydration drinks (e.g. Gastrolyte) are better than high-sugar drinks, alcohol, strong caffeine or very hot/cold fluids.
- Watch for signs of dehydration such as dark yellow urine or less frequent urination.
- Avoid foods that are high in insoluble fibre (e.g. wholegrain breads, bran cereals, nuts and seeds, raw fruit, vegetable skins) and foods that increase bowel activity (e.g. spicy, fatty or oily foods; caffeine; alcohol or artificial sweeteners).
- Choose foods that are low in insoluble fibre (e.g. bananas, mashed potato, white rice, white pasta, white bread, steamed chicken without skin, white fish). It may also help to eat foods that are high in soluble fibre (e.g. oats, barley, rye, legumes, peeled fruits and vegetables, avocado, soy products).
- Try soy milk or lactose-free milk for a time if you develop a temporary intolerance to the natural sugar in milk (lactose).
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Exercise and cancer
Exercise has many benefits both during and after cancer treatment, helping with side effects, speeding up recovery, and improving quality of life
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Learn about the different treatments that are used to treat cancer, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy