Dietary suggestions for diarrhea during chemotherapy

Last Modified: January 12, 2003


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My father is 85 and is has stage IV colon cancer. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and one of his biggest problems is diarrhea. My mother needs recipes that are easy to fix. Can you help?  


Katrina Claghorn, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

A low fiber, low lactose diet is usually recommended for diarrhea. Your doctor's office should be able to provide you with a list of low fiber foods. Here are some suggestions:

High protein foods/entrees: Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are all low fiber. Avoid frying or dishes that have added fat such as gravies.

Starches: use refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white flour noodles, pasta, white bread and rolls. Potatoes are fine, just don't eat the skin. Rice has been found to help reduce diarrhea. Check the fiber content of cereals and grain products. Choose those with less than 2 grams of fiber.

Vegetables: asparagus, beets, green beans, mushrooms, summer squash, tomatoes without seeds and carrots. Cook the vegetable until well done.

Fruit: Applesauce, apricots, bananas, melons, canned fruits, nectarines, oranges and peaches. Applesauce and bananas help reduce diarrhea.

Dairy: Use lactaid milk, or soy or rice milks. Yogurt is often tolerated. Lactose free cottage cheese and ice cream are now available.

Soups: broth based soups are best tolerated.

Hope this gives you some ideas on putting a menu together.

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