How can I prevent diarrhea?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Preventing diarrhea is largely a matter of luck and common sense. If certain foods give your intestinal tract a hard time, stay away from them. Many cases of diarrhea are caused by intestinal bugs, but if yours seems to be functional and not connected with bacterial infection, try to assess what conditions seem to trigger it and, in particular, whether stressful situations seem connected. Take steps to reduce stressful situations and ask your doctor about medications that might treat functional diarrhea.

General rules for avoiding diarrhea caused by bacterial infections include washing all fruits and vegetables well and making sure they're ripe when you eat them. If you are traveling in an area where the water purity is questionable, drink and brush your teeth only with bottled water, and don't eat any uncooked fruit or vegetables. At home, rinse chicken before you cook it, and cook chicken and other meats thoroughly. Clean all food preparation areas such as countertops and cutting boards with soap and warm water. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food.

Be careful about eating foods left outside for long periods of time -- at barbecues or picnics, for example. Bacteria can grow easily in the warm air. And don't take leftovers home from these events. Even inside, leftovers should be refrigerated quickly after the meal has been served.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.