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Diarrhea After Eating Salad: Why Does Salad Give Me Diarrhea 2023?


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Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

diarrhea after eating salad

Few things will put a damper on your day like a case of diarrhea. Most of us do what we can to avoid digestive issues whenever possible. Sometimes, however, the source of the problem might be the last thing that we expect.

Leafy greens are supposed to be the ultimate cure-all for digestive health, so assigning the blame to them for your diarrhea immediately might feel counterintuitive. If you notice a pattern, however, we encourage you to follow your gut, no pun intended. 

Why Do Leafy Greens Give Me Diarrhea?

The most common reasons for diarrhea after eating greens:

  1. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses from mishandled or unwashed produce
  2. An excess of insoluble fiber
  3. Other, unrelated digestive issues, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  4. Food sensitivities and other allergies

Diarrhea is a condition that requires no introduction – when it hits us, it hits hard. What’s the deal? Why is this happening?

There are many things that might be causing you diarrhea; you might need to do a bit of lateral thinking in order to narrow things down. As crazy as it may seem, leafy greens can certainly cause a problem in your small intestine under the right circumstances. 

Bad Bacteria From Unwashed Greens

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,[1] there are three leading external causes of diarrhea: 

  • Viral infections, such as the norovirus and the rotavirus
  • Parasitic infections, such as cryptosporidium enteritis, entamoeba histolytica, and giardia lamblia
  • Bacterial infections, such as campylobacter, E. coli, salmonella, and shigella

If you experience serious medical symptoms after eating leafy green vegetables, you’ve likely fallen victim to something nasty catching a ride in your salad. Washing your produce thoroughly before eating it is one way to protect yourself; cooking your greens will also kill off any bacteria or parasites that might cause you problems.

Your grocery basket isn’t the only place where parasites and bacteria might be lurking. If you have a sensitive stomach, you should also be wary when eating out, especially somewhere new.

Traveler’s diarrhea is one commonly-reported source of watery stools abroad, a condition said to be aggravated proportionally[2] the longer you stay. While the end-all, be-all cause of traveler’s diarrhea is disputed, many physicians believe that it occurs primarily when the body is exposed to exotic bacteria, stuff that it’s not used to seeing at home.

Too Much Insoluble Fiber

Believe it or not, some types of fiber might actually work to loosen your stool instead of solidifying it. Insoluble fiber is one natural solution to diarrhea,[3] acting as a gentle laxative that coaxes everything along[4] the pipeline.

Leafy greens, like most vegetables, are prime sources of insoluble fiber and may be the culprit to your loose stools.

Complex carbohydrates like legumes, starchy vegetables, nuts, and baked goods made with whole-grain flour are all rich in this type of fiber and, ordinarily, really good for you. Too much insoluble fiber from foods like these may very well be causing you an upset stomach, however. Try to cut back when you notice an irregular bowel movement after indulging.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome And Crohn’s Disease

Another potential cause for your stomach cramps is irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or a number of other insidious digestive disorders.

Crohn’s[5] is actually believed to be caused by dysfunctional gut bacteria in the small intestine. The exact cause[6] of IBS is less clear currently. Exercise[7] and probiotics[8] have both been shown clinically to be two efficacious solutions for short-term relief.

A low-FODMAP diet might be another way to calm your bowels if you deal with either of these conditions. “FODMAP” stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols – all part of a specific class of sugar molecules that are notoriously difficult[9] for the small intestines to absorb. Avoiding foods that contain these compounds has been shown to offer some relief; this group of foods to avoid includes tomatoes, garlic, and other highly acidic options.

In any case, if you’ve never been officially diagnosed, assess yourself for the following symptoms[10] and consult your physician[11]:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Burning stomach acid
  • Bloating in your abdomen
  • Pale mucus in your stool

While Crohn’s disease and IBS are far from identical conditions, both will disrupt your digestive process greatly, whether you’re eating greens or not. It’s another possible source to consider when dealing with abdominal pain and poor bowel movements.

Is It Bad To Eat Too Many Leafy Greens?

If you’ve ever experienced nausea after taking a big vitamin, you know that too much of a good thing isn’t always what’s best for us. Gas, bloating, and discomfort are your indicators to look out for. When you’re feeling symptomatic, it’s time to take a closer look.

While leafy greens are nutrient-dense, eating too many will inevitably throw your body out of balance, just like any other excessive indulgence. If you’re on blood thinners,[12] for example, too many leafy greens might actually be enough to harm you, due to their vitamin K content.

Anything taken in large enough doses at the wrong time can be considered toxic – gluten, for example, is toxic to people with Celiac disease. If you’re reacting sensitively, the problem might have something to do with another allergy.

Other Food Allergies That May Cause Loose Stools

Food intolerance has been shown to induce both vomiting and diarrhea.[13] Some common food intolerances that may cause diarrhea include:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fructose intolerance
  • Gluten intolerance
  • A soy allergy
  • A shellfish allergy
  • A sensitivity to eggs
  • A food allergy to sugar alcohols

Think long and hard about other foods aside from green vegetables that might be affecting your bowel movement. Perhaps it’s not the leafy greens at all, but, instead, something else you’re eating with them. 

Be cognizant of your symptoms at any given time, and think back to what you’ve eaten over the last 48 to 72 hours. Of course, if leafy greens were involved, you can certainly take them into consideration. 

How To Treat Diarrhea From Leafy Greens?

If you’re already feeling lousy, there are plenty of ways to relieve diarrhea, no matter how you contracted it. 

Many of the health benefits of the following remedies pull double duty. You’ll not only soothe what ails you but improve your gut health overall, as well:

  • Improving your diet[14] and including more soluble, high-fiber foods in every meal – this includes foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, brussels sprouts, flaxseed, barley, or oats. Hydrating and rehydrating, especially if you’re already depleted due to your condition
  • Increasing your activity levels, if possible
  • Avoiding greasy foods and other low-fiber options
  • Replenishing nutrients lost through malabsorption and loss of bowel movements 

Again, if this condition is recurring, the root of the problem might go deeper than the leafy greens on your plate. Long-term symptoms with no apparent cause should always be brought to the attention of a doctor as soon as you recognize them as ongoing.

Watching What You Eat

Preventing diarrhea is often a simple and straightforward matter. Sometimes, however, life throws you a curveball.

“Toss out your vegetables!” is terrible advice. Instead, we encourage you to cook clean, dine responsibly, move your body when you can, and avoid eating anything suspicious, including food that’s been sitting out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

When in doubt? Skip it and make yourself something tasty at home that has been properly washed and prepared at proper food temperatures.

+ 14 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2021). Diarrhea | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea
  2. ‌Steffen, R. (2017). Epidemiology of travellers’ diarrhea. Journal of Travel Medicine, [online] 24(suppl_1), pp.S2–S5. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/jtm/article/24/suppl_1/S2/3782734?login=true
  3. ‌Bae, S.H. (2014). Diets for Constipation. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, [online] 17(4), p.203. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291444/
  4. ‌Müller, M., Canfora, E. and Blaak, E. (2018). Gastrointestinal Transit Time, Glucose Homeostasis and Metabolic Health: Modulation by Dietary Fibers. Nutrients, [online] 10(3), p.275. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872693/
  5. ‌Man, S.M., Kaakoush, N.O. and Mitchell, H.M. (2011). The role of bacteria and pattern-recognition receptors in Crohn’s disease. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, [online] 8(3), pp.152–168. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrgastro.2011.3
  6. ‌Rajilić-Stojanović, M., Jonkers, D.M., Salonen, A., Hanevik, K., Raes, J., Jalanka, J., de Vos, W.M., Manichanh, C., Golic, N., Enck, P., Philippou, E., Iraqi, F.A., Clarke, G., Spiller, R.C. and Penders, J. (2015). Intestinal Microbiota And Diet in IBS: Causes, Consequences, or Epiphenomena? American Journal of Gastroenterology, [online] 110(2), pp.278–287. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4317767/
  7. ‌Johannesson, E., Simrén, M., Strid, H., Bajor, A. and Sadik, R. (2011). Physical Activity Improves Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Gastroenterology, [online] 106(5), pp.915–922. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21206488/
  8. ‌Moayyedi, P., Ford, A.C., Talley, N.J., Cremonini, F., Foxx-Orenstein, A.E., Brandt, L.J. and Quigley, E.M.M. (2008). The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. Gut, [online] 59(3), pp.325–332. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19091823/
  9. ‌Vakil, N. (2018). Dietary Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols (FODMAPs) and Gastrointestinal Disease. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, [online] 33(4), pp.468–475. Available at: https://aspenjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ncp.10108
  10. ‌National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2021). Symptoms & Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes
  11. ‌National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (2021). Symptoms & Causes of Crohn’s Disease | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/symptoms-causes
  12. ‌Sugerman, D.T. (2013). Blood Thinners. JAMA, [online] 310(23), p.2579. Available at: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/1790897
  13. ‌Guilford, W.G., Markwell, P.J., Jones, B.R., Harte, J.G. and Wills, J.M. (1998). Prevalence and Causes of Food Sensitivity in Cats with Chronic Pruritus, Vomiting or Diarrhea. The Journal of Nutrition, [online] 128(12), pp.2790S2791S. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/128/12/2790S/4724382?login=true
  14. ‌Schiller, L.R., Pardi, D.S. and Sellin, J.H. (2017). Chronic Diarrhea: Diagnosis and Management. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, [online] 15(2), pp.182-193.e3. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1542356516305018

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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