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Has your doctor diagnosed your symptoms of watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and fatigue as clostridium difficile, or C diff? You’re probably battling a lack of appetite (another typical symptom of c diff) and are picky about what you’re willing to eat. Understandable. But your ears may perk up when you hear our suggestions for a “C diff diet”—suggestions that may put you on the road to recovery a little more quickly.
When you saw your doctor, he or she likely suggested you go on a “soft foods” diet, although what that means may not be clear. Whoever heard of “hard food”? Well, clearly, nuts and seeds are not “soft foods”—they crunch when you chew—so steer clear. But well-cooked vegetables like beets and green beans are good soft foods—important for an effective C diff diet.
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C Diff Diet: The Fiber Factor
Vegetables are strong C diff diet foods because they have soluble fiber. “Soluble” means that the fiber in these foods attracts water, turning to gel in the GI tract and slowing down the digestive process. That’s exactly what you need in an effective C diff diet to get that diarrhea under control. In fact, several good animal studies showed diets high in soluble fiber actually help remove C diff bacteria.
Additional soluble-fiber choices for a C diff diet include:
Starchy foods are a top choice for battling diarrhea, making them a staple in a good C diff diet. So those pasta dishes and potatoes you’ve been avoiding due to carbs and calories become headliners in your C diff diet. Crackers, bananas, and rice are also good choices. You’re looking for foods that help slow and calm your upset GI tract.
You should also drink plenty of liquids when on a C diff diet. Remember that diarrhea quickly causes dehydration, which only adds to your fatigue. (See also our post “Beware the Bug: C-Diff Symptoms and Treatments.”)
Probiotics in a C Diff Diet
In addition to quieting your grumpy intestines, you need to replenish the healthy digestive “bugs” in your system. Severe diarrhea wreaks havoc on your digestive enzymes, destroying helpful digestive agents. Probiotics in a C diff diet can help get things under control again. Diana Dyer, MS, RD, of TodaysDietitian.com agrees. “Foods that contain probiotics will help repopulate the gut with good bacteria and reduce the risk of regrowth of C diff,” she writes.
The experts at Livestrong.com pinpoint the probiotic Lactobacillus GG as a prominent supplement choice in a C diff diet. “Lactobacillus GG, a bacterium, was found to be effective in reducing the recurrence of Clostridium difficile infection and relieving the symptoms of abdominal cramps and diarrhea that often accompany this infection.”
Lactobacillus GG, as explained at cancer.gov. is “a live form of a bacterium that makes lactic acid (a substance that is made from sugars found in milk and is also made in the body),” helping with digestion and normal bowel function.
One of the most widely recommended over-the-counter Lactobacillus GG supplements is Culturelle. Note: Adding Lactobacillus GG to your C diff diet is beneficial, but it is not a cure. Only your doctor can give you the medicine you need to cure a C diff infection. Always work with your physician before taking any supplements.
Yogurt is a good part of your C diff diet as well, since it is loaded with several probiotics. According to the a 2014 article in The Hospitalist, a Pennsylvania hospital was able to cut its incidence of C diff by 67 percent by encouraging patients on antibiotics to eat yogurt every day. The facility won an innovation award for the program.
Be aware that not all products labeled “yogurt” contain probiotics. The label must say, “Live active cultures.” Beyond that, add whatever flavor you like to your C diff diet.
Foods to Avoid in a C Diff Diet
Consider that when your body is involved in a C diff infection, its ability to absorb nutrients is compromised, so the food you eat needs to combat that. As such, you need calcium in your C diff diet, but it may be one of the more difficult to add. Dairy foods are on the “avoid” list of foods in a C diff diet, because your body may temporarily develop lactose intolerance. (No, this doesn’t mean you need to avoid yogurt, say experts.) So while bypassing diary products, do look for calcium-fortified non-dairy products, like almond milk and oatmeal, for your C diff diet.
Wheat is an insoluble fiber, which means it passes more quickly through the digestive system without absorbing water. We don’t want to speed the digestive process up when we’re dealing with diarrhea. Plus, many C diff patients become temporarily gluten-intolerant as well, so avoid wheat.
Besides dairy products and wheat, here’s a list of additional foods to avoid on a C diff diet:
- Fat-free foods
- Gassy foods
- Greasy foods
- Hard-to-digest foods
- High-fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Artificial sweeteners
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Originally published in 2017, this post is regularly updated.