C Diff Diet: Clostridium Difficile Symptoms, Treatment and Recommended Foods

Watery diarrhea is the major symptom of a C diff infection. Although C diff can’t be treated with diet, some foods are better for diarrhea.

c diff diet

C diff diet basics include "soft foods" to soothe your stomach.

© Samotrebizan | Dreamstime

Clostridium difficile infection (C diff) is a bowel infection caused by toxin-producing bacteria. C diff is a serious infection that can range from mild diarrhea to severe inflammation of your colon that can be life threatening. C diff is not caused by anything you eat and you can’t cure it with diet changes. The treatment is a specific type of antibiotic that will kill the bacteria. [1,2]

What Causes C diff?

About 10 to 20 percent of people have diarrhea as a side effect of taking an antibiotic. That’s because antibiotics can kill the healthy bacteria in your colon, allowing “bad” bacteria to grow. Bad bacteria can cause inflammation and diarrhea. C diff is a particularly bad bacteria that takes over when healthy bacteria decrease. C diff produces a poison (toxin) that is very damaging to your colon. [1,2]

C diff infection is more common if you have taken a type of antibiotic that kills lots of different types of bacteria, called a broad-spectrum antibiotic like clindamycin, cephalosporins, and quinolones. You could be at higher risk if you are elderly or sickly or in a hospital or long-term care facility. [1,2]

What Are the Symptoms of C diff Infection?

The main symptom is crampy and watery diarrhea. You may also have fever, nausea, and vomiting. Dangerous infection may cause fever, bloody diarrhea, and a distended, tender belly. If you have any of these symptoms let your doctor know. C diff is diagnosed with stool testing to look for C diff toxins. [1,2]

How Is C diff Treated?

Your doctor may stop or change an antibiotic that you are still taking if possible, but you will need to start another antibiotic that kills C diff bacteria. The first choice is an antibiotic called metronidazole. Other options are vancomycin and fidaxomicin. [1]

An emerging alternative treatment is a stool transplant from a healthy stool donor, called a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). Studies show that FMT can replace harmful bacteria, like C diff, with healthy bacteria and restore a healthy bacterial balance in your colon. About 20 percent of people get a recurrence of C diff after treatment. FMT may be most valuable in these cases. [2]

What Should You Eat to Help a C diff Infection?

probiotics benefits c diff diet

Look for probiotic-rich yogurts and kefir in the dairy aisle.

Diet changes will not get rid of a C diff infection, but they may help you manage the diarrhea. [2] One possible change is to add probiotics, which are common in foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, or miso. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, live cultures of “friendly bacteria” may be helpful for C diff diarrhea. [3]

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also says that although there is not much research on the best diet for C diff diarrhea, some studies suggest a diet that includes soluble fiber and reduces insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber foods include:

  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Barley
  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • The pulp of apples

Insoluble fiber foods include:

  • Whole wheat in breads and cereals
  • Rye
  • Brown rice and other whole grains
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Turnips
  • Cauliflower
  • Apple skin [3]

Mayo Clinic suggests drinking plenty of fluids and starting with a liquid diet until you get your appetite back. Mayo also warns that some people develop a temporary lactose intolerance, so you might want avoid milk-based foods for a while.

Good foods for managing diarrhea include:

  • Starchy foods (potatoes, noodles, rice, and oatmeal)
  • Saltine crackers
  • Bananas
  • Soups
  • Boiled vegetables [2]

The bottom line is that symptoms of C diff should not be ignored. They do require a diagnosis and medical treatment. Diet changes may help you manage diarrhea until treatment takes effect. [1,2]

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

For related reading, please visit these posts:

SOURCES

  1. American College of Gastroenterology, C. Difficile Infection, https://gi.org/topics/c-difficile-infection/
  2. Mayo Clinic, C. difficile infection, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/c-difficile/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351697
  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Diet and C. Difficile, https://www.oncologynutrition.org/erfc/eating-well-when-unwell/surgery/diet-and-c-difficile

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Cindy Foley

Cindy Foley is the editor of several health reports, including Managing Your Cholesterol, Core Fitness, and Brain Power & Nutrition, among others. Foley has worked in the private medical practice field … Read More

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Comments Comments Policy
  • Thanks for all the information on the foods to help with the c diff infection. This will help me out greatly after becoming infected during a recent hospital admission for a kidney stone attack. The Doctor misroneously prescribed an antibiotic, after which I ultimately tested positive for the infection. He never gave me this wonderful information. Thanks again

  • This information is conflicting and vague. What is “gassy” food? What are “hard to digest foods” (the answer is subjective)? This says not to eat wheat, but pasta is a headliner? Crackers are ok? This article would be far more useful with a scientific approach and a least slightly more comprehension.

  • What are the sources of this diet information? You only list other UHN articles as “sources” but don’t mention studies or medical sources by name.

    • Hi Philip, thank you for your question. Some of our articles do list sources from various studies and and medical journals, which are listed at the bottom of the article. This one, however, has sources listed within the article. We sourced content from TodaysDietitian.com, LiveStrong.com, Cancer.gov, and The Hospitalist.

  • Wouldn’t it be fair to find better resourses on nutritional guidelines for C diff than to print literally contradictory and incomplete information throughout. It left me with more questions than answers. At the end it says to avoid sugar free foods?? Did I read that correctly? The reason I’m reading your article to begin with is because I’ve just been tested positive for C Diff and I’m looking for consistent information. If I eat anything with sugar in it I immediately get painful terrible cramps. When you mentioned eating yogurt with live cultures more than once I was sure you would clarify that plain yogurt with no sugar would be a clear distinction. After my adverse reaction to sugar I would not eat yogurt with sugar in it especially considering how much it has added in it. Because yogurt is pasteurized first and has live cultures added afterwards there is a lot of questions about the stability and shelf life of those cultures. There are fermented foods that produce the same cultures on going in much higher numbers without the die off or dairy intolerance. (saurkraut, miso, kombucha). Or probiotic supplements which are very easy to take.
    How much or how little of these leading universities medical centers curriculum is focused on nutrition? Thank you

  • No disrespect as I did appreciate the reminder about the different types of fibre and some of the other info. It only seems that the resources of information could potentially be quite dated considering the contradictions throughout the article? Thanx again for considering my questions.

  • You mention to avoid, “fat free foods” and “High-fat foods”. Does “fat free food” specifically refer to those foods made with Olestra? I saw that referenced in another article.

    • Hi Kathryn, yes, the term “fat-free foods” refers to foods containing Olestra. Thanks for your question/comment.

  • After spending 2weeks in hospital for c-diff was was given liquid med that let me be discharged providing I was continue with if for 10 days. It did stop the C-diff, however , in 6 weeks c-diff came back. I went to a different hospital ER and was given diffid14 pills) for $1,200. It stopped c-diff for 1 month. Now it’s back. I will get on the diet you recommend and see how it works.

  • I understand not eating artificial sweeteners with CDiff, so can you eat real sugar to satisfy a sweet craving? I know it’s not good for you to begin with. But sometimes you need a little sweet! ?

  • My husband has c-diff and other medical conditions. He needs to gain weight. So, he eats pretzels and chocolate for snacking. Question, is chocolate without nuts ok to eat if you have c-diff

  • I was prescribed 2 rounds of metronidazole which didn’t help, since I didn’t have $4100 for vancomycin. My doctors left me for dead after suffering for weeks passing large amounts of blood and pus. I found a treatment online that saved my life, turmeric enemas twice a day for 14 days. I have been good ever since. I do take probiotics, a couple of different kinds, and eat fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. I used to have faith in modern medicine, but not anymore. Do your research and have faith in God.

  • I am a 68 yo woman who recently had a 9 day hospitalization due to C-Diff. I found this article to be very helpful in making recommendation for preventing further reoccurrences of the infection symptoms. My GI specialist only recommended yogurt for my diet. After performing my own research, I added probiotics specifically aimed at reducing the C-Diff flora. I am also a retired critical care RN and I would recommend that MDs and specialists inform their patients after catching up on the latest information for this disease!

  • I am 84 and had colonic inertia before antidodic for burn. I am used to high fiber diet. Can I eat sweet potatoes, have a cocktail, eat meat? How do I get enough protein? I need HELP!

  • Had colonic inertia prior to antibiotics. Can I still have sweet potatoes, a cocktail, meat? How do I get my protein. I’m 84 and need HELP!

  • I am having my 4th bout of cdiff. Almost died January 2018. February 2nd i had the FMT procedure done (where they put someone else’s poop inside of you). This procedure stopped the cdiff and was better in 2 days.. I am on vancomycin until my next FMT procedure.. for those out there that battle this bacteria its a life changer.. This bacteria can kill you, very highly contagious. Not everyone understands the dangers involved with this bacteria. Antibiotics causes me to get cdiff every time and im right back in the hospital. If you are in the hospital get them to treat you with a probiotic along with antibiotics to kill the bacteria…

  • I am a 70 year old woman. It doesn’t matter what anti biotic I have to take or how much, it stirs up the C-diff. I have been hospitalized 4 times in the last two years. The last douse was Vancomicin for over a month – I then had sinus infection treated with Predisone and a bacterial infection treated with ceftin. I am now going thru yet another bout of C-Diff. I am so tired of all of this. I do take Bio-K probiotic daily along with vitamins, electrolite and now trying Imodium.

  • My husband was just diagnosed with c-diff , he has lost 50 lbs and , he got it from being on 3 different antibiotics at the same time , he was being treated for divititicilitius ,but the whole time he had c-diff , so now we are trying to build his immune system up.

  • I have had c diff several years ago. In and out of hospitals for 2 years. Finally had a fecal trasplant it lasted approxmatly 8 to 10 years. Now that devil desease is back again. Put me on Flagyl will see. What are we supposed to do? Really?

  • Please I’m so tired of suffering I’ve been sick for 5 months after a life threatening upper respiratory infection last winter I have COPD. For months I’ve suffered with these symptoms from C diff. From antibiotic tx
    I’m scared sick sweating cramping weak and nauseous I’m trying to find an appropriate diet as well as taking Flagyl & probiotics what else can I do to help myself recover. I’m 65 & feel 90. Please any advice appreciated.

  • After procedure you still suffer🙈. This makes me very sad. Have you been on any kind of special diet? I’m so sick with this horrible disease

  • My husband was diagnosed with c diff. Took him to er twice so far. Not once did they say he had. Both times he was severely dehydrated. I got to reading on his discharge and found the diagnosis. Hes been sick for 3 weeks now. Obviously hes getting better. My question is can you get this from food?

  • I am so sorry to see so many people with c-diff. I experienced my first bout with CD two years ago. Dental antibiotic and then shortly colonoscopy including a prep that makes you bleed. I feel it is too strong and should be made appropriate for each individual, by weight, health issues and age. This is 2019 and I have been out of my part time job and exercise group for 3 months since Feb, and it appears another 3 months starting the end of June. So far 3 trips to the ER and one 4.5 days hospitalized. I am 69 and have a clerical medical background. I agree with our retired nurses statement. Medical staff must take some time to update themselves and staff on new reliable information in each area. Everything is constantly changing. If not sure, look it up, consult with other professionals,; especially, pharmacists regarding drugs and updates. To speed things up possibly a check list or a button to push after each observation or consult has been and only has been done not before. There has to be away to keep ER staff, Hospital staff, office staff and all the staff in all areas for their departments. Effective communication must be put in place saving time, energy, lives and money. Less opportunity to fail or hurt someone. My example, before I was admitted from the ER and two weeks visit to ER just starting to feel better from Vancomycin TX I some how got campyelobactor (food poisoning). Because was almost better I was sent home being told I did not have C-diff. Several days later I was called from the ER and told c-diff antigen was positive, a&b negative. I also had campyelobactor. They just said come back to ER if I had problems. I was never told my diarrhea would stop until I had an antibiotic. I was never offered a Rx or told that I needed one before I could heal.
    I eating very much. I was dehydrated both ER visits. Because of that I ended up in the ER and admitted severely dehydrated, septic, diarrhea, and a number of other Dx.
    I am very concerned for myself and everybody of all ages. I am Thankful I am alive. Anyone of those 3 conditions kill thousands of people every year. 1. C-diff,
    2. Campyelobactor. 3. Septic.
    I hope this helps others. If you are fortunate enough to have a family or friend advocate oversee and stay by your side during these critical times, I hope you will except their help and tell them how much you appreciate them.

  • I think the C.diff infection problem could be greatly curtailed if patients in the hospital were NOT given wide spectrum antibiotics and if they do have antibiotics at the very LEAST they should be given yogurt or a fermented food. Patientd should also be told to wash their hands often abd not touch their mouths, and should wear plastic disposable gloves whilst eating. Hospital staff should also immerse commodes in a bleach bath and cover the whole thing for 10 minutes, and use at the very LEAST a portable UVC Light and wall off patient rooms with moveable room dividers on wheels. I caught C.diff at the hospital due to them being lax-a-dasical and ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH. I caught C. Diff in May 2017 and had a resurrgence of it also after Vanco. Vanco is an expense drug which the Hospital never paid for.(Jerks!) I then used Flagyl but its very hard to take for all one can think of is projectile vomitting.
    While suffering I found S. Boulardii very helpful and Kefir and fermented sauerkraut.
    Remember dont trust the hospital to protect you because they dont even bother using a UVC light nor do they have any precautions in place to protect those on antibiotics! They should HAVE TO CHANGE THEIR LAX WAYS!!!!!

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