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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

For Patients & Families
Complications & Side Effects

Diarrhea

Your treatment can create changes throughout the bowel that are similar to the changes in the mouth, throat and esophagus. One side effect that commonly occurs as a result of these changes is diarrhea, gas and cramping.

Diarrhea can cause your body to lose fluids and nutrients that can make you feel very weak and dehydrated. It is very important to let your doctor and nurse know if you are having diarrhea. Uncontrolled diarrhea can lead to serious complications such as dehydration.

Like other side effects, the amount and frequency of diarrhea varies from patient to patient. The staff understand that this side effect may be embarrassing for you and they will make every effort to work out a plan that is comfortable for you. This may include dietary suggestions and medications that can help with cramping and decreasing the frequency of diarrhea.

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Useful Management Tips

The following tips might be useful if you are having diarrhea:

  • Keep the rectal area clean to prevent skin irritation. A "sitz bath" or soak in warm water should be taken after bowel movements followed by the application of a mild cream to keep the area protected. Your BMT doctor may choose to prescribe a medicated cream for this purpose.
  • Limit foods with caffeine such as coffee, colas, and strong tea. Caffeine can cause your body to lose even more fluid.
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese and ice-cream may make diarrhea worse. If you feel worse after eating these foods, consult the doctor or dietitian for more information. Lactose-free beverages might be better tolerated.
  • Avoid high fat foods. If you feel worse after eating high fat foods such as deep fried foods, fatty meats, excess butter or margarine, or greasy snack food, then limit the use of these foods.
  • High fibre foods might make diarrhea worse. Ask the dietitian for a list of low fibre foods to try.
  • If you have bloating, cramping or gas then avoiding foods than can increase gas production might help. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, dried beans and peas, brussel sprouts, onions and carbonated beverages.

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