It’s a pleasant afternoon, and you decide to treat yourself to some delicious pizza after a strenuous morning at work. After some time, you start feeling unwell with endless trips to the restroom. You may wonder, why does pizza give me diarrhea? Could it be the ingredients or do I have an underlying issue?
Diarrhea is not amusing to deal with, and it’s even less so when talking about it. Nonetheless, it’s a common issue. I’ve had my fair share of diarrhea episodes myself after enjoying a few slices of pizza to realize that it’s a common problem that needs discussing. Research even shows that 5% of the U.S. is affected by chronic diarrhea at a given time.
7 Reasons Why Pizza Can Give You Diarrhea
In another survey conducted in 2018 comprising of over 71,000 American-adult participants, one in every five participants had experienced diarrhea and other digestive symptoms in the past week.
Addressing the cause of your gastrointestinal problems and probable treatment can help bring quick relief from the embarrassing effects and learn when to seek medical attention if symptoms get worse.
1. Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
Beer, rye, wheat, and barley contain a type of protein known as gluten. People with gluten sensitivity suffer from a condition known as celiac disease. Celiac disease is caused when the immune system overreacts to gluten resulting in damage to the villi in the small intestines.
Symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal pain since the damaged intestines can’t absorb any food. If the problem persists, it can lead to malnutrition. While people continue to be sensitized to celiac disease, the condition still affects thousands of Americans.
2. Lactose Intolerance
Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese contain a type of sugar known as lactose. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, your gut cannot totally break down lactose due to a lack of enzyme lactase.
Thus, if your body fails to produce enough lactase, you could experience episodes of diarrhea after ingesting the cheese (contains milk) on your pizza.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders revealed that lactose intolerant symptoms could begin to show within hours of consuming dairy food. Some common symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Rumbling sounds in your stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in your abdomen
3. High-Fat Content
Even if your body produces enough lactase, you could still experience discomfort from the high amount of fat in cheese. High-fat content slows down digestion in the stomach, leaving food in your stomach for long periods of time. Bile is green in color and produced by the liver. The enzyme helps in the digestion of fat. When excess bile is made, it’s stored in the gallbladder.
At times, bile crystallizes into hard rocks and blocks the tube that passes bile into the intestines. The symptoms of this condition include abdominal pain on the upper and right part of the body, and intense cramps, especially after consuming high-fat content food.
4. Allergy Concerns from Pizza Ingredients
Suppose you are allergic to a specific ingredient in your feel-good food. In that case, it could be the cause of your gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal cramps, nausea, gas, or diarrhea, which could occur within minutes to a few hours.
Wheat flour in the crust, milk in the cheese, and one of the vegetables are a few well-known allergens associated with ingredients in pizza. In addition to gastrointestinal disorders, other signs associated with pizza allergens include:
- Tickly skin, hives, or inflammation around mouth or eyes
- Weak pulse
- Stomach pain
- Nasal discomfort/ Runny nose
- Weird taste in the mouth
If you suffer from severe allergies, seek medical attention immediately to avoid a fatal anaphylaxis attack. Immediate symptoms of an anaphylaxis attack include swelling of the tongue, chest pains, trouble swallowing, and difficulty breathing.
5. Acidic Food Intolerance
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can worsen if you take acidic stuff such as chilies, and the tomato sauce you use on pizza, caffeine, chocolate, carbonated drinks, spicy and fatty foods.
Our stomachs produce acid that helps in food digestion and kills harmful bacteria in the process. However, if you suffer from GERD, stomach acid goes up the esophagus (food pipe), resulting in inflammation and acute pain.
6. Food Poisoning from Contamination during Preparation
Cooks that mishandling your food can cause contamination leading to food poisoning. It could be that your meat wasn’t cooked properly or the ready pie was cut on a surface that was already contaminated.
Also, cooks who don’t wash their hands thoroughly when handling your pizza can taint your pizza, leading to foodborne diseases where you lack control of your bowel movements and experience abdominal pain and cramps. Symptoms may include:
- Belly pain after some hours
If you continue passing watery stool for more than two days, accompanied by fever and vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.
7. An Underlying Health Condition
Could it be by chance that you started experiencing discomfort immediately when you indulged in your feel-good food?
Experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, etc., that is not fading away; it could be a sign of something more serious that needs immediate medical attention, such as bowel obstruction, pancreatitis, etc.
Maybe the pizza triggered the underlying condition, and diarrhea was one of the symptoms. If it doesn’t go away within a few days or is accompanied by other severe symptoms, visit a doctor.
What to Do When You Experience Diarrhea After Eating Pizza
Although diarrhea subsides and goes away after a day or two, there are a few home remedies that can soothe the symptoms and accelerate recovery. Some tips to follow when you have a bout of diarrhea include:
Dehydration is dangerous and especially in seniors and children. It would help if you replaced the fluids, minerals, and electrolytes such as chloride and sodium deficient in your system due to diarrhea. While drinking water is the leading solution for averting dehydration, you can also make an oral rehydration solution.
The solution is made by mixing a liter of water with a ½ teaspoonful of salt and six spoons of sugar. The salt and sugar in the water help the ileum (small intestines) to absorb fluids and minerals more effectively. Other drinks that can be beneficial when dehydrated include sports drinks (restore sodium and potassium) and fruit juices (restore potassium).
Drinks to avoid when you are suffering from diarrhea include:
- Overly hot drinks
- Carbonated and caffeinated beverages
Eat a Recovery Diet
When recovering from diarrhea, eat small meals at intervals instead of eating large meals like you are used to. A good recovery diet should include foods rich in:
- Pectin – Fruits
- Potassium – Irish potatoes and Sweet potatoes
- Electrolytes – Miso soup and Sports drinks
- Soft and cooked vegetables
You can also try having a liquid diet such as bland soup or salty broths on the first day to help clear the digestive tract and prevent the bowels from overworking.
Another excellent recovery diet option is the BRAT diet which consists of bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast. The diet consists of bland foods high in starch and low on fiber to help create solid bowel movements. Nonetheless, this diet is highly restrictive and does not offer balanced nutrition. It’s thus recommended that patients only follow it for a maximum of two days.
Avoiding Certain Food Groups
Avoiding specific foods that could irritate the digestive tract can help. They include:
- Foods high in fat
- Spicy foods
- Greasy foods
- High-fructose content foods
- Foods with artificial sweeteners
People with lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products. On the same note, to identify if you have any food allergies, you could try writing down everything you consume for a while.
If there are days where you suffer from diarrhea, note them down. Your notes will help you determine whether you have gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms found in some fermented foods and yogurt. They can also be found in supplement form in health stores.
These beneficial bacteria help fight off infections in the digestive tract. A 2010 research that comprised over 8,000 participants showed that probiotics significantly reduce the time one takes to recover from diarrhea.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
See a doctor if you experience chronic diarrhea. The doctor will make a complete diagnosis to ascertain whether the watery stool is associated with food intolerance or a gastrointestinal disorder. Consult a doctor if diarrhea goes for several days and is accompanied by these other symptoms:
- Severe cramping or abdominal pain
- Severe dehydration
- Major weight loss
- Stool stained with blood or pus
For those who’ve been victims of diarrhea severally, it becomes difficult to trust what you eat. Work fearlessly with your doctor to find the root cause. You will be able to enjoy your meals soon enough without fear of needing a bathroom every few minutes.
Caution About Over the Counter (OTC) Medicine
Don’t rush to use OTC medication, and none should be administered to children without prior approval from the doctor. If you exhibit some symptoms such as fever, blood, and mucus in your stool, don’t take some OTC medicine such as Kaopectate. Suppose you have bloody bowel movements; consult with a doctor before taking antimotility drugs.
Why does pizza give me diarrhea? I hope this information will help you understand why you may experience diarrhea after eating pizza and help you take the necessary action. If you have a question that you would like answered or a comment you would love to make, you are welcome to do it in the comment section below.