A common concern among my patients with diarrhea is that they feel like food, particularly fried foods, greasy foods, red meat and high-fat dairy, “runs right through” them. Sometimes they’re running to the bathroom mid-meal. 

Sound familiar? You might have your gastrocolic reflex to thank.

When sizeable amounts of liquids or food, especially dietary fat, enter the stomach and the duodenum (i.e. the first part of the small intestine, right after the stomach), the colon (i.e. the large intestine) increases colonic motility.  This response results from the stomach and small intestine informing the lower intestine that there’s more food coming so it better make room.

Some people with IBD and/or IBS have an exaggerated gastrocolic reflex that disturbs their quality of life. 

Fortunately, you might manage it with a few simple modifications: 

  1. Eat smaller portions at a sitting.
  2. Chew food well.
  3. Eat slowly.
  4. Drink fluids in between meals versus with meals.
  5. Choose non-fried fish or chicken in place of red meat.
  6. Avoid fried and greasy foods.

On the flip side, if you suffer from constipation, then you might try eating larger meals less frequently to stimulate your gastrocolic reflex.

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