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Advice for managing diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be a side-effect to taking anti-HIV medication or be caused by HIV itself. Diarrhoea as a result of antiretroviral drugs can occur when you first start taking a new drug but this will usually settle down after a few weeks or months but for some, symptoms will persist.

Why is it important to treat diarrhoea?

Some people with HIV are affected by Diarrhoea. There are many causes of diarrhoea and these include, opportunistic infections, food poisoning, food intolerance, stress and occasionally the side effects of taking medication. You may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, or sometimes the cause of diarrhoea is just unknown. Diarrhoea,if untreated can cause weight loss, fluid loss and an imbalance of the electrolytes needed to keep you healthy.

Treating diarrhoea is important to limit loss of nutrients, protect health and nutritional status and prevent malnutrition.  Try to keep eating and drinking during a bout of diarrhoea. If your symptoms persist for more than a few days, it may be worth contacting your healthcare team to have a stool sample checked for infections. Use our food and symptoms diary to record what you are eating and drinking and any symptoms-this will be useful to take to your next appointment.

Changes to your diet to improve symptoms of diarrhoea

Try to increase sources of soluble fibre in the diet. Soluble fibre contains gums and pectin which allows it to absorb water forming a gel in the stomach which adds bulk to the stool and helps to slow digestion.


  • Eating plain carbohydrate foods, white rice, white toast or boiled potatoes

  • Eating foods such as bananas, oranges, potatoes, chicken, fish and tomatoes to replace lost potassium.

  • Drinking plenty of fluids. Aim for 2 litres per day and include water, diluted tea or fruit juice. Try our oral rehydration drink to help replace lost fluids, electrolytes and calories

  • Eating small meals, frequently.

Try to avoid:

  • Wholegrains such as wholemeal breads, pasta, rice and cereals.

  • Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beans and fruits with their skin

  • Stay away from fatty and highly spiced foods.

  • Sugary drinks and caffeinated drinks including coke, energy drinks and coffee.

  • Limit milk and milk products.

  • Dried fruits, nuts and seeds.

Don’t forget that it is important to re-introduce wholegrains, fruits and vegetables into the diet once your symptoms have passed.