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Explosive Diarrhea - One Explanation

I've been struggling with what I thought were two separate issues -- Crohn's and a hypersensitivity to certain preservatives (especially potassium sorbate). This past week both issues came together --

About an hour, to an hour and a half after eating any food with potassiuim sorbate, I will have sudden, explosive diarrhea. I typically have about a 60 second lead time to get to a toilet. I'll then have several BM's over a 15 to 30 minute time frame, until I am totally emptied out.

I never had this problem prior to developing Crohn's 4 or 5 years ago.

Maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake, but it took until this past week for me to put the two issues together. I got sick again, this time at a banquet where I couldn't control what was being served to me, and I couldn't determine all of the ingredients. I tried to be careful, but obviously I wasn't careful enough. Same old story, and once again I was barely able to make it to a toilet in time.

And - duh! - I believe I finally figured out what has been happening. The potassium sorbate is triggering an immune system reaction (Crohn's) and my immune system is attempting to flush it out of my system as quickly as possible. I did some research on the Internet and it supported this hypothesis.

Without the Crohn's, I could probably digest preservatives with no problems, just like I used to do, and just like everyone else. And without the postassium sorbate, my GI tract is a lot more stable and calm even with the Crohn's.

Anyway, I wanted to share this. I've worked really hard to eliminate potassium sorbate from my diet, and it's helped. If you have had, or are having, episodes of explosive diarrhea, it's worth tracking everything you ate or drank for at least several hours prior to the episodes. The food triggers that we can experience may not be based on food after all, but what is in the food.

Crohn's 35

Inactive Account
Thanks for the heads up on potassium sorbate. It could be a reaction anyone can get but don't put two and two together. Everyone is different but I am sure we all have those explosive D of one thing or another. I use digestive enzymes for risky foods or dining out, which is not very often. It will be interesting to see if others have noticed.
Sorry for the delay. Potassium sorbate is a very commonly used preservative in a lot of non-frozen, non-canned foods. For example, all of the brands of ready to spread cake frostings have potassium sorbate, as do almost all of the non-organic salad dressings. Lots of syrups and sauces have it -- for example, McDonalds pancake syrup, and their dessert syrups (such as caramel), and all of their shakes have it. I've found it to be not as widespread in yogurt (thank goodness) and hard cheese, but it's stil present in some brands.

With something as widespread as this, it's difficult to pull together any connections between what you eat and the effect on your GI tract. I had pretty much decided that what I was eating did not have any effect on my GI, until one day I stumbled on the potassium sorbate connection.

And, just to make things really interesting, after I got sick eating a stuffed chicken breast and I checked the ingredients, I found there was no potassium sorbate, but it did have sodium phosphate. That's OK, right? -- because, as one website said, "Sodium phosphates have been well studied and are generally considered safe when used as a food additive."

Well, not really -- per the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "Sodium phosphate is used to completely empty the colon (large intestine, bowel) before a colonoscopy (examination of the inside of the colon to check for colon cancer and other abnormalities) so that the doctor will have a clear view of the walls of the colon. Sodium phosphate is in a class of medications called saline laxatives. It works by causing diarrhea so that all the stool can be emptied from the colon." And that's exactly what that chicken did to me!

For potassium sorbate, sodium phosphate, and other additives, I believe for most people it's an issue of the amount of additives. A small amount of the good old sodium phosphate colonoscopy prep won't really hurt most people --just those with a super sensitive GI tract due to an ongoing disease.

Anyway, hopefully this will help point some people toward the causative factors of short-lived bouts of diarrhea. Obviously this can't be an issue for most people, or no one would buy these products. But if you are in the volatile minority like me, it's a real problem.
Wow, this is interesting. The more i read, the more firmly i believe that for our sensitive stomachs, we need to cook everything ourselves from fresh organic ingredients. My own cooking (fresh fish, chicken, vegis, or whole grains) never makes me as sick as prepared foods or restaurant food.
Jobell, I couldn't agree more. It's easier and healthier to fix as much of your food as you can yourself, using organic ingredients. It's amazing the number of chemicals that are part of foods that should be very simple.