When I first started taking Sertraline (initially 50 then 100 mg) about 4 months ago I was warned by my GP that there were some common side effects although not everyone gets all or any of them and they normally start to fade after a couple of weeks.
In my case, the main two side effects I have experienced are a dry mouth and diarrhoea. The dry mouth part was resolved when I switched from taking the Sertraline on a morning to at night however the diarrhoea remained regardless of what time I was taking the tablet.
Initially the severity of my toilet habits fluctuated and on some days there were no problems at all, particularly around the time when I was switched up to 100 mg. From that point on it was like I had Niagara Falls attached to my bottom to put it politely and it was pretty much constant.
It got to the point where my stomach problems were affecting my job. I use public transport to get work and I was so nervous about not having quick access to a toilet that I was either working from home or getting taxis to and from work to try and speed up the journey.
This was a hugely frustrating situation as initially I was actually mentally feeling better but the positive effects were being subdued by additional stress and anxiety of my work suffering and the fortune that I was spending on taxis.
About 3 weeks ago I went back to see my GP to discuss my concerns. After asking some questions about my habits (diet, level of activity, alcohol intake etc) it was decided to switch my medication to Citalopram which I started on at 10 mg. The doctor was very honest and said that getting anti anxiety meds right is not quite as scientifc as one would hope and there is an element of trial and error.
I was also told that as I had reached thearpeutic levels with the Sertraline that it could take a month or so to fully leave my system and I may experience contiuned side effects in the meantime.
Whilst the stomach problems do seem to have reduced in frequency if not intensity, they are still present particularly in the morning which is a pain because that is when they cause the most inconvenience.
I spoke to a GP to get some advice on any additional medication I could take in the meantime such as Immodium however I was advised that doctors actually recommend against this when dealing with the side effects of Sertraline as apparently it just suppresses the symptoms and actually lead to the problem actually taking longer to resolve itself.
I also naturally asked if there were any dietary changes that I could make and was advised to try and avoid processed and fatty foods as well as anything spicy. It was also suggested that I look into the intriguingly named BRAT Diet…
What is the BRAT diet?
Whilst the name implies that it is all about controlling naughty children, BRAT is actually an acronym that stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast (white). This combination of food types is commonly recommended to people suffering from or recovering from bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting.
The reason the BRAT Diet is recommended when such symptoms exist are that they are all bland foods which don’t irritate the stomach in the way that spicy and fatty foods might. The recommended foods are also binding which help to firm up your stools and make going to the toilet more comfortable.
There are various other foods that can be eaten whilst on this regime including plain chicken or eggs to maintain protein levels
Other Suitable Foods When Following The BRAT Diet
- Plain Chicken or eggs to maintain protein levels
- Potatoes (With Skin Removed)
- Probiotic Yogurt to replenish good bacteria levels
- Unseasoned Dry Crackers
Foods to Avoid When You Have Diarrhoea
These are some of the foods that you should avoid if you are suffering from Diarrhoea. Many of these are foods that you should try to avoid even if you are not feeling unwell.
- Dairy Products (Milk, Butter, Cheese etc
- Fatty and Fried Foods
- Spicy Foods
- Raw Vegetables
- Citrus Fruits
- Caffeinated and Fizzy Drinks
- Processed Foods
My BRAT Diet Plan
Having done some research on what I should and shouldn’t be eating until my diarrhoea dies down, I have put together a plan for what I will be eating over the next week or so. This is based partly on convenience, personal food preferences and bearing in mind my daily calorie intake requirements. I have lost quite a lot of weight over the past month or so and I was underweight anyway and need to be going in the opposite direction! Below is the plan I have come up with:
- White Bread x 4 with Applesauce
- Probiotic Yoghurt
- Mid Morning
- White Bread x 6
- Afternoon Snack
- Plain Grilled Chicken x 2
- Boiled Potatoes
- White Rice
Reading through the above you may be thinking damn, that sounds dull and yes, I agree. I’m dreading it! but the whole point is that it needs to be bland to hopefully have the desired effect. To be perfectly honest, I would rather have a boring diet than an explosive arse!
Recently I’ve been going to the toilet ~ 8 – 9 times a day and my weight is currently hovering at around 8 stone 10 where I was previously just under 10 stone. My hope over the next week is that the number of times I go to the toilet each day drops. This is my first day on the new diet so I will report back next week on progress and hopefully will have seen some improvements!
* I am NOT a Doctor and you should talk to your GP about any changes you are planning to your diet