Can Olive Oil Cause Diarrhea? Potential Side Effects

Olive oil is a staple in many kitchens. It is praised for its numerous health benefits and versatility in cooking. However, some people may experience an unexpected side effect when consuming olive oil: diarrhea. If you’ve ever wondered, “Can olive oil cause diarrhea?” you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between olive oil and diarrhea. In addition, we will also provide insights on how to enjoy this healthy oil while minimizing the risk of digestive issues.

Get Rid of Diarrhea
Can Olive Oil Cause Diarrhea

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a common digestive problem characterized by loose, watery stools that occur more frequently than usual. It can be caused by various factors, including infections, food intolerances, medications, and underlying health conditions. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration if not managed properly, as the body loses more fluids and electrolytes than it takes in.

Symptoms of diarrhea may include:

Most cases of diarrhea resolve on their own within a few days, but persistent or severe diarrhea may require medical attention.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. It is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with various health benefits. There are several types of olive oil, each with different qualities and uses:

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Made from pure, cold-pressed olives, this is the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil.
  • Virgin olive oil: Also made from pure, cold-pressed olives, but with slightly lower quality than extra virgin.
  • Refined olive oil: Made from a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils, this type has a neutral flavor and higher smoke point.
  • Light olive oil: A refined olive oil that has been processed to have a lighter color and neutral flavor. Despite its name, it has the same calorie content as other olive oils.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), particularly oleic acid, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains various antioxidants, such as vitamin E and polyphenols.

Can Olive Oil Cause Diarrhea?

While olive oil is generally well-tolerated, some people may experience diarrhea after consuming it. There are several reasons why this may occur:

1. High-fat content

Olive oil is a fat-rich food, and consuming large amounts of fat can lead to diarrhea in some individuals. This is because excess fat can stimulate the digestive system, leading to more frequent and looser bowel movements. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that high-fat diets can alter gut microbiota and increase the risk of diarrhea.

2. Allergic reactions or sensitivities

Some people may have an allergy or sensitivity to olive oil, which can cause digestive symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

However, true olive oil allergies are rare. A 2019 case report published in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology described a patient who experienced anaphylaxis after consuming olive oil, highlighting the importance of identifying and managing food allergies.

3. Quality and purity

Low-quality or adulterated olive oil may contain impurities or contaminants that can irritate the digestive system and lead to diarrhea. A 2020 study published in the journal Foods found that some commercial olive oils may contain harmful compounds like plasticizers and pesticides, which can have negative effects on human health.

Factors that may increase the risk of experiencing diarrhea from olive oil include:

  • Consuming large amounts of olive oil, especially if you’re not used to it
  • Introducing olive oil too quickly into your diet
  • Having pre-existing digestive issues or sensitivities, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Other Potential Side Effects of Consuming Too Much Olive Oil

While diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of consuming excessive amounts of olive oil, there are several other potential issues to be aware of:

1. Weight gain

Olive oil is a calorie-dense food, with approximately 120 calories per tablespoon. Consuming large quantities of olive oil can lead to an increased caloric intake, which may result in weight gain if not balanced with physical activity and an overall healthy diet.

2. Increased risk of gallstones

Some studies suggest that a high intake of olive oil may increase the risk of developing gallstones. This is because the high-fat content of olive oil can stimulate the gallbladder to contract and release bile, which can contribute to the formation of gallstones in susceptible individuals.

3. Gastrointestinal discomfort

In addition to diarrhea, consuming too much olive oil can cause other digestive issues such as stomach pain, bloating, and nausea. This is particularly true for individuals with sensitive digestive systems or those who are not accustomed to consuming high amounts of fat.

4. Reduced nutrient absorption

While olive oil is a healthy fat, consuming it in excess may interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K require a moderate amount of dietary fat for proper absorption, but excessive fat intake can hinder this process.

5. Increased risk of acne

Some people may experience an increase in acne breakouts when consuming large amounts of olive oil. This is because the high-fat content can potentially clog pores and lead to the development of acne in susceptible individuals.

6. Potential drug interactions

Olive oil may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners or diabetes drugs, by altering their absorption or effectiveness. If you are taking any medications, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before significantly increasing your olive oil intake.

7. Exacerbation of acid reflux

For some individuals with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux, consuming large amounts of olive oil may worsen symptoms. The high-fat content can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and heartburn.

It’s important to note that these side effects are typically associated with consuming excessive amounts of olive oil and may not occur in everyone.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to Prevent Diarrhea from Olive Oil?

To minimize the risk of experiencing diarrhea from olive oil, consider the following tips:

1. Start with small amounts

If you’re new to using olive oil, begin with small quantities and gradually increase your intake over time. This allows your body to adapt to the higher fat content. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of olive oil per day.

2. Choose high-quality, pure olive oil

Opt for reputable brands and look for certifications like “Extra Virgin” or “Cold-Pressed” to ensure you’re getting a pure, high-quality product. The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) provides a seal of quality assurance for olive oils that meet strict purity and quality standards.

3. Consume olive oil as part of a balanced diet

Incorporate olive oil into a diet that includes a variety of nutrients from whole foods, rather than relying on it as a sole source of fat. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil, has been shown to have numerous health benefits.

4. Be aware of personal sensitivities or allergies

If you suspect you may have an allergy or sensitivity to olive oil, consult with an allergist or gastroenterologist for proper diagnosis and management. They may recommend an elimination diet or allergy testing to identify the trigger.

When to See a Doctor?

In most cases, diarrhea caused by olive oil is temporary and resolves on its own. However, there are instances where medical attention is necessary:

  • Severe or persistent diarrhea lasting more than a few days
  • Signs of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, dark urine, or dizziness
  • Blood in the stool
  • Severe abdominal pain or fever

These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires prompt medical evaluation. For example, persistent diarrhea may be a sign of a chronic digestive disorder like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. This may require specific management strategies.

Benefits of Olive Oil For Bladder
Benefits of Olive Oil For Bladder

Alternatives to Olive Oil for Those with Sensitivities

If you find that olive oil consistently causes diarrhea or other digestive issues, there are several alternatives you can consider:

1. Other healthy oils

Avocado oil, coconut oil, and grapeseed oil are nutrient-rich options that may be better tolerated by some individuals. These oils have different flavor profiles and cooking properties, so it’s essential to choose the right oil for the intended use.

2. Non-oil sources of healthy fats

Incorporate foods like nuts, seeds, and avocados into your diet to obtain healthy fats without relying on oils. These foods are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support overall health.

3. Cooking methods that require less oil

Experiment with cooking techniques like grilling, roasting, or steaming, which often require less oil compared to frying or sautéing. These methods can also help preserve the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients.


1. How Much Olive Oil Can Cause Diarrhea?

The amount of olive oil that can cause diarrhea varies from person to person. Some people may experience digestive issues after consuming just a tablespoon, while others can tolerate larger amounts without any problems.

2. Can olive oil cause diarrhea in babies?

Yes, olive oil can cause diarrhea in babies, especially if they are not used to consuming it. Babies have sensitive digestive systems, and introducing new foods too quickly can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea. It’s essential to follow proper guidelines for introducing solid foods to infants and consult with a pediatrician.

3. Can cooking with olive oil cause diarrhea?

Cooking with olive oil is unlikely to cause diarrhea if consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, if you are sensitive to olive oil or consume large amounts of it, you may experience digestive issues like diarrhea. It’s essential to choose high-quality olive oil and use it in appropriate quantities to minimize the risk of adverse effects.

4. Can rancid olive oil cause diarrhea?

Yes, rancid olive oil can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues. When olive oil becomes rancid, it undergoes chemical changes that can produce harmful compounds like peroxides and aldehydes.

Consuming rancid olive oil can irritate the digestive system and lead to symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. To avoid rancidity, store olive oil in a cool, dark place and consume it within a few months of opening.

5. How long does diarrhea from olive oil last?

Diarrhea from olive oil usually lasts for a few hours to a day, as the body works to digest and eliminate the excess fat. However, if diarrhea persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by severe symptoms like dehydration or bloody stools, it’s essential to seek medical attention. Persistent diarrhea may indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires specific treatment.

6. Can you get diarrhea from eating too much olive oil?

A: Yes, consuming large amounts of olive oil can cause diarrhea, especially if you are not used to eating a high-fat diet. Olive oil is a concentrated source of fat, and consuming too much of it can overwhelm the digestive system and lead to loose, watery stools.

To prevent diarrhea, it’s essential to consume olive oil in moderation and gradually increase your intake over time to allow your body to adapt.

The Bottom Line

While olive oil is generally considered a healthy addition to most diets, it can cause diarrhea in some individuals, especially when consumed in large amounts. By starting with small quantities, and choosing high-quality EVOO, you can minimize the risk of digestive issues. If you experience persistent or severe diarrhea after consuming olive oil, consult with your healthcare provider.