Everyone’s favorite fast Mexican food chain in North America is known for causing an urge to poop.
Taco Bell food is generally low-quality, greasy, and spicy, which may lead to diarrhea or, at least, an overwhelming urge to poop.
If you don’t eat much fiber or are sensitive to dairy, the beans, sour cream, and cheese they serve may also upset your stomach.
I’m a mom living in a house with a husband and 3 teenage boys, all of whom ask for Taco Bell on a near-daily basis. The drive-thru is just 11 minutes from our home, but (without fail), by the time we make it to the driveway, I watch full-grown males rush to see who can claim the bathroom first.
This led me to wonder: Why exactly is Taco Bell the quick food joint known for its… ahem… laxative effects?
As it turns out, there are several reasons Taco Bell diarrhea has a reputation. So, I break down the reasons this happens, which menu items are the worst offenders, what to order instead, and a few FAQs about Taco Bell’s food and reputation.
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Reasons Taco Bell makes you poop
1. High-fat, low-fiber foods
One of the main reasons Taco Bell leads to a need for the bathroom is the high-fat, low-fiber content of many menu items.
Our bodies need fiber to help regulate digestion. When we consume fatty foods that are low in fiber, unpleasant consequences like diarrhea are often the result.
If you’re a fan of those cheesy, meaty delights, keep in mind that they might be contributing to your bathroom woes.
2. Spicy ingredients
Now, who doesn’t love a little spice in their life? Taco Bell certainly does! But the downside to all that fiery goodness is that spicy ingredients can irritate the digestive system.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, can cause your gut to go into overdrive. This laxative effect leads to diarrhea for some people, particularly women.
Capsaicin is an irritant to the human body and also causes a burning sensation, so it’s possible that Taco Bell’s spicy offerings might be the cause of your burning diarrhea.Embed from Getty Images
If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, take it easy on those hot sauce packets and jalapeños. Their messages are clever, but you might be better off just reading the packets, not eating them.
3. Fried food
You and I both know that crispy, crunchy, fried food is hard to resist. But here’s the thing: Fried food can be pretty hard on your digestive system.
When food is fried, it absorbs a lot of oil, and all that extra grease can cause issues like indigestion and diarrhea. While those chalupas and nachos might taste amazing, they can also wreak havoc on your insides.
A note on diarrhea: It’s possible that fast-moving digestion may result in greenish stool. This happens when there’s not enough time for the bile in your digestive system to break down and create a healthy brown color.
Read Next: How To Stop Metformin-Induced Diarrhea
4. Low-quality ingredients
In the most un-shocking twist of the century, I’ll let you in on a secret: Taco Bell isn’t exactly known for using the highest-quality ingredients.
From processed meats to questionable additives, these low-quality ingredients can sometimes lead to food poisoning or other stomach problems. When our bodies have trouble processing and breaking down these ingredients, it can result in an urgent need to go to the bathroom.
5. Excessive grease
A little bit of grease might make your food taste great, but too much can lead to some serious digestive issues. Excessively greasy food can be difficult for your body to break down and digest, which can result in stomach pain, indigestion, and — you guessed it — diarrhea.
Processed, high-fat foods are a major trigger of IBS symptoms.
When you’re indulging in those delicious Taco Bell treats, just remember that moderation is key.
Another reason Taco Bell might have you racing to the bathroom is the presence of beans in many of their dishes.
Beans are rich in fiber and contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides, which our bodies can’t completely break down completely. As a result, these sugars ferment in your digestive tract, which can lead to extra gas production and pooping more often.
While beans are a good source of protein and nutrients, too much fiber from beans can also make you gassy or prone to diarrhea, especially if you’re not used to consuming them regularly. Each cup of beans contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber!
Proceed with caution, and consider slowly introducing more fiber-rich foods into your diet to reduce the impact beans have on your digestive system.
If you’re lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy, Taco Bell’s generous use of cheese, sour cream, and other dairy-based products may be a recipe for digestive problems.
Lactose intolerance is quite common and occurs when a person’s body doesn’t produce enough lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. Consuming dairy when you’re lactose intolerant can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
If you suspect that dairy might be the culprit behind your Taco Bell-induced bathroom trips, consider opting for dairy-free menu items or asking for substitutions when placing your order.
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As the wife of a lactose-intolerant man in utter denial, I acknowledge that some dairy-sensitive people are just going to eat Taco Bell meals with dairy, future diarrhea or not. My husband has found that Lactaid helps a lot, and the chewable version works best for preventing Taco Bell diarrhea.
Taco Bell menu items most likely to make you poop
The Spicy Tostada, loaded with hot sauce, can cause indigestion and heartburn for some people. The combination of the spicy sauce and beans may lead to gas production and, in some cases, diarrhea.
If your stomach is sensitive to spicy foods or beans, you might want to think twice before ordering this fiery option.
Cheesy Gordita Crunch
A delicious, yet potentially problematic menu item, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch combines cheese, grease, and carbs, which can be a difficult trio for some people to digest.
The cheese and deep-fried tortilla shell can lead to stomach discomfort, gas, and diarrhea for those who have trouble digesting dairy or greasy foods.
Loaded with cheese, ground beef, and sour cream, Nachos BellGrande is a feast of grease and fat that can be challenging to digest.
The dairy and high-fat content in this dish can cause indigestion and diarrhea, especially if you’re sensitive to lactose or not used to consuming high-fat meals.
Taco Bell’s Taco Salad might sound like a healthier option, but it can still lead to digestive issues for some people. The salad is often made with low-quality meat and other ingredients, which can result in food poisoning or other stomach problems.
Additionally, the generous toppings of cheese, sour cream, and beans may exacerbate symptoms for anyone who has difficulty digesting dairy or beans.
Crunch Wrap Supreme
If your favorite meal is the standard Taco Bell ingredients combined into one delicious hexagon, you probably order a Crunch Wrap when driving through Taco Bell.
Unfortunately, the combination of sour cream, cheese, low-quality ground beef, and two different kinds of tortillas makes it a potential offender for Taco Bell diarrhea. If you’re sensitive to gluten, the soft-shell tortilla may also irritate your intestines.
Spicy Double Chalupa
The Spicy Double Chalupa packs a punch with its spicy sauce, which can trigger diarrhea or other digestive issues for some people.
The combination of the deep-fried chalupa shell and spicy ingredients may irritate the digestive system, leading to stomach pain and frequent bathroom visits.
Triple Layer Nachos
Triple Layer Nachos are loaded with cheese, beans, and red sauce, making them a potential trigger for digestive problems. The high-fat, dairy, and bean content can be challenging for some people to digest, leading to gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
If you’re prone to digestive issues after eating Taco Bell, you may want to avoid this tempting dish.
Read Next: Does Apple Juice Make You Poop?
Healthier options at Taco Bell
We all know Taco Bell isn’t a place you go for its healthy food. But if you’re craving Taco Bell and want to make healthier choices less likely to cause digestive issues, you’re in luck!
Taco Bell does offer some lighter and more nutritious menu items on their “Fresco” and “Power” menus. You can see the full breakdown of the nutrition facts of each dish (and a calculator to see the nutrition of your meal at-a-glance) on Taco Bell’s website.
Here are a few healthier options you can try the next time you’re craving the Bell… but not the bowel movement.
Black Bean Burrito
The Black Bean Burrito is a great alternative if you’re looking for a more fiber-rich and protein-packed option. Made with black beans, rice, vegetables, and mild salsa, this burrito offers a satisfying meal without the extra grease and fat found in some other menu items.
Power BowlEmbed from Getty Images
This healthi(er) choice features grilled chicken, black beans, rice, and vegetables and provides a good source of protein and fiber. The absence of a deep-fried tortilla makes it easier on your digestive system.
Fresco Bean Burrito
Taco Bell’s Fresco Menu offers multiple lighter options, like the Fresco Bean Burrito. This burrito is made with black beans, rice, vegetables, and mild salsa.
This makes it another good source of fiber and protein without the heavy load of cheese and sour cream found in some other burritos.
Fresco Chicken Soft Taco
If you’re in the mood for a taco but don’t want to spend the subsequent hour in the bathroom, the Fresco Chicken Soft Taco is a great choice.
It’s made with grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes, offering protein and fiber without the extra grease and fat.
Veggie Power Bowl
If you prefer a plant-based option, the Veggie Power Bowl is a solid choice. This dish features black beans, rice, vegetables, and mild salsa. It’s delicious and easier on your digestive system.Embed from Getty Images
Tips for enjoying Taco Bell without digestive issues
Despite the potential for a stomach ache or emergency bathroom stop, there are ways to enjoy Taco Bell without suffering the consequences. Here are a few tips to help you have a better experience:
- Choose healthier options: Taco Bell offers several healthier menu items like the Black Bean Burrito, Power Menu Bowl, or Veggie Power Menu Bowl. Opting for dishes with more fiber, less grease, and fewer spicy ingredients helps to keep your stomach happy.
- Go easy on the hot sauce: While it might be tempting to load up on hot sauce, doing so can increase the likelihood of digestive problems. Stick to a mild sauce or even skip it altogether to reduce the chances of stomach discomfort.
- Avoid dairy: If you’re sensitive to lactose or have trouble digesting dairy, consider asking the cooks to hold the cheese and sour cream on your order. You can also try ordering items from the Fresco menu, which replaces dairy with pico de gallo.
- Moderation is key: Eating too much Taco Bell in one sitting can be a recipe for digestive disaster. Instead of overindulging, try to enjoy smaller portions and consider splitting a meal with a friend.
- Drink water: Hydration is vital for a properly-functioning gut. Drinking water can help dilute stomach acids and prevent indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your meal.
- Take your time: Fast food drive-thrus are meant for quick meals, often when you’re on the go and don’t have time to sit down to a regular meal or in a hurry to get to your next stop. But eating too quickly can lead to indigestion and gas. Take your time to savor each bite and give your body a chance to properly digest your food. (Yes, even in the car!)
- Take some Pepto-Bismol: When all else fails, and you’re still struggling with diarrhea, consider taking Pepto-Bismol. It’s over-the-counter and safe for adults (although kids 12 and under should take Pepto Kids instead).
Can Taco Bell help with constipation?
No, Taco Bell isn’t a good solution for constipation. It’s not a natural laxative; it’s just cheap food known for causing stomach pain and diarrhea.
There are plenty of foods and other natural remedies that can make you poop, but purposefully eating low-quality fast food isn’t one of the healthy ways to handle being “stopped up.”
Going from constipation to the squirts (excuse my crudeness) isn’t the same thing as having a healthy poop.
Taco Bell food poisoning
As with any restaurant, Taco Bell may be a source of food poisoning if proper food safety practices aren’t followed. They’ve been implicated in multiple salmonella outbreaks.
It’s not uncommon to experience some digestive issues after indulging in Taco Bell, but you need to know the difference between a simple case of diarrhea and actual food poisoning.
Food poisoning happens when you consume food contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites. It’s a more severe health concern than an upset stomach due to greasy or spicy food.
Some common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Stomach cramps
These symptoms typically appear within a few hours to a few days after eating contaminated food and can last anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the severity.
If you suspect you have food poisoning after eating at Taco Bell, take the situation seriously. Stay hydrated, rest, and (obviously) don’t eat any more of the potentially contaminated food. If your symptoms get worse or don’t go away after a few days, seek medical attention.
To minimize the risk of food poisoning, pay attention to the cleanliness of the restaurant, and if anything seems off, trust your instincts and choose a different dining location.
Did a Taco Bell employee put rat poison in a customer’s taco?
In January 2023, a Taco Bell customer was hospitalized after eating food from a Taco Bell drive-thru in Colorado. He claimed the employees had put rat poison in his food — which sounds wild, except that lab tests found rat poison in a taco from his order!
Since the customer had been angry with the staff during his visit and poison was found, the Arapahoe County police department investigated the suspected poisoning.
However, after reviewing security footage from the restaurant, officers determined that the rat poison was not added to the tacos by employees in the restaurant. They cleared the employees and stated the taco was contaminated after the customer left the restaurant.
Does eating Taco Bell give you cancer?
Eating at Taco Bell doesn’t directly lead to cancer, but their food and packaging may contain substances that may increase your risk of developing cancer.
There has been some concern about the potential for certain Taco Bell ingredients to be linked to cancer. While it’s important to be aware of these concerns, it’s also essential to put them into perspective.
One of the main concerns is the presence of carcinogens in the Bell’s taco meat. While ground beef itself isn’t technically a carcinogen, low-qualify beef, like what you eat from this fast food chain, may contain dioxins and/or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
The state of California has listed both dioxins and PCB as carcinogens on Prop 65.
And it’s not just the food — many fast food restaurants (Taco Bell included) use packaging that contains carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals such as PFAS.
To be fair, the risk of developing cancer from consuming processed meats is relatively low compared to other factors like smoking. Even large amounts of this late-night favorite have not been proven to definitively cause cancer. Just do your best to practice moderation.