Bowel movement would be in semisolid form under normal conditions. But sometimes the stools are watery and loose. The process of passing watery stool is known as diarrhea in medical terms. This can occur due to varied reasons. At some point of time every one of us would have watery stool. It is quite common to have this condition for a couple of days. But if we continue to have watery stool it can be due to infection. Having diarrhea once in a while is quite common and one need not seek medical help to control it.
Over the counter medications are enough for managing symptoms of watery stool due to indigestion and other common causes. Two things have to be taken into account with diarrhea. One is frequent bowel movements increasing the number of visits to the toilet. Second is passing very loose watery stool. In this article you will get to know about the different causes of diarrhea and ways of treating it.
Watery Stool Symptoms :
Watery stool as the name indicates is passing thin/loose stools. You will have an urgent temptation to use the toilet. You will be visiting the toilet many times a day. In addition some people will have foul smelling stool with mucus or undigested food. You may also have nausea/vomiting sensation. Before passing watery stool you may get stomach cramps and bloating feeling in your stomach.
- Acute diarrhea is having watery stool for 2-3 days in a week. Many people would have experienced acute diarrhea after eating undercooked meat or eating allergic foods. Often the symptoms of acute diarrhea will reduce gradually once the undigested food particles are expelled completely.
- Chronic diarrhea is one in which watery stool continues for more than a week. Some people will have diarrhea recurrently for no apparent reason. In that case medical evaluation is necessary.
What Causes Diarrhea (Watery Stool) :
Watery stool is caused by many factors.
- Food allergy – Eating foods that are allergic to you can induce diarrhea or watery stool. You need to be careful in avoiding such foods in future. Some kinds of food may obviously upset your digestive system causing watery stool. Lactose intolerance is one such example.
- Infection – Viral infection is one of the primary causes of watery stool. Micro-organisms can infect the gastroenteritis causing diarrhea. Viral infections can be caused by hepatitis, Norwalk virus and Rotavirus. Similarly bacterial infection can occur due to cryptosporidium, salmonella and Escherichia coli.
- Compromised immunity – Patients with chronic diseases like AIDS/cancer can get infected easily. It is difficult to treat such people who are immunocompromised.
- Mal-absorption – For some people small intestine may not be able to absorb essential nutrients resulting in reduced amount of water absorption by the large intestine. In such cases fat particles can be seen in the stool giving it greasy appearance.
- Disorders – Chronic problems like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can cause watery stool. Frequent bowel movement is also increased in this case.
- Dietary Habits – People who are fond of eating processed food and items that contain high volumes of saturated fats can get watery stool often. Similarly people who overeat or remain on fasting for extended hours can trigger loose motion.
- Medications – Effect of some drugs can cause watery stool. Antibiotics can cause watery stool in some people initially since they are effective in destroying good bacteria in the stomach helping the growth of bad bacteria. Sometimes accidental intake of narcotics can trigger watery stool. Toxic drugs can also cause the same effect.
- Stress – Sudden emotional imbalance, stress or anxiety can affect the normal functioning of intestine causing watery stool. A person hearing sudden death news of dear ones can get diarrhea almost immediately.
- Overactive Thyroid – Hyperthyroidism occurs due to the excess of secretion of thyroid hormone triggering watery stool for some people.
- Alcohol – Over-drinking and suddenly exceeding the limits of alcohol intake can cause diarrhea.
- Surgery – People who have recently undergone surgery on stomach or intestine can get watery stool for many days.
When To Seek Medical Help?
You can always wait for a couple of days to check whether bowel movements have become normal. If the watery stool does not stop for more than 2 days, and if you have stomach cramps, nausea/vomiting sensation and bloody discharge in your stool you need to consult your GP without delay. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water if you have watery stool since it may cause dehydration.
No additional tests are necessary to confirm diarrhea. The doctor will complete physical exam by measuring BP and pulse to check if the patient has dehydrated. If the person has more symptoms like fever, vomiting, headache and stomach pain the doctor may request for stool culture and blood culture to find out whether there is infection.
For diarrhea up to 2 days you need not take any medications. It is enough if you drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. It is good that toxic substances are removed from the intestine by way of watery stool. If necessary you can get over the counter medications like loperamide or Pepto-Bismol to control diarrhea.
Medical Treatment :
Antibiotics are prescribed if watery stool is caused by bacteria. For viral infection, antiviral medications are suggested. The person will be encouraged to take plenty of fluids in the form of fruit juice and water to prevent dehydration.
- Intravenous Therapy – If the fluid loss due to diarrhea is more, the patient will be given intravenous injection to replace the loss of electrolytes in the body.
- Alternate Medications – If the intake of particular medication is causing watery stool for a week or more, your doctor would replace it with suitable alternative or he may lower the dosage.
- Chronic Diarrhea – The patient will be referred to a gastroenterologist to treat any serious problems like irritable bowel disease or Crohn’s syndrome.
Home Remedies :
- Avoid having coffee/tea or any other caffeinated drinks. Avoid having milk since it may worsen the condition. Avoid having normal diet.
- You can drink any fresh fruit juice after discarding the pulp.
- Soup is an excellent remedy for managing the symptoms of diarrhea.
- Green tea with honey gives relief by arresting the excess of water in the small intestine.
- If you have itchy sensation on the anus due to excess of bowel movements you can get soothing effect by taking warm bath.
- Do not starve while having diarrhea. It is good to eat something to retain fluid balance in your body.
- It is quite common to have watery stool for 1 or 2 days once in a while, which can be due to food intolerance or allergic response.
- You can reduce eating outside frequently since it can disturb the normal balance in your intestine.
- You need to check with your doctor if you have chronic (long-term) diarrhea which is indicative of more serious disorders.