Stool usually has an average of about 70 percent water content. When stool has higher than normal levels of water, then the condition is referred to as liquid diarrhea. In case of liquid diarrhea, the ratio between water and solid matter content in feces is abnormally high.
For a condition of watery loose stools to be termed as liquid diarrhea, the below listed three criteria need to be met:
- More than three bowel movements in a day
- The total volume of watery loose feces is over 200 grams or 200 milliliters per day
- Loose bowel movements often occur as diarrhea
Liquid diarrhea is harmless and self-restrictive. It disappears on its own in some days. Chronic and long-term instances need to be checked by a doctor and its treatment is usually dependent on causative factors or underlying condition.
Symptoms of liquid diarrhea
Mentioned below are some common signs and symptoms of liquid diarrhea:
- Watery, runny, and loose bowel movements
- Undigested food, blood, and/or mucus in stool
- Frequent trips to the toilet
- Fever and/or chills
- Vomiting and/or nausea
- Rapid weight loss
Causes of liquid diarrhea
Some of the common causes of liquid diarrhea are mentioned below:
- Food intolerance and food allergy: People with intolerance or allergy to certain kinds of food have intestinal problems where the gut is unable to process and absorb enzymes occurring in specific foods. Associated symptoms tend to be similar to malabsorption syndromes. People with intolerance or allergy to gluten, lactose, fructose, etc., will suffer from liquid diarrhea after intake of wheat, dairy, fruits, etc.
- Gastrointestinal tract infections: It is the most common cause of liquid diarrhea. Infectious gastroenteritis and infection by Clostridium difficile are often associated with chronic cases of loose watery stools. People with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to infections and hence more prone to liquid diarrhea.
- Malabsorption: It is a condition marked by reduced absorption of water by large intestine and decreased or no absorption of food nutrients by the small bowels. In addition to liquid diarrhea, patients may suffer from floating and fatty stools, greasy/sticky looking feces, etc. Causative conditions include pancreatic cancer, celiac disease, and prolonged malfunction of the liver.
- Intestinal disorders: Different kinds of persistent inflammatory disorders of the bowels like IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease may cause liquid diarrhea as a symptom. Patients may elicit altered stool consistency, frequent or voluminous stool passing, and episodic watery loose diarrhea.
- Medicines: Abuse of certain drugs can cause liquid diarrhea. Antibiotics used for treating bacterial infections work by killing off bad bacteria in gut. Prolonged or frequent use of antibiotics can however cause the death of good intestinal bacteria, thereby helping the proliferation of bad bacteria. Overgrowth of bad bacteria and subsequent bacterial infections often causes liquid diarrhea. Intentional or accidental use of illegal drugs or ingestion of poisons, chemicals, or toxins are other causes of watery stools.
- Eating contaminated food: Food can get contaminated due to bad personal hygiene, undercooking or improperly cooking food, and unhygienic kitchen conditions and/or food storing handling practices. Water or food may be contaminated with viruses (rotavirus), bacteria (E. coli, campylobacter, clostridium difficile), parasites (giardia duodenalis), or other pathogens. Intake of contaminated food or water can cause food-borne diseases which trigger liquid diarrhea as a symptom.
- Other causes: They are
- Bowel movements can get adversely affected by mental problems like stress, anxiety, depression, etc., thereby causing liquid poop
- Bad diet composed of excessive intake of processed foods, caffeinated drinks, saturated fats, spicy foods, etc., can cause bowel issues. Overeating, strict dieting, or fasting can also cause bowel movement problems
- Underlying conditions like pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, gallstones, or liver disease may also cause liquid diarrhea
Treatment of liquid diarrhea
Liquid diarrhea can be treated with drug therapy, home remedies, and self-care measures, as discussed below:
- Bouts of loose watery poop can be decreased with over the counter antidiarrheal medications
- Drugs that help regulate the gastrointestinal system stabilize the functions of the bowels
- Probiotics promote good intestinal flora and thus help prevent bowel ailments like gut infections, etc.
- Intake of BRAT diet can help manage watery bowel movements. BRAT means banana, rice, applesauce, and toast.
- Frequent and chronic liquid diarrhea can cause dehydration. Hence, patients need to drink lots of water and intake other fluids like juices, broths, etc. to keep the body hydrated. Electrolyte loss can be compensated and overcome via use of oral rehydration solutions and/or electrolyte solutions
- Frequency of liquid poop can be reduced by drinking cinnamon or warm ginger tea
- Excessive intake of fiber rich foods can overload the digestive system, quicken the passage of food, and result in liquid diarrhea. If your diet is high fiber, then take steps to reduce it so as to stabilize the gut function and maintain overall health of the body.
- Take rest, limit physical activities, relax and avoid stress.