Normal stool is soft, firm, and brownish in color with a peanut butter like consistency that prevents any strain or pressure during bowel movements. Any change in this texture, color, and consistency of feces is regarded as anomalous and loose stool is one of them. Loose stool can occur due to minor causes or severe underlying conditions.
Normal bowel movement has about 70 percent water. Any increase in the water content is abnormal. Even though diarrhea is a condition marked by loose yellow stool, all instances of loose feces cannot be termed as diarrhea. A diagnosis of diarrhea can only be made if a person experiences more than 3 instances of loose watery stool in a single day.
Causes of loose stool
Some of the common causes of loose stool are listed below:
- Infection by pathogens: It is considered as the most prevalent cause of loose stool. Infection by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens can cause loose bowel movements. The most common loose feces causing infections include cryptosporidium, giardia, and entamoeba infections.
- Medical conditions: A number of inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis, IBS/irritable bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease, etc., can cause abnormal bowel movements. Patients may experience loose stool that is not diarrhea, or frequent diarrhea.
- Black loose stool if often a symptom of varied health issues, the most common of which are gastric cancer and stomach ulcers.
- Conditions that affect the organs responsible for varied absorption and digestive processes may also cause loose feces as a symptom. The most prevalent of such disorders include gallstones and liver diseases.
- Food intolerance: Exposure to allergen foods can cause loose stool in people with intolerance to such foods. It typically affects people with conditions like celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and lactose intolerance, etc. Loose bowel movements and other abnormal symptoms occur because the intestinal system in such people cannot process these foods. Sometimes, diarrheic stools can also occur as an allergic reaction in people with food allergies.
- Malabsorption syndrome: It is a condition marked by inability of the gastrointestinal system to absorb water and nutrients. This can result in greasy loose stool that floats.
- Other causes: Loose stool can occur due to psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, and elevated stress levels.
- Being on a liquid diet can cause green and yellow watery bowel movements.
- Use of certain medicines can cause stool with abnormal consistency and texture as a side effect.
Treatment of loose stool (home remedies)
Most cases of loose stool is mild and can be resolved by home remedies, as listed below:
- If loose feces is caused due to food intolerance, then patients need to avoid those foods. Opt for alternative medications, if it occurs due to use of certain drugs.
- Drinking fluids does not worsen diarrhea; in fact intake of fluids helps decrease the frequency of loose stools as well as recover the electrolytes that are lost due to diarrhea. Drink fluids like ginger tea or cinnamon tea, soups, broth, soy or rice milk, and fruit or vegetable juices.
- Drinking fluids can also help prevent dehydration, especially if infants are affected by loose stools. Lost salts can also be replenished with electrolyte solutions if watery bowel movements are frequent.
- A BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, and toast) is considered to be the best foods that can be eaten during watery bowel movements. It is a diet of bland, low-fiber foods that offer energy without exerting the digestive system.
- Bananas have a balanced level of nutrients that can help firm loose stool; applesauce has the natural bulking agent pectin; rice works as filler and slows down the creation of loose feces; and toast absorbs excess stomach acid.
- Other recommended foods include plain noodles in small portions; boiled and mashed plain potatoes; strained squash or carrots; white pasta; and saltine crackers.
- Certain foods can worsen a case of loose bowel movements. Hence, avoid the intake of foods and beverages like fried foods; milk and dairy products like ice cream, cheese, and pudding, etc.; carbonated drinks; fatty foods like fat meat, butter, sour cream, desserts, etc.; caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea; raw veggies and fruits; pear, apple, and cherry juices; fruits with high-fiber like avocado, guava, an kiwi, etc.; fiber-rich veggies like broccoli, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, and Brussels sprouts, etc.; nuts such as cashew nuts, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts; citrus fruits like lime, orange, lemon, clementine, and grapefruit, etc.; and spicy foods. Also totally avoid drinking alcohol.
- Take steps to effectively manage and lower stress levels. Take adequate rest and avoid all forms of strenuous activities as it can aggravate loose stools and prolong its duration.
Loose stool for a week or more
If the above home remedies do not help resolve a case of loose stool, or if watery bowel movements persist for more than 7 days, then patients need to consult a doctor and check for any underlying diseases. It may be noted that loose stool is one of the symptoms of colon cancer and hence all cases of chronic diarrhea need to be medically diagnosed.