This information was originally published here .

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is the most common functional GI disorder affecting approximately 10-15% of the adult population.  It is also among the most common disorders seen by prescribers.   

Loose stools are abnormally watery bowel movements that can have a range of different causes. They are very common and are not usually associated with any severe health risks.

Loose stools often occur after eating, but can also happen at other points in the day. When loose stools occur consecutively on multiple occasions throughout a day, this is described as diarrhea.

However, loose stools can occur chronically and may require treatment. This article will outline potential causes and treatments for loose stools.

Fast facts on loose stools:

  • A loose stool is a term used to describe stools that are more watery and soft than usual.
  • Occasional loose stools are not usually a cause for concern.
  • Loose stools can have a range of different causes, but most cases are relatively harmless.

Causes of infrequent loose stools

Most people will experience loose stools occasionally. These bouts of diarrhea can be caused by:

1. Dietary trends

Woman drinking rose wine which may be linked to loose stools
Loose stools may be caused by diets that are high in coffee and alcohol.

Certain foods, drinks, or supplements can increase the likelihood of loose stools or diarrhea occurring.

Sometimes, the body can have problems digesting certain types of sugars, such as sugar alcohols and lactose.

Sugar alcohols are found in a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and artificial flavorings. The small intestine cannot digest large amounts of sugar alcohols efficiently, which can cause loose stools.

Diets high in lactose, a sugar found in milk-based products, can also cause loose stools. People with lactose intolerances may experience loose stools following the consumption of any milk-based products.

Loose stools can also be caused by diets high in:

2. Infections or food poisoning

Viruses, bacteria or parasites can cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines. This can cause loose stools and diarrhea, along with other symptoms including:

  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • nausea

Causes of chronic loose stools

Chronic conditions that can cause loose stools include:

3. Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition affecting the digestive system. Diarrhea and loose stools are a common symptom of IBS. Other symptoms can include:

4. Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic condition causing inflammation in the colon and rectum. People with UC often experience loose stools and diarrhea. Other symptoms of UC include:

  • abdominal pain
  • frequent bowel movements
  • fatigue
  • appetite and weight loss
  • mouth ulcers
  • joint pain
  • skin irritation
  • eye irritation

5. Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition where the lining of the digestive system becomes inflamed. It can cause diarrhea and loose stools. Other symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in fecal matter
  • appetite and weight loss
  • fatigue

6. Celiac disease

gluten free bread. Celiac disease may cause loose stools
People with celiac disease who consume gluten, may experience loose stools.

Celiac disease is a common condition in which the consumption of gluten causes an inflammation of the small intestine. People who have consumed gluten may experience loose stools and diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • indigestion
  • skin irritation
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

7. Bile acid malabsorption

Several disorders of the liver and gallbladder can impair the action of bile, preventing the proper breakdown of fats in the intestine. For example, this can occur in people with gallstones or liver cirrhosis. Bile acid malabsorption can cause diarrhea or loose stools.

8. Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

An overactive thyroid is where the thyroid gland produces too many hormones, interfering with its normal functioning. This can cause loose stools or diarrhea. Other symptoms can include:

  • mood instability
  • poor regulation of sleep
  • swelling around the neck
  • erratic body temperature
  • irritability
  • weight loss
  • trembling

9. Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the inflammation occurs in the pancreas. It can impair the proper breakdown of fats, starches, and proteins. This can cause loose stools or diarrhea.

Other symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

10. Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a long-term condition where mucus builds up in the lungs and digestive system. This can interfere with digestion and cause loose stools or diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • recurring chest infections
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • a persistent cough

11. Dumping syndrome (rapid gastric emptying)

Dumping syndrome is a condition where food moves from the stomach to the bowel too quickly. It often occurs after weight-loss surgery. It can cause loose stools and diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • abnormal heartbeat

Home remedies

whole grains and cereals are a good source of fiber
Consuming high fiber foods may help to prevent or reduce loose stools.

Infrequent cases of loose stools do not typically require medical treatment. However, multiple cases of loose stools can cause dehydration and malnutrition. Some home remedies that may help to prevent or reduce loose stools include:

  • dietary changes to avoid foods triggering loose stools
  • consuming foods high in fiber
  • taking anti-diarrhea medication, such as Imodium
  • staying hydrated
  • consuming probiotics

With the help of these home remedies, loose stools caused by dietary trends, infections or food poisoning should return to normal after a few days.

Loose stools or diarrhea that does not improve after 1 week should be given immediate medical attention. This can be a sign of a more serious medical condition and may worsen without treatment.

Some conditions may be treated with prescription medications or antibiotics, but more serious conditions, such as pancreatitis may require hospital treatment. In some cases, there are no available cures for the underlying condition, but symptoms can be managed.

These conditions include Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and IBS. Symptoms are often managed using a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

Takeaway

In most cases, loose stools will often subside within a few days without treatment, or with the help of some home remedies.

It is important to distinguish between loose stools that occur infrequently and those that are chronic. Experiencing loose stools that persist for over 1 week may indicate a more serious underlying condition that will require immediate medical attention.

This information is designed for educational purposes only and should not be used in any other manner. This information is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider. A consultation with your health care professional is the proper method to address your health concerns. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Rapid advances in medicine may cause information contained here to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed.