Liquid Poop: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Passing liquid poop frequently is diarrhea. It can be dangerous because it can lead to dehydration.

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), diarrhea is defined as the passage of three or more loose stools per day (or more frequent passage than is normal for an individual). It should be noted that frequent passing of formed stools is not diarrhea, nor is the passing of pasty stools by breastfed babies.

The more loose stools you pass, the more fluid you lose and the more likely you are to be dehydrated.

In this article, we will be explaining several causes of loose watery stools, we will also go through the possible dangers of passing them and then tell you how it is treated.

What Causes Liquid Poop?

Liquid poop occurs when there is an excessive fluid inflow from your small intestine to your large intestine preventing water absorption. It can also be as a result of damage in your large intestine or its inability to reabsorb water effectively.

Here is a list of different conditions that can cause it.

1. Diet

Caffeinated foods and beverages:

Caffeine is a stimulant that naturally occurs in food and beverages like coffee, chocolate, tea, soda, and kola nuts. It has laxative potential which means it stimulates the intestinal muscles allowing food to move faster without being absorbed. Drinking two or more cups of coffee or caffeinated tea in a day can cause loose stools.

Oily and spicy foods:

This can be a problem because not everyone can tolerate oily and spicy food. Spicy food can irritate your stomach leading to loose stools.

Oily or fatty foods that are not properly absorbed goes to the large intestine where they are broken down to fatty acid causing your large intestine to secrete more fluid into your stool. This can lead to yellow liquid stools.

2. Lactose Intolerance

This is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose due to insufficient enzyme lactase. It is a common cause of diarrhea. Many people who are intolerance to lactose usually know and typically avoid milk or dairy products.

3. Medications:

Many medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, antacid with magnesium and laxative can cause loose stools. Sometimes when medications cause diarrhea, they also change the color of stools. For example, Rifampicin and cause yellow liquid poop.

4. Infections:

This accounts for most cases of diarrhea. Bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms that cause this condition are typically spread by feces-contaminated water or from person-to-person as a result of poor hygiene.

Common bacteria that cause diarrhea are Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shigella. Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium are examples of parasites that can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea caused by bacteria and parasites when traveling to developing countries is often called traveler’s diarrhea.

Diarrhea-causing viruses include Norwalk virus, Cytomegalovirus, Viral Hepatitis, and Rotavirus. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute childhood diarrhea. Chronic cases of infectious diarrhea are seen in immunocompromised patients such as HIV/AIDS due to opportunistic infection and poorly managed diabetes.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):

Frequent passage of loose stool (diarrhea) is one of the symptoms of IBS. Although, there could be constipation. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas and mucus in the stool.

IBS causes alternate strong intestinal muscle contractions which lead to loose or liquid stools and weak intestinal muscle contraction leading to constipation.

6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD):

It is a broad term used to describe disorders that cause chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. It includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It presents as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, reduced appetite, weight loss or blood in your stool.

It is important to know that blood in stool may present as black liquid poop. The black color is as a result of the effect of digestive enzymes on blood.

7. Celiac disease:

This occurs as an immune reaction to gluten that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. Celiac disease can lead to malabsorption of nutrients.

8. Malabsorption syndrome:

This occurs when the small intestine finds it difficult to absorb certain nutrients. It leads to decreased water absorption in the large intestine, causing diarrhea.

9. Psychological factors:

Stress, anxiety, and depression can change bowel movement. They stimulate faster movement resulting in loose stools.

10. Dumping Syndrome:

This is more common among people who have weight loss surgery or gastric surgery. Hence, food moves too fast through the small intestine, so loose stools happen. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramp or pain, sweating, dizziness, feeling full after small meals.

11. Hyperthyroidism:

This is the increase in the production of thyroid hormones consequently affecting the body’s metabolism. The rate of metabolism is increased in hyperthyroidism this can lead to loose stools.

Dangers Of Passing Frequent Loose Stools

1. Dehydration:

Water content and electrolytes are lost when a person passes watery stools frequently, it can be life-threatening if these are not replaced.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth or skin
  • Little or no urination
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine

Symptoms of dehydration in infants and young children:

  • Not having a wet diaper in three or more hours
  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Fever above 102 F (39 C)
  • Crying without tears
  • Drowsiness, unresponsiveness or irritability
  • Sunken appearance to the abdomen, eyes or cheeks

2. Malnutrition:

This can occur when nutrients are not absorbed due to a rapid movement of food content in the digestive system.

Liquid Poop Treatment

Liquid poop might be temporary and resolve on its own. However, it is important to understand that it can be deadly if dehydration sets in. So, steps must be taken to get rehydrated and to see a doctor if it is persistent.

First Aid Tips

Here are some tips to prevent dehydration at home.

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water.
  • Rehydrate with oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution. ORS is a mixture of clean water, salt, and sugar. You can purchase them off the counter or prepare for yourself at home. Here’s how to make it:
    Put 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 level teaspoon of salt in 1 liter of clean water, mix it very well, then drink. ORS is absorbed in your small intestine and replaces the water and electrolytes lost in your stool.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • Avoid food and drinks that trigger it.
  • Consume more fiber.

Medical Treatment

It is important to see your doctor if your symptoms get worse and if you experience these associated symptoms:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in your stool

The doctor will try to examine and find out how severe the diarrhea is while attempting to rehydrate you. Intravenous fluids are usually given while some tests are requested to find out what exactly caused the loose stool.

If an infection is implicated, antibiotics could be administered, the treatment is typically tailored to what the doctor feels is causing it. Some doctors may prescribe probiotics for an infective cause. They are live ‘healthy bacteria’ that colonize the gut, preventing the growth of disease-causing organisms.

Conclusion

We have gone through different causes, complications, and treatment of liquid, loose stools, and we are sure you fully understand how diarrhea works and how it can lead to dehydration.

By staying hydrated using Oral rehydration solution (ORS) and knowing when to go to a doctor, you can avoid getting dehydrated and other complications.

References

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Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS

Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in medicine and surgery. He is a licensed medical doctor and has worked in different private and government-owned hospitals as a general medical practitioner. For fun, he loves to travel and experience new cultures.