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 the passage of three or more loose stools per day or more frequent passage than is normal for an individual.
The more loose stools you pass, the more fluid you lose and the more likely you are to be dehydrated.
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.
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 production of the enzyme lactase. It is a common cause of diarrhea. Many people who are intolerant to lactose usually know and typically avoid milk or dairy products.
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-colored stools. While Iron supplements can darken stool color.
This accounts for most cases of diarrhea. Bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms that cause this condition are present in contaminated food or water.
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-causing viruses include Norwalk virus, Cytomegalovirus, Viral Hepatitis, and Rotavirus. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute childhood diarrhea.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Frequent passage of loose stool (diarrhea) is one of the symptoms of IBS. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas and mucus in stool.
IBS causes alternate strong intestinal muscle contractions which lead to loose or liquid stools.
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.
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. Food moves too fast through the small intestine, so loose stools occur. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramp or pain, sweating, dizziness, feeling full after small meals.
This is the increase in the production of thyroid hormones consequently affecting the body’s metabolism. The rate of metabolism is increased in hyperthyroidism and this can lead to loose stools.
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
- 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
This can occur when nutrients are not absorbed due to a rapid movement of food content in the digestive system.
When To See A Doctor
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.
You should see your doctor urgently, if you have many episodes, or if you have other symptoms like:
- severe abdominal pain
- blood in your stool
- generalized body weakness
- dark-colored urine
- excessive thirst
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.
The treatment is usually tailored to the cause.
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. 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.
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