Loose bowels refer to any time when the stool is watery or thin. This is usually caused when something has irritated the gastrointestinal system and the body is working to rid itself of this substance more quickly, causing food to be expelled before the nutrients have been absorbed properly. You may noticed undigested food or other substances in the stools when this occurs. Other conditions that impact the health of the gastrointestinal system can make people more prone to developing loose bowels more frequently.
Causes of Loose Bowels
Diarrhea may cause thin, loose stool, watery stool, bloating or cramps in the abdomen, a sense of urgency that you must make a bowel movement, vomiting or nausea. You may also note mucus, undigested food or blood in the stool, fever or weight loss.
Treatment. In most cases diarrhea simply needs to run its course to rid the body of the irritant causing the loose bowels. Over the counter medications such as Kaopectate or Bisomol can be used to help control diarrhea if necessary. It is important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to help ensure that you do not become dehydrated because you are losing more water though your bowels. Warm baths or hemorrhoid cream can be helpful if the rectal area is becoming irritated from these frequent bowel movements.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Triggering mechanisms cause hyperactivity of the colon that result in loose bowel. Irritating foods like chocolate, diary or caffeine can cause these attacks, though some environmental factors such as stress can cause IBS symptoms. Symptoms include nausea, abdominal bloating, pain or cramping that is relieved with passing feces or gas, diarrhea, constipation, a sensation that you bowels are not empty after using the bathroom, or mucus in the stool.
Treatment. The key to avoiding IBS symptoms is avoiding things that trigger attacks, which can vary from person to person. Foods that cause gas or dairy products are common triggers as is environmental stress or a dramatic alteration in eating routines. Patients can use antispasmodic drugs, pain relievers, constipation medications, antidiarrheals or increase their fiber and fluid intake to help manage their symptoms.
3. Pancreatic Insufficiency
This condition is caused when a pancreatic deficiency limits the amount of enzymes available to help break down food properly. This can lead to gas or loose stools because there is an excessive amount of starch, fat or protein left in the stool.
Treatment. Before a pancreatic insufficiency can be treated you will need to determine what is causing the deficiency. Some may be prescribed oral doses of pancreatic enzymes to replace those the body is failing to produce. Vitamin supplements that will help absorb fats more efficiently may also be used to help break down foods during digestion.
4. Crohn’s Disease
This chronic condition causes the digestive tract, typically the small intestine, to become inflamed, likely because of an immune response. This causes abdominal pain, chronic loose stools, rectal bleeding, arthritis, fever, weight loss or skin problems.
Treatment. It is difficult to find a suitable treatment for Crohn’s disease. In most cases your doctor will prescribe anti-diarrheas, immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory medications in combination with dietary restraints to help manage your symptoms. In more severe cases you may need to surgically remove a portion of your digestive tract should it become too severely damaged.
5. Ulcerative Colitis
This condition causes the rectum and colon to become inflamed, likely from an autoimmune response. Chronic ulcers will form in these areas which can cause rectal bleeding and pain when they flare, followed by a period of remission. You may also notice fever, dehydration, blood and fever during these flares.
Treatment. In order to help manage ulcerative colitis symptoms, patients will typically be prescribed immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatories. It is also encouraged that these patients follow a low fiber, high protein diet. If these measures are not helpful in managing your symptoms then surgery may be necessary to remove damaged portions of the colon.
6. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease causes people to have constipation, abdominal pain, loose stools and bloating when they consume products that contain gluten. They may also notice epilepsy, rash, loss of tooth enamel, delayed puberty, anemia, depression, fertility problems and osteoporosis stemming from their conditions.
Treatment. Those that have celiac disease cannot eat foods that have gluten in them, including oats, barley, wheat or rye. This will typically calm your symptoms within a few days. If the previous damage to your intestines is too severe you may need to receive IV nutritional supplements.
7. Gallbladder Problem
Early symptoms of a gallbladder issue include bloating, belching, gas, heartburn or burping. You may not be able to digest your food properly, suffer from headaches or notice symptoms similar to those of the stomach flu. Advanced symptoms include foul body odor, chronic bad breath, chalky stool or dark colored urine, excessive bowel movements each day, chills, shivering or fever.
Treatment. In most cases you will need to have your gallbladder removed to eliminate your symptoms. Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of water can help avoid symptoms. Certain foods including spicy foods, pork, fatty meats, cauliflower, seeds, corn and eggs are known to trigger symptoms.
8. Lactose Problem
Lactose intolerance causes pain, cramps, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the belly, bloating, gas, throwing up, loose stools or diarrhea. These symptoms typically begin around 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy products.
Treatment. You cannot cure lactose intolerance but you can avoid your symptoms by avoiding dairy products and replacing them with lactose free, soy or other non-dairy products. Some are able to eat things like yogurt that contains live cultures but others are not, so you will need to experiment with different foods to determine which foods are most suitable for your body. You will also need to take supplements, consume calcium fortified foods or increase your intake of green leafy vegetables to ensure you are getting enough calcium.
9. Early Pregnancy
Pregnant women may begin to experience loose stools caused by their intake of prenatal vitamins, dietary changes and hormone fluctuations.
Treatment. Avoid milk products, dried fruit and spicy foods while increasing your intake of starchy foods like potatoes, bananas or lean meat can help avoid this. Make sure you continue to get enough fluid so you do not become dehydrated and see your doctor immediately and see your doctor if your symptoms last longer than three days or there is mucus or blood in your stool.
10. Other Causes
If foods are contaminated with toxins, bacteria or viruses it can cause food poisoning that includes loose stools. Consuming drinks with a great deal of caffeine can also cause loose stools. Foods that are very spicy or have a lot of fat or grease can cause irritation that might cause loose stools.
Some other symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from a urinary tract infection. Children may eat poorly, become irritable, have a fever that will not fade, loose bowels, a lack of bowel control or a change in their urination patterns. Additionally, not getting enough roughage in the diet, contracting food poisoning, taking certain medications or suffering from anxiety can also cause loose bowels.