Loose stools
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Loose Stools

What are Loose Stools?

Loose stools describe a bowel movement that may be watery, mushy, or shapeless. This is very relatable as most people have experienced tummy upset at least once in their lifetime. The feces may appear softer or looser than usual. In some instances, a strong or offensive smell may accompany it. The frequency of occurrence depends on the digestive system. Though it can happen throughout the day, it usually occurs right after eating. They may happen every day, occasionally, or frequently. One can also say that it is an abnormal watery bowel movement that is common and not associated with severe health risks.

While diarrhea is described as loose stool and the increased frequency of it, loose stools look at the consistency of the feces of one’s bowel movement. Diarrhea can be said to be loose stools that are more frequent or looser than usual, occurring three or more times a day.

Having loose movement often does not mean one has diarrhea, even though diarrhea comes with it. Diarrhea will be said to occur when one has had repeated loose stool three or more times in a day.

Loose bowel movements can happen to anyone at some point in time. It affects both young and old. However, there are those with a higher likelihood of getting it, including people with certain health conditions such as bile acid malabsorption, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and hyperthyroidism.

One complication of it is dehydration which can be a problem hence the need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Another complication of loose stool is malnutrition. As the nutrients may not be absorbed by the body and as such, one may not get the needed nutrients.

Causes of Loose Stools

Causes of Loose Stool
Picture Courtesy: verywellhealth

The risk of loose bowel movement or diarrhea can increase with certain foods, drinks, or supplement consumption. It can occur after consuming diets rich in magnesium, taking coffee, spicy foods, or alcohol. A common cause of loose stool is coffee due to the fact that it causes stimulation of the muscles of the intestines, while foods high in spices tend to irritate the stomach.

Digestion of certain types of sugar like sugar, alcohol, and lactose can be a problem for the body. In a large number of vegetables, artificial flavoring or fruits, sugar alcohols can be found there. Diarrhea or loose stool will occur when the small intestine cannot efficiently digest a large amount of sugar alcohol. When a diet high in lactose, a sugar usually seen in milk-based products, is consumed, it can cause loose feces. Diarrhea is commonly experienced by people with lactose intolerance when taking milk-based products. This is because lactase, an enzyme needed to break down dairy, is not produced in the required quantity. 

Supplements and medication

Certain drugs and supplements can cause the condition. Too much consumption of magnesium can cause it too. Some medications, such as chemotherapy and antibiotics, can also cause it. Too much consumption of laxatives can affect the movement of the bowel. 

Food poisoning or infections

Parasites or viruses can cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines. Along with other symptoms, diarrhea and loose bowel movements will occur. Other symptoms are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and fever.


The metabolism of the body is affected by hyperthyroidism. Thyroxine hormone is produced in excess when the thyroid gland is overactive, and this can cause loose stool in addition to other symptoms like:

  • weight loss
  • sleep problems, 
  • anxiety, 
  • irritability, 
  • there is swelling seen around the neck, 
  • erratic body temperature, 
  • tremors, etc.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease affects the digestive tract system. It is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. It can also cause diarrhea and loose stool, among other symptoms, which include: cramps or pains in the stomach, gas, nausea, bloating, fever, appetite loss, fatigue, and weight loss.

Dumping syndrome

Rapid gastric emptying, also known as dumping syndrome, is common among those who did gastric or weight loss surgery. It is a condition where food consumed moves quickly through the small intestine from the stomach, thereby causing loose feces, among other symptoms in the process. The other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain or cramp in the stomach, a flush feeling, dizziness, an abnormal heartbeat, and a feeling of fullness after consuming little food.

Ulcerative colitis (UC)

This chronic disorder causes the digestive system to be inflamed. It causes the colon and the rectum to be inflamed. It causes loose feces and other symptoms, which include pain, cramps, loss of weight, rectal bleeding, fever, fatigue, mouth ulcers, irritation of the skin and eye.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease will cause one to have loose stool. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects the gluten processing ability of the body. There is an inflammation of the small intestine due to gluten consumption. Other symptoms include malabsorption, pain, cramping, constipation, bloating, indigestion, loss of weight, and headaches.

Celiac Disease Treatment

Bile acid malabsorption

The action of the bile can be impaired by certain liver and gallbladder disorders, thereby preventing the proper breakdown of fats in the intestine. Bile acid malabsorption can cause loose feces and also irritation. This occurs when the body cannot reabsorb acids from the gallbladder. Other symptoms are cramps, bloating, pain, and gas.

Symptoms of Loose Stools

The common symptoms are 

  1. Stool that is soft or mushy
  2. watery stool
  3. Shapeless stools

Other gastrointestinal symptoms one may have include:

  1. Nausea
  2. Cramps in the stomach
  3. Pain in the stomach

After eating, one can have loose stool or chronic loose stool. The ability to differentiate between infrequent loose stool and chronic ones is of utmost importance. Chronic stool, unlike loose stool, can be a problem for weeks. For loose stool, it can be a one-off event and not a long-term problem. Loose stool can occur after taking a substance containing lots of magnesium or too much coffee drinking. It could be an indication of infections, lactose intolerance, or food poisoning. Spicy foods, oily foods, and some kinds of foods can cause loose stools.

The following medical conditions cause chronic loose stool, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, bile acid malabsorption, dumping syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.

Treatment of Loose Stools

Loose stool treatment varies. Sometimes you may be required to change your diet, increase your fiber intake, or take anti-diarrheal medicines.

The immediate treatment include

  • Taking more fiber-containing food 
  • Taking fluids to be hydrated
  • Use of anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Please keep away from foods and drinks that are its trigger
  • Addition of honey to your diet

For long-term treatment of diarrhea

  • Medication and supplement adjustment
  • The medical condition causing the loose stool should be treated
  • The use of probiotics
  • Dietary changes.


What causes loose stools?   

There are varying causes. They vary from disease conditions to foods that cause stomach upset. Some of them include: ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, food poisoning, milk in lactose intolerant people, etc. 

What foods can cause loose stools? 

Some foods that can cause it are greasy or fried food, spicy food, milk, especially in lactose intolerant people, etc.

What is loose stool? 

Loose stools describe a bowel movement that may be watery, mushy, or shapeless. The stool may appear softer or looser than usual.




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