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What are Watery Stools?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Watery stools are bowel movements that are loose and highly liquid in nature. There are a number of reasons people develop loose, liquidy stools and while they can resolve on their own in some cases, medical attention may be necessary if they persist or if patients develop other symptoms. Treatment can be provided by a general practitioner or a gastrointestinal specialist, and for some causes, treatment by another specialist such as an immunologist may be necessary.

In people with watery stools, the colon fails to reabsorb water during the digestive process. As a result, when people use the bathroom, their normally solid stools are mixed with a high amount of fluid. It is not uncommon for people to experience bowel urgency and the need to defecate more often than unusual while they have loose, liquidy stools. Also described as diarrhea, watery stools are associated with a number of different medical problems.

If the intestinal tract, especially the colon, is inflamed in some way, water absorption will be reduced and the patient can develop watery stools. Reasons for inflammation include food allergies, food intolerance, and infections. Diet can also play a role and some people may note that certain foods appear to trigger inflammation, as seen in inflammatory bowel disease.

In some cases, the cause runs its course and the stool firms up on its own. Fluid replacement is recommended to keep patients hydrated by making up for the water loss occurring through the stool. Patients can also benefit from eating high fiber foods that will firm up the stool and bland foods that will reduce irritation and inflammation. If watery stools persist, become bloody, or are associated with symptoms like vomiting, nausea, altered level of consciousness, and weakness, it may be advisable to consult a doctor.

A doctor can review patient history, analyze a stool sample for signs of infectious organisms, and perform other diagnostic tests to learn more about why a patient has developed loose, liquidy stools. Medications can be offered to reduce inflammation and protect the bowel. If the patient is severely dehydrated, fluids may be infused to quickly replace the patient's lost water and make the patient more comfortable.

Watery stools can be a common problem while traveling because people are stressed, eating foods new to them, and potentially eating and drinking contaminated food and water. The risk of traveler's diarrhea can be reduced by consuming food and drink prepared in clean settings.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon949233 — On May 04, 2014

I have had bloody mucus for the past month. It looks like chocolate milk. My stomach hurts so bad that it feels like it's extra heavy. I'm staring to get so weak and my bottom is sore.

By cloudel — On Jan 06, 2013

My constipation turned to watery stools after I took a powerful laxative. I hadn't had a bowel movement in five days, so I was getting desperate.

I took this liquid laxative stuff that had to be mixed with a glass of water. It's the same stuff that doctors make you take the night before you have a colonoscopy, so it is intense.

Within a couple of hours, I started having cramps. I had to go to the bathroom several times, and after the first few stools, I had the most watery stools ever! I had to keep drinking sports drinks to keep from dehydrating.

By Perdido — On Jan 05, 2013

@orangey03 – It depends on the severity and the cause of the watery stools. It's possible that over the counter pills that fight diarrhea can work, but you will probably have to take a dose, wait awhile, and take another dose before you will see any results.

If you have very watery stools, even this may not work. It can't hurt to try, though. I understand how you feel about going somewhere in your condition.

By orangey03 — On Jan 04, 2013

Do over the counter medications usually work to stop watery loose stools? I really hate to go to the doctor for this, because it will be hard for me to make it there without stopping for a bathroom.

By StarJo — On Jan 04, 2013

Having watery stools causes you to dehydrate if you are not careful. I remember being sick as a child with diarrhea and refusing to drink enough liquids to replace what I was losing, and I became very weak.

My lips became parched, and my mouth was so dry. My skin looked dry, as well. I didn't feel like drinking water, because it made me nauseous.

My mother got me to drink fluids by offering me ginger ale and flavored water. I started to feel a little better.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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