Watery Diarrhea


What is Watery Diarrhea?

In case of watery diarrhea, patients are prone to experience episodes of loose and watery stool accompanied with irregular bowel movements.

People experiencing episodes of diarrhea twice or thrice a year is completely normal. Symptoms last for 2 – 3 days and if symptoms are not too serious, it can even go away on its own.

Note: Watery stool cannot be considered as diarrhea until it satisfies the following:

  • 3 bowel movement on a regular basis
  • Total stool passed exceeding 200 milliliters or 200 grams/day

Watery Diarrhea image

Side effects of Watery Diarrhea

  • Loss of vital electrolytes and water resulting in dehydration
  • Chances of rehydration via medication and oral salts are slim
  • Instances, where the patient needs to be admitted to medical facilities for rehydration via IV drips, are high

What causes Watery Diarrhea?

  • Infections: Chronic cases of Watery diarrhea are common in patients suffering from weak immune systems due to HIV infection. Another reason could be due to side effects from antibiotics.
  • Malabsorption: Failure of the small intestine to absorb nutrients and reduced re-absorption of water in the large intestine.
  • Chronic intestinal disorders: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis can cause watery stool. Its followed by changes in the consistency of the stool and large volume evacuations.
  • Functional bowel disorders: Disorders of the bowels due to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is one of the major contributors of watery stool and abdominal cramps.
  • Intolerance to certain food items and allergic reactions: Instances when the digestive system is unable to digest some food items and their constituent molecules resulting in episodes of watery diarrhea.
  • Unhealthy food habits: A person that is living on a diet containing primarily processed food items, caffeine and saturated fats is prone to suffer from severe events of watery diarrhea.
  • Side effects of certain medications: Certain prescription drugs or recreational drug abuse can result in upsetting the digestive system resulting in cases of watery diarrhea.
  • Psychological reasons: Stressful situations, episodes of anxiety and depression can have adverse side effects on the normal functional cycle of the bowels that ultimately results in cases of watery diarrhea.

Other causes

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Allergic reaction to certain food items
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive dependency on spicy food items
  • Bacterial infection
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgical procedures on the digestive system

Watery Diarrhea Symptoms

  • Stomach Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Excessive gas & belching
  • Thin or watery stools
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Expulsion of mucus or blood in stool
  • Sudden loss in weight
  • High fever

It is importance to drink enough as passing watery stool more than three times a day could end up in a dehydrated body which can cause serious complications if left untreated.

Watery Diarrhea Diagnosis

The medical practitioner mainly diagnoses watery diarrhea by paying close attention to the medical history of the patient. A thorough physical examination will follow it. If the case is severe, any of the following methods can be applied for the proper diagnosis:

  • Tests that involve fasting for determining whether intolerances to certain food items or an allergic reaction is the cause
  • CT scans, ultrasonography or X-ray imaging of the intestines to check for inflammation and abnormalities
  • Examination of stool samples for signs of bacterial or parasitic infections
  • Examination of the entire colon (colonoscopy) for signs disease in the intestine
  • Sigmoidoscopy (examination of the lower colon and rectum for possible signs of disease)

Things to remember in cases of Watery Diarrhea

  • Infectious agents that cause watery stool are transmitted through the fecal-oral route
  • To avoid spreading of the infection, personal hygiene & frequent washing of hands is necessary
  • It is advised to use soap and water-based cleansing methods, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are unable to kill viruses
  • Avoiding magnesium based medications are advised

Tips to prevent cases of Watery Diarrhea

  • Avoid changing the dietary plan way too often
  • Avoid undercooked food items especially if it falls under the non-vegetarian kind
  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products and raw milk should be avoided at all costs
  • Thorough washing of vegetables and fruits is advised before consumption
  • Keeping the temperature of the refrigerator at 40ºF (4.4ºC) & that of the freezer at 0ºF (-17.8ºC) is ideal
  • Raw fish, meat and eggs should be kept separately from other food items is advised
  • Wash hands, chopping boards and knives thoroughly after handling raw meat, fish and produce
  • Meat, fish and food items sourced from animals should be thoroughly cooked before consumption
  • Thoroughly cook fish and other seafood items which will minimize instances of food poisoning

Home remedies to treat watery diarrhea

  • Drink plenty of water & fruit juice to counter effects of dehydration
  • Consume food items that contain little to negligible amounts of dietary fiber
  • Food items rich in carbohydrate and protein such as chicken, rice and crackers
  • Restore the content of the good bacteria in the gut by consuming probiotic drinks that contain Lactobacillus GG

Treatments for Watery Diarrhea

Following are some preventive medications that can be purchased at the local pharmacy store without a prescription from the doctor.

Loperamide (Imodium®)

  • Over the counter
  • Dosage – two 4 mg tablets initially followed by one 2 mg tablet after each bowel movement.
[Note: Dosage shouldn’t exceed 16 mg/day. Taking more than the recommended amount could lead to serious heart complications]

Diphenoxylate-atropine (Lomotil®)

  • Prescription medication
  • Dosage: 2 tablets four times/day initially followed by 2 tablets/day in the later stages

Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®, Kaopectate®)

  • Over the counter
  • Dosage: 30 ml or 2 tablets/30 minutes

However, it is important to consult a doctor before consuming any of the above medications.

When to visit a doctor?

It is advised to avail medical assistance when experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody, black or tarry stools
  • High fever (above 101 degrees F) for more than 24 hours
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 48 hours
  • Nausea or vomiting instances
  • Abdominal cramps and severe pain in the rectum
  • Episodes of diarrhea after a foreign trip
  • Dark colored \ cloudy urine
  • Tachycardia (or rapid heart rate)
  • Cephalgia (or headaches)
  • Confusion
  • Dry skin

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