Diarrhea describes bowel movements that are loose and watery. It is common and often not serious. Many people will have diarrhea once or twice each year. Sometimes diarrhea is a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic digestive condition.

Symptoms

Symptoms of diarrhea can be broken down into uncomplicated (non-serious) and complicated, which may be a sign of a more serious illness.

 

Symptoms of uncomplicated diarrhea include:

  • Abdominal bloating or cramps
  • Thin, loose or watery stool
  • Sense of urgency to have a bowel movement

In addition the above, the symptoms of complicated diarrhea include:

  • Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss or fever

Causes

The most common cause of diarrhea is a GI virus. The infection is sometimes called "stomach flu." Occasional diarrhea may also be caused by:

  • Infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning)
  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system
  • Medications

Diarrhea can also indicate a digestive condition, especially when it's persistent and/or occurs with other symptoms like bloody stools and unexplained weight loss. Potential gastrointestinal conditions that can cause persistent diarrhea include:

Treatment

If you have a mild case of diarrhea, you can just let it run its course and manage symptoms with over-the-counter medicine. You should drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day. Chicken broth, tea with honey and sports drinks are also good choices. Instead of drinking liquids with your meals, drink liquids between meals.

Sources

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