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 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
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
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:
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.