Bowel movements like water
Watery stool is a form of diarrhea. One generally speaks of diarrhea if there are multiple (usually more than three) bowel movements per day. The stool also has a thin consistency because more water is excreted than normal. Diarrheal diseases are generally quite common. The symptoms usually subside quickly on their own. If this is not the case, the cause should be clarified. Basically, the causes can be infectious or non-infectious. Long-lasting diarrhea can lead to a disturbed water balance and thus to a disturbed electrolyte balance. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to a life-threatening condition, which is why persistent symptoms should be clarified.
What are the causes of watery stools?
The causes of watery stool can generally be divided into infectious causes and non-infectious causes. The infectious causes can be viral pathogens (for example noroviruses). These can lead to a gastrointestinal infection, which is accompanied by watery diarrhea. The symptoms usually start suddenly and are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter can also be responsible for gastrointestinal infections. They are among the most common bacterial diarrhea pathogens in Germany. Salmonella, Yersinia or cholera bacteria can also potentially lead to watery diarrhea.
Among the non-infectious causes, watery stools can occur as a complication of psychological stress, for example. Symptoms should subside within a few hours or days. If permanent symptoms occur, these should be clarified, as there is also a risk of electrolyte shifts here. If the symptoms have existed for a long time or occur more frequently, chronic diseases should also be considered. These include, for example, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, but also food intolerances. An intolerance, for example, means that certain foods are not used properly and can then lead to watery diarrhea. In rare cases, poisoning can also be the cause of watery stools. These are mostly mushroom poisoning or incorrect use of medication (for example through an overdose).
Read more on the subject at: Causes of diarrhea
Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by bacteria. The bacteria are usually transmitted through faecal contaminated food or water. Due to the very good hygienic measures, the disease is relatively rare in Germany. If there is an infection with the pathogen, 90% of the disease is mild. Usually there are not even symptoms. However, in about 10% of the cases it can be a severe form of the disease and very severe watery diarrhea occurs. These usually have a slimy consistency and are often referred to as so-called rice water stools. Since a lot of water is excreted in a short time, the cause should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.
Read more on the subject at: cholera
How is watery stool diagnosed?
In order to be able to make the diagnosis of what triggered the watery diarrhea, both the anamnesis and various other diagnostic methods are important. When taking the patient's anamnesis, some diseases can usually be ruled out based on the accompanying symptoms.
If the course is more acute, it is usually an infectious cause. In order to find the exact pathogen, evidence in the form of microscopic examinations or stool cultures is usually necessary. If it is more of a chronic course, intolerance or inflammatory diseases should be considered. In order to make an exact diagnosis, more extensive diagnostics are usually necessary. In addition to physical examinations, imaging procedures such as sonography or endoscopic examinations may be necessary.
Read more on the subject at: Ultrasound of the abdomen
Which symptoms are pathological?
Watery stools and the associated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are usually pathological if they persist for a long period of time. If watery stool occurs only within a few hours or a few consecutive days, it is usually a harmless course. So that this does not become pathological, it is important to ensure that you drink a sufficient amount with sufficient electrolytes. However, acute and brief watery bowel movements can also lead to complications.
As soon as further symptoms, such as very severe pain, dizziness or other circulatory problems occur, these should be clarified medically. If it is a chronic course in which the watery diarrhea lasts longer than two weeks, it is usually a pathological course. The watery diarrhea can then be triggered, for example, by an intolerance to certain foods that persists for a long period of time. Other chronic bowel diseases can also be responsible for long-term symptoms. You should therefore definitely be medically clarified.
Watery bowel movements are often accompanied by other symptoms. This also includes abdominal cramps. Due to the diseases of the gastrointestinal system, the muscles of the intestinal loops are often very active and irritated. These irritations and the strong movements of the gastrointestinal system can then manifest themselves in the form of cramps. These can occur immediately before or after watery diarrhea, but also during bowel movements. By pressing during bowel movements, additional pressure is exerted on the stomach and the cramps usually become even stronger. If the cramps are very pronounced, they can be relieved by certain medications that relax the muscles.
How is watery stool treated?
Treatment for watery diarrhea depends on the cause of the symptoms. If the infection is viral, the cause itself cannot be treated directly, but the symptoms can. For example, the fluid and electrolytes that were lost through the watery diarrhea can be replaced. The person affected should drink around twice as much fluid, i.e. around three to four liters a day. In severe cases, infusions may be necessary to ensure that the body is adequately hydrated.
If a bacterial infection is responsible for the symptoms, antibiotic therapy can be used. However, this can usually only be started after the pathogen has been precisely detected. If severe pain such as cramps occur, additional painkillers can be taken to alleviate the symptoms somewhat. Antispasmodic medication can also improve abdominal pain somewhat. If it is a chronic inflammatory disease, the therapy is much more extensive. Usually anti-inflammatory drugs are then prescribed, which are individually adapted to the patient's symptoms. A change in diet may also be necessary. This is especially important for the treatment of intolerance. The use of home remedies can also usually alleviate the symptoms.
Read more on the subject at: Medication for diarrhea
Some home remedies can also relieve the symptoms of watery stool. The loss of water and electrolytes in particular have a stressful effect on the body and can lead to severe circulatory problems. The loss of water can be compensated for by drinking still water or tea. Teas made from sage, chamomile, fennel, peppermint or blueberries are particularly suitable. Drinking broth is also very good to compensate for the loss of water and also the loss of electrolytes.
Easily digestible foods are particularly suitable as food. These include, for example, gruel or rice porridge. This should be prepared with water. The gruel as well as the rice porridge can bind liquid in the intestine and firm the stool somewhat. If the food is lightly salted, it also provides important electrolytes. Rusks are also part of easily digestible foods that can be used as home remedies to help with watery stools.
Cola, on the other hand, is rather unsuitable for the treatment of diarrhea. The caffeine content can additionally stimulate the intestinal activity and thus intensify the symptoms. The high sugar content in cola can also lead to additional water losses. Salt sticks are only suitable to a limited extent, as they contain salt, but no other electrolytes. If abdominal cramps occur in addition to the diarrhea, a hot water bottle can usually improve the pain somewhat. The warmth allows the abdominal muscles to relax and the cramps are less discomfort.
Read more on the subject at: Home remedies to treat diarrhea
How long does watery stool last?
The duration of the watery stool is generally very variable. Sometimes the diarrhea can only last a few hours and is then usually harmless. However, watery stools can occur over several days or weeks. In most cases, the prognosis is a little worse, as the diseases are often more serious. If an infection is responsible for the symptoms, the diarrhea usually subsides relatively quickly, within a few days, after proper treatment. If the cause is not infectious, the duration is usually a little longer, as the treatment of the disease is usually more complex.
How is the disease progressing?
Since diarrheal diseases are relatively common, it is usually a harmless course of the disease. Basically, the symptoms of watery stool should get better after a few days. Accompanying symptoms such as vomiting, nausea or abdominal cramps should also get better over time. If this is not the case, it may be a more serious course or a more serious illness. This should then be clarified, as life-threatening conditions such as circulatory problems or the like can occur in the course.
How do I know if watery stools are contagious?
Most infectious diseases that cause watery stool are generally contagious. These are mainly viral or bacterial pathogens. An indication of a contagious disease is that the symptoms of diarrhea occur acutely, i.e. spontaneously and for a short time. Accompanying symptoms such as nausea or vomiting tend to suggest an infectious cause and thus a potentially contagious disease. In order not to pass the pathogen on to other people, hygienic measures are particularly important. Thoroughly washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces can help eliminate the pathogens and reduce the risk of infection.