Liquid Poop: Common Causes and Treatments for Watery Stool

Liquid Poop: Common Causes and Treatments for Watery Stool

Liquid poop is a common symptom of an infection or inflammation of your digestive tract. Passing liquid stool can interfere with your daily routine if you frequently have to run to the bathroom or you pass excessive amounts of gas. Runny watery poop or completely liquid stool can be accompanied with other symptoms like abdominal cramping, bloating, anal leakage, nausea, and anal itching. In extreme cases, loose bowel movements can happen unexpectedly or come out like explosive diarrhea.

Watery stools that are the result of a viral or bacterial infection usually last around a week. However, many natural remedies can help to soothe digestive upset and reduce the intensity of your symptoms. Some natural ways of treating liquid poop include consuming ginger, raw plain yogurt, probiotic supplements, and drinking chamomile tea.

Runny poop can also be a symptom of inflammatory bowel disorders or food intolerances. You may also find that you need to rush to the bathroom because of liquid diarrhea if you are taking antibiotics or are under a lot of stress. In any case, there are many ways to remedy the symptoms of passing liquid stool.

What is Liquid Poop?

Liquid poop is another name for diarrhea which is a loose or watery bowel movement. Doctors from the National Institutes of Health say that passing liquid, watery stool is classed as diarrhea if it occurs more than 3 times a day.1

Passing runny poop can be an acute medical condition that only lasts a few days. Or, watery diarrhea can become chronic when it lasts for longer than 4 weeks and your symptoms of loose poop can come and go.

Because passing watery stool means that your body is losing fluid, dehydration can be a complication of diarrhea. If you have bouts of poop that is watery, you should drink fluids containing electrolytes to prevent dehydration.

Symptoms of Passing Liquid Stool

Usually, pooping liquid stool is accompanied by other symptoms of digestive upset. This is because, gastrointestinal infections, irritation, or inflammation can cause muscles in the gut or abdomen to contract and cause pain.

Dr. John P. Cunha on eMedicineHealth says that passing liquid poop in a bowel movement can also have any of the following symptoms:2

Causes of Liquid Poop

There is actually a lot that the consistency and color of your stool can tell about your health. Let’s look in more detail at some of the many reasons why your poop is coming out like water. At the end of the article, you can find helpful home remedies to help treat stool that is loose and watery.


A common reason for passing liquid poop during an uncomfortable bowel movement is gastroenteritis. This inflammation of the intestinal lining can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Gastroenteritis is sometimes referred to as stomach flu.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the watery stool along with mild to severe abdominal cramping is a symptom of stomach flu. The symptoms of a stomach infection can last from one or two days up to 10 days.3 If the viral stomach infection is severe, you could start having completely liquid stool if you have no solid matter left in your stomach.

Depending on the severity of the infection, you may also have any of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

Doctors at the National Institutes of Health say that the best way to prevent gastroenteritis is to wash your hands frequently. It’s also important not to share eating utensils or share food or drink with infected persons.4

Food poisoning

Food poisoning can cause symptoms of gastroenteritis like liquid stool and abdominal cramping. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can infect food and drink and cause a wide range of nasty digestive problems.

Dr. Mary Harding on says that the most common pathogens that result in watery bowel movements are salmonella, norovirus, rotavirus, or Campylobacter. The stomach bug causes abdominal cramping that is usually eased by passing watery stool. Other symptoms of food poisoning can include:5

  • Body chills and aches
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Passing small amounts of urine
  • A dry tongue

Traveler’s diarrhea. Dr. Laurence Knott on says that traveler’s diarrhea has the same causes as food poisoning. Coming down with the “runs” on vacation is common in countries in Southeast Asia, South and Central America, and many countries in Africa. The main symptom of traveler’s diarrhea is watery stools that may or may not contain blood.

Food allergies

An allergic reaction to certain foods can turn your poop like water and cause many different symptoms. Food allergies are more serious than food intolerances and shouldn’t be confused.

According to the journal Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, common food allergies that cause your poop turn to liquid are shellfish, peanut, nuts, eggs, or fish. This can cause persistent bouts of passing liquid stool and possibly frequent vomiting.7

Other symptoms of a food allergy include:

Some studies indicate that taking certain probiotic supplements can help protect against food allergies. At the end of the article, you will find how probiotics can also help reduce symptoms of loose poop.

Food intolerance

One reason why you could be pooping liquid is if you have a food intolerance. A food intolerance means that a person’s digestive system has difficulty digesting a certain food.

Researchers from Germany say that the main symptoms of food intolerance are liquid stool along with abdominal cramping and the need to get rid of excess gas. Some common foods that many people can’t digest properly are:8

  • Dairy products (lactose intolerance)
  • Fructose
  • Sorbitol (used as a sweetener)
  • gluten

Food intolerance can also cause the following symptoms:

The only way to treat a food intolerance and prevent pooping liquid diarrhea after eating is to eliminate the food/s causing digestive upset.

Other Causes of Liquid Diarrhea

Celiac disease

Another digestive problem that can mean you start pooping liquid stool is celiac disease. Celiac disease is listed as a separate cause of liquid diarrhea because it isn’t a food allergy or intolerance.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten that is found in foods such as barley, wheat, and rye. The symptoms of celiac disease include:9

To prevent symptoms of celiac disease, it’s important to avoid all food and drink containing gluten.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic digestive problem that triggers various uncomfortable digestive symptoms, including watery liquid stool.

According to Dr. Minesh Khatri, the type of IBS that mainly causes diarrhea is referred to as IBS-D. This results in frequent bouts of loose stool as well as abdominal cramping and gas. The reason for passing liquid stool with IBS is because food passes through your digestive system too quickly.10 Other symptoms of IBS include:11

To know how to treat its symptoms, please read my article on the best home treatments for IBS. There you can find out how peppermint oil capsules, aloe vera juice, and licorice can help to treat watery bowel movements.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease can be a reason for passing runny poop after a meal. Two types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Chronic inflammation of your digestive tract can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms. Gastroenterologist Dr. William A. Rowe says that IBD often causes recurring diarrhea with loose stools and abdominal pain. Along with pooping liquid matter, other symptoms of IBD can include:


Stress can be one of the causes of passing watery stools and can also aggravate pre-existing digestive conditions.

The journal Neurobiology of Stress explains that the brain can influence the gut’s behavior when under stress. When a person is suffering emotional or psychological stress, anxiety, or depression, changes occur in the microbiota. This can result in digestive upset and increased episodes of loose stool diarrhea.12

According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, stress can precede IBS flare-ups and increase the frequency of passing liquid poop.13

Runny poop is just one of the ways that stress affects your body. To help relieve stress and cope better with anxiety, please check out my natural stress-relieving remedies.

Side effect of certain medications

You may experience episodes of liquid poop if you are taking medication for heartburn or high blood pressure.

Dr. Jay W. Marks on MedicineNet says that some medicines that cause your poop to turn to liquid are:

  • Antacids
  • Nutritional supplements that contain magnesium
  • Antibiotics
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Chemotherapy

If you must take a course of antibiotics, you should take probiotic supplements to restore pH levels and fight pathological bacteria. This will reduce the frequency of loose poop caused by medication.

Other Causes of Watery Stool

There are also some less-common reasons why your poop comes out like watery stool.

Gastric bypass surgery. If you have undergone bariatric surgery, you might find that you have frequent liquid bowel movements. Researchers from the University of Rochester says that this is called dumping syndrome. The after-effects of gastric surgery can cause watery poop 30 minutes to an hour after eating. To prevent diarrhea after eating, the researchers recommend not drinking anything for 30 minutes after eating a meal.14

Bile acid malabsorption. Watery diarrhea can mean that your digestive system can’t reabsorb bile acids back into the bloodstream. Dr. Colin Tidy on says that bile acid malabsorption is common in IBS sufferers and usually causes liquid stool without blood. There are not usually any accompanying symptoms apart from frequent or continuous bouts of diarrhea.15

Parasites. Having liquid poop could mean that you have a parasite infection from consuming contaminated food or drink. Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that some foodborne parasites can cause explosive diarrhea along with abdominal pain, weight loss, and muscle pain.16

Running long distances. People who run long distances of 10 miles and more often have what’s called runner’s diarrhea. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the reason for pooping watery stools after running could be due to pressure on the internal organs, decreased blood flow to the intestines, or pre-race anxiety.17

To prevent pooping watery diarrhea after a race, doctors recommend not eating anything at least 2 hours before a race and keeping yourself well-hydrated.

How to Treat Watery Stool and Stop Diarrhea

Passing liquid poop occasionally or having frequent episodes of watery bowels movements is never a pleasant experience. Thankfully, there are some effective home remedies for watery stool that should help to soothe digestive upset and its associated symptoms.

Ginger to soothe digestive upset

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help to improve your digestion and stop passing runny poop.

For example, doctors from eMedicineHealth report on the medicinal use of ginger in treating gastrointestinal upset. Doctors say that ginger is commonly taken to treat symptoms of stomach upset like diarrhea. Consuming ginger has also proven to be effective in treating bloody diarrhea caused by bacterial infection.17

In fact, one study showed that taking ginger can help to reduce nausea and vomiting in up to 38% in people who had undergone surgery. Also, applying 5% ginger oil to a patients wrists reduced nausea in around 80% of patients.17

How to use ginger to stop passing liquid poop:

  1. Grate or finely chop a 1-inch piece of ginger and put it in a cup of boiling water.
  2. Cover the cup with a lid and let the ginger infuse for several minutes.
  3. Add a teaspoon of raw honey for its healing properties to boost the therapeutic effect of ginger.
  4. Drink up to 3 cups of ginger tea a day to help recover quicker from watery diarrhea and soothe your stomach.

Chamomile tea

A soothing cup of chamomile tea can help to calm irritation and inflammation in your digestive tract that is causing runny poop.

A review published in the journal Electronic Physician reported that chamomile extracts have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antidiarrheal properties. One of the active ingredients in chamomile is bisabolol which is a powerful antimicrobial compound. Consuming chamomile can help to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, relieve gut inflammation, and help stop abdominal cramping.18

How to take chamomile tea to relieve symptoms of diarrhea:

  1. Put a chamomile tea bag or 1 tbsp. dried chamomile flowers in a cup of boiling water.
  2. Cover the cup and allow the chamomile to infuse for up to 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the remedy into a cup and drink to help calm your stomach upset and get rid of the symptoms of diarrhea quickly.
  4. Drink 3-4 times a day for gastrointestinal relief until your bouts of passing liquid poop stop.


Taking probiotics regularly can help prevent stool from becoming completely liquid and stop diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics.

The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology published a study on the effectiveness of probiotics in boosting gut health. Researchers reported that probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus GG and S. boulardii strains were the most effective in treating acute watery diarrhea. Probiotics were also helpful in reducing the symptoms of viral gastrointestinal infections caused by the rotavirus or bacterial infections caused by the C. difficile strain.19

Other Home Remedies for Liquid Stool

Other ways you can treat symptoms of digestive inflammation or gastro-related infections can include:

  • Changing to a bland diet while you have an upset digestive system
  • Consuming carrot soup
  • Using the BRAT diet (consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast)
  • Taking peppermint oil capsules for irritation in the digestive tract

What Does It Mean When Your Poop Comes Out Like Water?

Some people can be worried if their poop is so watery that it feels like they are urinating out of their back passage. What does it mean if you have pure liquid diarrhea?

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that viral gastrointestinal infections like gastroenteritis often cause watery diarrhea. Depending on the severity of your infection and how much liquid you are drinking, your poop may be just liquid and nothing else. As with most cases of diarrhea, if your symptoms last longer than a couple of days, you should see your doctor.3

Why Do I Have Diarrhea with Mucus?

All stool contains small amounts of mucus. If you have an infection of the intestines or intestinal irritation, you may find that you have liquid poop with a mucus-like substance.

According to Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD, liquid stools with mucus could be due to food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation of the rectum, or ulcerative colitis. If you notice a lot of rectal mucus with watery bowel movements, you should speak to your doctor.20

When to See a Doctor

Passing liquid poop during a bowel movement usually only lasts a couple of days. Thankfully, many home remedies can help to clear up your symptoms and soothe intestinal discomfort.

However, there are some circumstances when you should see a doctor for liquid diarrhea. According to Dr. Regina LaRocque from Harvard Medical School, you should see your doctor for watery diarrhea if you have the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea is associated with vomiting and you can’t keep fluids down
  • You notice signs of bleeding from your anus along with diarrhea
  • You have signs of dehydration
  • Your diarrhea persists for longer than 7 days
  • Severe abdominal pain accompanies loose bowel movements

Read these related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. NIDDK. Definition & facts for diarrhea.
  2. eMedicineHealth. Diarrhea.
  3. MayoClinic. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu).
  4. NIDDK. Viral gastroenteritis.
  5. PatientInfo. Food poisoning.
  6. PatientInfo. Traveler’s diarrhea.
  7. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013 Apr; 30(2): 113–116.
  8. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009 May; 106(21): 359–370.
  9. AAAAI. Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and food allergy.
  10. WebMD. What is IBS-D?
  11. NHS. Irritable bowel syndrome.
  12. Neurobiology Stress. 2017 Dec; 7: 124-136.
  13. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 21; 20(39): 14126–14131.
  14. RochesterEdu. Dumping syndrome after gastric bypass surgery.
  15. PatientInfo. Bile acid diarrhea.
  16. CDC. Parasites.
  17. eMedicineHealth. Ginger.
  18. Electron Physician. 2016 Sep; 8(9): 3024–3031.
  19. J Clin Gastroenterol.2011 Nov;45 Suppl:S149-53.
  20. WebMD. Is it normal to see mucus in your poop?

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