How to Treat Loose Stool

Diarrhea can come on suddenly and without warning.
Diarrhea can come on suddenly and without warning. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Loose stool, commonly referred to as diarrhea, is usually short-term and clears up on its own within a few days. It is often caused by a stomach flu. Diarrhea can also result from problems digesting certain foods such as dairy products for those who are suffer from lactose intolerance. However, chronic diarrhea that lasts for weeks may be caused by conditions such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

Drink Plenty of Liquids

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so it is important to replace lost body fluids by drinking plenty of liquids. Drink clear liquids such as water, ginger ale and soup broth. Water will replace fluid, but not lost minerals. Drink fruit juice and eat soup to replace minerals such as potassium and sodium. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding apple and pear juice since they can make diarrhea worse. Refrain from drinking caffeine or alcohol also.

Watch What You Eat

Eat bland foods such as plain rice, toast, crackers, bananas, boiled potatoes and gelatin. Avoid fatty, high-fiber foods and dairy products until the diarrhea has subsided. Add the food that you normally eat back into your diet gradually after the diarrhea has stopped.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Although over-the-counter medications may reduce the number of loose bowel movements, the Mayo Clinic recommends consulting a physician before taking them. According to the Mayo Clinic, diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites may be made worse by taking over-the-counter drugs since they prevent the body from getting of what is causing the loose stool. Antibiotics may be needed to treat this type of diarrhea.


The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends contacting your health-care provider if you have diarrhea accompanied by fever above 101 degrees F in adults or 100.4 degrees F in children. See your physician if the stools contain blood, pus or are black in color. Call the doctor if the diarrhea does not improve or worsens within five days for an adult or within two days for an infant or child.

Tips & Warnings

  • Drink plenty of water! You are losing fluids through diarrhea that need to be replaced.
  • Drink water during meals and after bowel movements.
  • Try having different kinds of soups for meals while symptoms persist.
  • If you continue to have loose stools after two weeks, you must seek out a doctor.

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