Question:

How do I get rid of runny stools?

– Bjorn

Answer:

What goes in must come out, so I consider what happens in the bathroom open for discussion here. If you suffer from persistent runny stool, there may be an underlying physical cause or infection and you should first consult a physician*. Aside from medication side effects, if your bowel movements are loose on occasion it could be stress or something you’re eating that ‘disagrees’ with you.

The gut can be affected by not only emotional stress or anxiety, but physical stress as well. (e.g., endurance runners often have colitis, resulting in bathroom issues when they run). A diet change or introduction of new/unusual foods, particularly spicy ones, may prompt your GI system to partially reject what it’s unfamiliar with. Another possibility is that you may have a reduced tolerance for lactose, fructose, gluten or sugar alcohols.

Here are some tips to deal with runny poop:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat slowly
  • Chew thoroughly                            
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Slowly increase soluble fiber intake (potatoes, beans, instant oats, figs) Soluble fiber helps to bind water and form soft, bulky stools.

To help determine if particular foods may be bothering you:

  • Try going a week avoiding your most likely trigger: alcohol, caffeine, greasy foods, diet drinks, dairy products, gluten sources, apple/peaches/pears or spicy foods.
  • Keep a food journal of everything else you are eating and whether you have loose stools.
  • If symptoms resolve, then incorporate the item back into your diet before moving on to eliminating the next one.

*See a medical doctor if you have chronic diarrhea, defined by 3 or more watery stools per day lasting 4 weeks or more, or if you’ve lost weight unintentionally as you may be at risk for dehydration or malabsorption.

References:

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea
  2. WebMD https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/chronic-diarrhea-16/default.htm

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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