If you are experiencing frequent loose, watery stools, you have diarrhea – a common issue that is often a symptom of a health issue such as a virus. Usually, diarrhea goes away on its own after a few days. However, if diarrhea lasts for a few weeks or you have persistent diarrhea occurring more than 6–8 times in a day, you have unintentional weight loss, or you see persistent blood in your diarrhea, it’s considered severe and requires medical attention. Our multidisciplinary team works together to determine the cause of your diarrhea and provides an individualized treatment program that treats both the symptom and any underlying cause. 

Severe Diarrhea Causes

There are a number of reasons why someone may have severe diarrhea, including:                       

  • Reaction to medication
  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach flu
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Overflow incontinence due to severe constipation/fecal loading

Diarrhea Symptoms

In addition to frequent loose, watery stools, other symptoms for diarrhea include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool 

Testing and Diagnosing Diarrhea

To diagnose, we begin by collecting a thorough history and conducting a comprehensive physical exam. We’ll also talk about any medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medications or supplements, as some medications do have the potential to cause diarrhea. A blood test and stool test may be necessary to determine the cause of the diarrhea. An abdominal X-ray will be a simple way of identifying severe constipation and fecal loading, which might be the cause of diarrhea. 

Diarrhea Treatment

If your diarrhea does not resolve on its own within a few days, your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine, such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol.
  • Antibiotics, if it’s been determined that your diarrhea is due to a problem with community of bacteria in your gut (microbiome).
  • Medication adjustment, if one of your current medications is causing the diarrhea.
  • Replacing fluids, by drinking more, using oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte®) or receiving them intravenously (if your dehydration is severe or you are unable to hold them down). Children and elderly people especially are at risk for dehydration.
  • Treating other underlying conditions, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with the help of our multidisciplinary team to create a complete treatment plan.
  • Managing severe fecal loading and constipation identified by abdominal X-ray by doing a bowel cleanse/purge to relieve the diarrhea and initiating/designing a good bowel regimen with our multidisciplinary team to prevent recurrence of severe constipation. 

Other Information About Digestive and Liver Health

To see related medical services we offer, visit our Digestive and Liver Health overview page.

Additional Resources

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment to discuss your diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issue, call us at 888-229-7408.