Diarrhea describes bowel movements (stools) that are loose and watery. Generally it is not serious, and many people will have diarrhea once or twice each year. It typically lasts two to three days and can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Some people often have diarrhea as part of irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic diseases of the large intestine.

What are symptoms of non-serious diarrhea?

  • Abdominal bloating or cramps
  • Thin or loose stools
  • Watery stool
  • Sense of urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Nausea and vomiting

What are symptoms of serious diarrhea?

  • Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
  • Weight loss
  • Fever

How is diarrhea diagnosed?

If diarrhea lasts 2 days or less, diagnostic tests are usually not necessary. If diarrhea lasts longer or is accompanied by the serious symptoms listed above, your GI doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Physical examination
  • Stool culture
  • Blood tests
  • Fasting tests (checking for food intolerance or allergies)
  • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy

How is diarrhea treated?

In most cases, the only treatment necessary for diarrhea is replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. However, avoiding caffeine and foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or sweet may lessen symptoms during the condition. If you experience prolonged diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or vomiting that prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids, see our GI team immediately.

If you have concerns about diarrhea, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.