Diarrhea is when you have more than 3 very loose, watery, or unformed bowel movements in 1 day. For many, diarrhea is mild and will pass within a few days. For others, it may last longer. It can make you feel weak and dehydrated. It can also lead to unhealthy weight loss.
A stomach or intestinal illness can cause diarrhea. It can be a side effect of medical treatments, such as antibiotics and some cancer treatments. It may also result from taking some medicines and consuming artificial sweeteners such as those used to sweeten sugar free gum and candies.
Below are questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your diarrhea.
Questions you should ask:
- Can I eat dairy foods?
- What foods can make my problem worse?
- Can I have greasy or spicy foods?
- What type of gum or candy should I avoid?
- Can I have caffeine, such as coffee or tea? Fruit juices? Carbonated drinks?
- Which fruits or vegetables are OK to eat?
- Are there foods I can eat so I do not lose too much weight?
- How much water or liquid should I drink during the day? What are the signs that I am not drinking enough water?
- Do any of the medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements I take cause diarrhea? Should I stop taking any of them?
- What products can I buy to help with my diarrhea?
- What is the best way to take these products?
- Which ones can I take every day?
- Which ones should I not take every day?
- Can any of these products make my diarrhea worse?
- Should I take psyllium fiber (Metamucil)?
- Does diarrhea mean I have a more serious medical problem?
- When should I call the provider?
What to ask your health care provider about diarrhea - adult; Loose stools - what to ask your health care provider - adult
de Leon A. Chronic diarrhea. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2021. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:188-190.
Schiller LR, Sellin JH. Diarrhea. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 16.
Semrad CE. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 131.
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Review Date 7/1/2021
Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.