Read below about watery diarrhea, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your watery diarrhea from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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10 Potential Watery Diarrhea Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Usually resolves within 2-3 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool, vaginal bleeding, alertness level change
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Traveler's Diarrhea

    Traveler's diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps. It's caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

    Usually resolves within 3 to 5 days without antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), fever, stomach bloating
    Symptoms that always occur with traveler's diarrhea:
    diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with traveler's diarrhea:
    anxiety
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Food Poisoning

    Food poisoning is a common ailment that causes gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is caused by improperly handled or unrefrigerated food.

    1-3 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), dizziness
    Symptoms that never occur with food poisoning:
    severe fever, being severely ill, bloody diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Food Poisoning Caused by Clostridium Perfringens

    Clostridium Perfringens is a bacteria that produces toxins in food, especially beef, poultry, and gravies. It's one of the most common causes of food poisoning. Infants, young children, and older adults are more likely to suffer from this type of food poisoning.

    The disease typically lasts 12-24 hours, but may last 1-2 weeks in elderly persons or infants

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), vomiting, watery diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.Bacterial Infection Caused by Clostridium Difficile

    Antibiotic use can disrupt the normal microorganisms that inhabit the human digestive tract, and a bacterium called Clostridium difficile can grow out of control in the intestines. Though relatively rare compared to other bacterial infections, C. Difficile is one of the leading causes of infectious diarrhea in the United States.

    Fever and diarrhea should respond within 4 to 6 days upon beginning treatment.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), being severely ill, fever, watery diarrhea
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

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  6. 6.Foodborne Illness (Cyclospora Infection)

    Cyclospora infection causes watery, and sometimes explosive, diarrhea. The one-celled parasite that causes cyclospora infection can enter the body when people ingest contaminated food or water. Fresh produce is the culprit in many cases of cyclospora infection.

    Expected to last 1-7 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, stomach bloating, vomiting, fever
    Symptoms that never occur with foodborne illness (cyclospora infection):
    severe fever
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  7. 7.Campylobacter Small Intestine Infection

    Infection with the Campylobacter bacterium is one of the leading causes of acute diarrhea worldwide. The risk for this infection is increased in people with HIV/AIDS.

    The diarrhea can subside within 7 days without treatment, but antibiotic treatment is recommended for faster recovery and avoidance of complications.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), general abdominal pain, fever, severe diarrhea
    Symptoms that always occur with campylobacter small intestine infection:
    diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Microscopic Colitis

    Inflammation is the body's normal response to injury, irritation, or infection of tissues. Sometimes, this inflammation can happen abnormally, affecting normal tissue. Sometimes, this can happen in the intestines, which can cause chronic diarrhea.

    This can be a chronic condition with relapses. If treatment is started, symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), stomach bloating
    Symptoms that always occur with microscopic colitis:
    diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with microscopic colitis:
    bloody diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Shigella Infection

    Shigella infection is an acute bacterial infection caused by a group of bacteria called shigella. The infection affects the intestines and can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in the stool.

    4 to 6 weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, general abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, watery diarrhea, fatigue
    Symptoms that always occur with shigella infection:
    diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  10. 10.Intestinal Infection With Ameba Parasite

    Visiting or living in places with poor sanitation can lead to parasite infections that can cause long-lasting diarrhea and stomach pain.

    More than 90% of the time, parasites goes away on its own over the course of 6 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, general abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

FAQs About Watery Diarrhea

Here are some frequently asked questions about watery diarrhea.

Why do I have watery diarrhea after eating?

Watery diarrhea following eating is commonly caused by food allergies, pathogens, or even characteristics of the types of foods consumed. For example, prunes contain a large amount of indigestible sugar that causes water to be pulled from the gut into the stool, causing loose stools. Allergies may also cause an inability of the cells of the gut to absorb liquid (e.g. celiac disease), and pathogens may also disrupt the gut's ability to absorb indigestible sugars. Inflammatory bowel diseases can also cause watery diarrhea after meals.

Can certain foods cause watery diarrhea?

Yes, certain foods may definitely cause watery diarrhea. Prunes, for example, with their large amount of indigestible sugar, can cause watery diarrhea as the sugar pulls water osmotically into the stool, diluting it. Other foods that commonly cause watery stool includes milk for those that are lactose intolerant, as well as artificial sugars.

How long does travelers diarrhea last?

Traveler's diarrhea, or an infection with Entero Toxigenic E. Coli (ETEC) usually lasts one to three days, but can last as long as three or four days in more severe cases. It is caused by ingestion of ETEC from contaminated food or water which can interrupt the body's ability to absorb water, causing profuse watery diarrhea.

Why do I have blood in my diarrhea?

Blood in diarrhea can be caused by bacteria that both disrupts the body's ability to absorb water and disrupts the lining of the gut, causing the cells along the inner walls of the gut to slough off. Generally, bacteria that cause blood or mucus are known as invasive bacteria, and can include many types of E. Coli as well as salmonella and shigella.Bloody diarrhea also occurs with inflammatory bowel disease and poor blood flow to the bowels (ischemic colitis).

When should you seek medical attention for diarrhea?

You should seek medical attention if you have symptoms for longer than five days, if you have profuse amounts of blood in your stool, if you are having trouble staying hydrated, or if you are having symptoms of dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include but are not limited to weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, change in consciousness, changes in vision, or general pallor.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Watery Diarrhea

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you traveled anywhere in the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our watery diarrhea symptom checker to find out more.

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Watery Diarrhea Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced watery diarrhea have also experienced:

    • 22% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 9% Nausea
    • 8% Abdominal Cramps (Stomach Cramps)
  • People who have experienced watery diarrhea had symptoms persist for:

    • 38% Less Than a Week
    • 38% Less Than a Day
    • 10% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced watery diarrhea were most often matched with:

    • 46% Viral (Norovirus) Infection
    • 9% Food Poisoning
    • 3% Traveler's Diarrhea
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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