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Loose Stool

What Causes It? What Should I Do About It?

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Updated April 09, 2014

Two common causes of loose stool and diarrhea are GI tract infections or maldigestion (e.g. lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance). 

In traditional Chinese medicine, loose stools, abdominal bloating, lack of energy, and poor appetite are signs of a condition known as spleen qi deficiency. It doesn't necessarily involve your actual spleen, but it is a condition of general tiredness and weak digestion brought on by stress and poor diet.

Other symptoms of spleen qi deficiency are:

  • easy bruising
  • mentally foggy
  • bloating, gas, loose stools
  • fatigue
  • poor appetite
  • loose stools with little odor
  • symptoms are worse with stress
  • undigested food in the stools
  • difficulty ending the bowel movement

Spleen qi deficiency is thought to be brought on by stress and overwork.

Diet can worsen spleen qi deficiency, specifically eating too many foods that are believed to cause cold and dampness in the body:

  • fried or greasy foods
  • dairy
  • raw fruits and vegetables
  • cold drinks

Dietary treatment involves eating foods with warming properties such as ginger, lamb, garlic, and onions. Ginger tea and cinnamon tea are thought to be warming.

According to Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, loose stools may indicate a pitta imbalance. Pitta types generally take on stress in their lives which affects the intestines. Find out more about foods that people with a pitta imbalance should eat and avoid here.

Besides spleen qi deficiency or pitta imbalance, there are many medical conditions that cause loose stools or chronic diarrhea such as:

  • Gluten intolerance
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Bile salt deficiency
  • Celiac disease
  • Whipple's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cancer

If food sensitivities are involved, treatment includes identifying possible food sensitivities using an elimination and challenge diet and then avoiding or rotating these foods. Although symptoms may improve, it's also necessary to identify the cause of the food sensitivities.

Address any change or abnormality in bowel movement with your physician immediately, as it can be a sign of a serious disorder.

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