What Causes Soft Stools?

Updated June 13, 2017

Soft stools or diarrhoea can cause cramping and discomfort. Usually, over-the-counter products and the passage of a few days prove effective in getting through a bout of soft stool. If your problem continues for several days or weeks, it could be indicative of a more serious problem. If you are unable to find the source of your digestive problems, you might need to provide a stool sample to your doctor for analysis.

Medical Problems

If you have intestinal diseases or conditions such as irritable bowl syndrome or Crohn's disease, you might be prone to soft stool. You might be incapable of absorbing some nutrients in your diet. Or your stool could be indicative of cancer, and this is especially true if you see other problems in your stool such as blood.


Most Americans need 20 to 30g of fibre in their diets each day. Excessive fibre intake can lead to gas, painful cramping and soft stool. Other sudden changes in your diet could also be responsible for loose, soft stool. If you are taking diet supplements, read the labelling. Some diet supplements can cause loose, oily stools if you have a diet that is high in fat.


An infection can also cause you to have diarrhoea or loose stool. Foods that are spoiled can affect your digestive tract. You also might have allergies or conditions like coeliac disease that can cause diarrhoea after you eat wheat or gluten-based products. Bacteria and viruses can play a role in soft stools. If you notice any other symptoms, speak to a doctor. You might need to take antibiotics to recover from soft stool.

Lifestyle Factors

If you have a history of excessive reliance on diet pills or laxatives, you might experience oily or loose stool. Excessive alcohol and drug use can also result in diarrhoea. Other lifestyle factors, such as competitive running, can also influence soft stool.

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About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.