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How to firm up loose stools

Updated March 23, 2017

There are many reasons why one can experience loose stools. Diarrhoea is the common term for soft, watery and frequent stool, and becomes chronic if it persists for more than four weeks. Most treatment for loose stool should be tailored to the specific cause, which can sometimes be ascertained by the nature of the stool itself. Chronic diarrhoea can be a symptom of a more serious condition and should be checked by a medical professional.

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  1. Identify cause of loose stool (if possible). Ideal human stool is similar in colour to cardboard and has the consistency of toothpaste. If stool is soft and floats, sticks to the side of the bowl or is difficult to flush, it is likely the result of excess levels of fat your diet. Stress and poor diet can also lead to loose stool that is softer than normal. Stool that is completely watery can be caused by a variety of conditions ranging from food poisoning to colitis.

  2. Avoid risky foods. If you're experiencing loose stools, avoid the types of foods you might eat if you were constipated. This means stay away from coffee, raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oleic fat, and greasy fried foods. Also don't drink milk, caffeine, alcohol or prune juice.

  3. Eat absorbing, calming food. Rice or dry toast can help firm up loose stool by absorbing excess water in the digestive tract. Bananas can help calm an overactive stomach.

  4. Use probiotics. Consuming cultures of good bacteria, like the kinds contained in some yoghurts and supplements, can help return your digestion to normal and firm up loose stool. 500 mg of Saccharomyces boulardii up to four times daily, or 3 billion colony-forming units of probiotic bacteria up to three times a day can help reduce or prevent loose stool.

  5. Take medication carefully. Over-the-counter anti-diarrhoea medication like Immodium or Pepto Bismol can firm up stool and reduce frequency. But, these should not be relied upon for extended periods of time or in the event of food poisoning. Diarrhoea is a natural defence against food poisoning and treating it instead of the underlying cause can lead to complications.

  6. Tip

    Increasing your total consumption of dietary fibre is sometimes recommended for firming up stool. The idea is that increasing the solid bulk in the intestine will produce firmer stools. Psyllium husk is sometimes recommended in particular for this reason. The effectiveness of this technique, however, is not proven, and increasing fibre intake is usually used for treating constipation because it can increase the frequency of defecation.

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About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.

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