A liquid bowel movement, or diarrhea, is usually due to a short-term illness like food poisoning or a virus. However, it can result from a different underlying medical condition.

Diarrhea can happen to everyone from time to time. It occurs when you pass liquid instead of formed stool three or more times a day.

If your liquid bowel movements are a side effect of a chronic condition, a doctor can usually help you treat or manage them.

This article discusses the various causes of liquid bowel movements, potential complications, and the range of available treatments.

Multiple causes and contributing factors can lead to liquid bowel movements. Examples include:

Stool is usually brown because of compounds like bile and bilirubin that are present in it. But if you have liquid bowel movements, you may find the liquid is another color entirely.

Learn more about stool colors and what they mean here.

Yellow liquid poop

Yellow liquid poop could indicate an underlying disorder in the liver or gallbladder. Bright yellow liquid stool can also be a sign of giardiasis, an infection caused by an intestinal parasite you can get from drinking unclean water.

Green liquid poop

Diarrhea can appear green due to green foods you ate or stool moving too quickly through your colon.

Pooping clear liquid

Intestinal inflammation can cause the secretion of mucus in the intestines. This causes clear liquid bowel movements.

Black liquid poop

Black liquid poop can be a cause for concern because it can indicate bleeding from a location somewhere in the higher portion of the digestive tract.

Other potential causes of black liquid poop include taking Pepto-Bismol or iron supplements or eating foods that are blue or black in color.

Diarrhea that lasts 2 weeks or less is known as acute diarrhea. Diarrhea that lasts longer than 4 weeks is considered chronic.

Loose bowel movements can have a lot of unpleasant symptoms, including:

If you see unexplained color changes in your liquid bowel movement, especially red, black, or tarry stool, seek emergency medical treatment.

Diarrhea, especially severe or chronic, may cause other complications in your body. These include:

You should always inform your doctor if you experience severe or consistent diarrhea lasting over 2 days.

Ensuring proper hydration and electrolyte balance is essential in all diarrhea management.

If the causes of your liquid poop are acute, symptoms should resolve within a few days. Until you feel better, the goals are to stay hydrated and rest.

Home remedies

Certain home remedies can ease your symptoms and promote recovery:

  • Drink plenty of clear liquids. Oral rehydration solutions, like Pedialyte, may also help restore fluid and electrolyte balance.
  • Limit physical exertion and rest thoroughly.
  • Take over-the-counter medications such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate).

Diet changes

When experiencing or recovering from diarrhea limiting intake of certain foods and drinks can help manage symptoms.

Food and drinks to limit or avoid include:

Learn more about what to eat when you have diarrhea here.

Medical treatment

Doctors can prescribe medical treatments to remedy the underlying causes of diarrhea. For example, doctors will prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial diarrhea and other relevant medications for IBD cases.

In cases of infectious diarrhea, doctors may even warn against taking anti-diarrheal drugs because they may back up the bacteria or viruses in your digestive tract, extending your illness. If you have a high fever or blood in your stool, avoid anti-diarrhea treatments like bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) and loperamide (Imodium).

Liquid bowel movements often resolve independently as the body passes the bacteria or other harmful factors contributing to your illness.

However, if you have bloody or regular diarrhea that lasts longer than 48 hours, contact a doctor to make sure your symptoms do not get worse.

A doctor may obtain a stool sample to send to a laboratory to test for the presence of certain bacteria, parasites, or viruses.

They also may recommend interventions, such as examining the intestinal lining via colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

Liquid bowel movements can lead to cramping, abdominal discomfort, and dehydration.

If your diarrhea lasts longer than a few days, contact a doctor to determine a potential underlying condition. Staying hydrated and eating bland foods can help you regain strength and avoid dehydration.

Read this article in Spanish.