Finding large food pieces from your last meal in the toilet isn't something you should take lightly, especially if it occurs on an ongoing basis. Long-term cases of diarrhea can permanently damage your bowels, ultimately leaving you malnourished. Sometimes loose stools are simply a sign that your fiber intake is off. Although in more serious situations, it can stem from bowel disorders or food intolerances or allergies.
Improper Fiber Intakes
Fiber is supposed to keep you regular, assuming you get enough of it in your diet. If your fiber intake is lacking, food can move through too quickly in some cases, causing food to race through without being digested all the way. The same is sometimes true if you get too much fiber. Eating a high-fiber meal disrupts the healthy bacterial colonies in your bowels if you're not used to a lot of fiber, leading to loose runny stools. (ref 1/side effects) Your goal is to work your way up to getting 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states. (ref 6/pg 41)
If your intestines are constantly inflamed, they won't be able to move food along properly or absorb nutrients efficiently. Chronic diarrhea can be a warning sign of long-term bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome or colitis, to name a few. Sometimes chronic bowel disorders are hereditary, but other times stress or changes in activity level can also cause them. These conditions can't always be cured, although you can lessen uncomfortable episodes of diarrhea by making changes in your diet, under your doctor's supervision. (ref 2/colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ref 4/absorption of nutrient...)
Sensitivity to Food
Being sensitive or intolerant of a certain food sends your digestive tract into a frenzy. For example, if you have low levels of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in dairy, you could pass undigested food that was eaten during the same meal. (ref 3/fiber tends to bulk…, ref 4/digestion can be affected...) The same is true for gluten in some people. When you have celiac disease, your body treats gluten from certain grains as a foreign substance. (ref 3/common causes of increased chart) When this happens, your digestive tract doesn't know what to do with the substance and pushes out everything just to get rid of it. Pay attention to what you eat and see if the diarrhea only occurs after eating certain foods.
Regular watery stools containing undigested food could be a sign of a mild food allergy. If your nose starts running, if you start coughing or if hives start popping up on your skin, a certain food could be triggering an allergic reaction. (ref 5/mild symptoms) While these symptoms aren't serious, you'll need to get checked for food allergies anyways. In severe cases, an allergy leads to anaphylactic shock. Tongue swelling, difficulty breathing and wheezing are just a few of the signals that let you know you could be severely allergic to a particular food.
- MedlinePlus: Fiber
- Cleveland Clinic: Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Mercola.com: What You See in the Toilet Can Give You Valuable Insights into Your Health
- The Merck Manual: Overview of Malabsorption
- Food Allergy Research & Education: Symptoms
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010