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Question : My husband has had loose, poorly-formed stools for more than a year. He increased his fiber intake, but that hasn’t helped. What do you suggest?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 27, 2012
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A:

Your husband needs to see his doctor. He or she will find the reason for his problem, rather than just trying something else to firm his stools.

It may be something simple, such as lactose intolerance. By limiting dairy products, the problem may go away.

Or it could be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a common reason for loose stools, but it’s unusual for it to start in middle age. There is no specific test for IBS. His doctor will first rule out other causes before jumping to this diagnosis.

Other possible reasons for loose stools include:

  • A side effect from medicine
  • Overuse of alcohol
  • Gluten sensitivity, possibly celiac disease
  • Inflammation in the intestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Liver or pancreas disorders, which can decrease absorption of fats and cause loose stools
  • A lingering parasite, such as Giardia

These are just a few examples in a very long list of possibilities.

If changes in his diet don’t help, his doctor may suggest taking over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium). One pill per day might be enough. He shouldn’t use too much because he could quickly become constipated.

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