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Diarrhea in Adults

By Norton J. Greenberger, MD

(For diarrhea in children, see Diarrhea in Children.)

Diarrhea is an increase in the volume, wateriness, or frequency of bowel movements. However, the frequency of bowel movements alone is not the defining feature of diarrhea. Some people normally move their bowels 3 to 5 times a day. People who eat large amounts of vegetable fiber may produce more than a pound (1/2 kilogram) of stool a day, but the stool in such cases is well formed and not watery. Diarrhea is often accompanied by gas, cramping, an urgency to defecate, and, if the diarrhea is caused by an infectious organism or a toxic substance, nausea and vomiting.

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