Having hard, lumpy stools (or poo) is something most of us have probably experienced from time-to-time. Hard stools are one of the main symptoms of constipation and can be linked to causes such as your lifestyle, life stage, taking certain medications or another health condition you may have. It’s not always easy to know why your stools become hard, but it usually has something to do with your gut, or more specifically your colon, the longest part of your gut
- The colon’s job is to absorb water and nutrients from digested food waste ‘slurry’ and move the food waste along to the rectum where it’s stored, ready to be passed out through the anus
- If your stool stays in the colon too long, then extra water is removed and it can become hard, dry and pebble-like.
The good news is there are a number of simple remedies that can help relieve this uncomfortable problem.
Hard stools can be caused by lots of different things. Sometimes these will be obvious or there may be a combination of reasons, while at other times there may be no apparent cause. The most common causes of hard stools and constipation include:
- Being dehydrated (not drinking enough fluids)
- Not having enough fibre in your diet
- A lack of exercise
- Ignoring the urge to pass a stool
- Taking certain medications, including some pain relievers, blood pressure medications, anti-depressants and iron tablets
- Different life stages << link to Life Stages page>>, such as pregnancy or old age
- Having a condition that affects your digestive tract.
If you get hard stools regularly and you don’t know why or you are worried about constipation, talk to your doctor. They will be able to help determine the cause and advise you on the treatment best suited to you.
Hard stool symptoms
When your stools become hard and dry, you can find yourself experiencing a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of hard stools and constipation include:
- Straining when trying to pass the hard stool
- Feeling bloated
- Tummy pain or discomfort
- Producing fewer stools than normal
- Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bowels fully.
Any change in your bowel habits should be discussed with your doctor. In some cases, straining to pass large, hard stools may cause painful tears in the skin of the anus or haemorrhoids (piles). This can lead to streaks of blood on your toilet paper or in the toilet. Hard stools or constipation can occasionally be caused by another health condition, and it is important to see your doctor if you also have other symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Bleeding or blood in your stools
- Pain, cramping or bloating.
How to loosen bowel movement
It’s a good idea to try to soften up your stools sooner rather than later, not only to help relieve any discomfort, but also to help prevent things getting any worse. There are a range of simple changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that may help, including:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Increase the fibre in your diet
- Be as active as you can
- Go to the toilet when you need to
In addition to these simple changes, there are other natural remedies for constipation and hard stools that may help. These include options such as adding foods with natural laxative properties or probiotics to your diet. When diet and lifestyle changes are not helping enough, a laxative may be needed to help soften your stools and help move things along. Find out more about constipation treatments and how Coloxyl can help with hard stools and constipation.
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