Read below about hard stools, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your hard stools from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Hard Stools Symptoms

If your poop is looking like rabbit poop lately — as in hard pellets of stool — you might be concerned that you are constipated or having a problem with your bowels. However, hard stools are quite common and, surprisingly, have little to do with constipation.

In fact, hard stools are typically a sign of a gut or digestive issue. With hard stools, you can have a bowel movement, the stools are just compacted and hard to push out of the bowels.

Let's look at the symptoms of hard stools, the causes, and what you can do to find relief today.

Often, hard stool symptoms are simply a sign of:

  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Lack of exercise
  • A symptom of a more serious gut issue called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Symptoms of hard stools include:

  • Hard, pellet-like stools
  • Difficulty emptying the bowels
  • Pain after defecating from strain on the colon

Hard Stools Causes Overview

Food we eat is absorbed into the small intestines and then turned into a liquid/fiber mixture that is then sent to the large intestines, where it is turned into stool (waste). As the waste is passing through the large intestines, the liquid is drawn out of the mixture, turning the substance into what we see as our poop or feces If the substance stays too long in the large intestine, more and more liquid will be drawn out of it, resulting in hard dry stools.

That is why most often, hard stools are a sign of a digestive issue—not a problem with constipation. Constipation is a condition where you're not producing stool in the large intestines and you have fewer than three bowel movements a week. With hard stools, you may go every day, the stool is just overly hard and difficult to pass.

Let's look at the common causes of hard stools more closely.

  • Dehydration/Not drinking enough water: Lack of fluids in the body or dehydration is the number one cause of hard stool symptoms and constipation. If you don't have enough water in your system as food passes from the stomach to the large intestines, they will extract all of the water from your stool when they begin forming waste. When all this water is drained out of the stool, the stool becomes dried, hard, and difficult to pass out of the colon. Liquids add bulk and moisture to stool, making it easier to pass.

  • Not eating enough fiber: Eating a diet rich in carbs and fats but devoid of fruits and vegetables can greatly impact one's digestive process and the formation of stool as well. We need a fiber-rich diet and at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Most Americans eat only 5 to 14 grams of fiber a day, so hard stools and constipation are a frequent problem with people that eat an unhealthy diet. Fiber turns to liquid in the intestines, helping to flush stool out of the large intestines and into the colon.

  • Lack of Exercise/Sedentary Lifestyle: Exercise increases blood flow to the gut and rest of the body, and this helps the speed the muscles contractions of the gut. So lack of exercise can cause hard stools.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Many persons with IBS or other diseases of the gut have problem forming normal stools and pushing them out of the colon.

  • Medications: Certain medications dehydrate or impact the bowels' ability to contract and push out stools. Medications that can cause hard stools and/or constipation include diuretics, narcotic pain medications, iron supplements and antispasmodic drugs.

8 Potential Hard Stools Causes

  1. 1.Constipation From Not Eating Enough Fiber

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly, it is linked to not eating enough fiber, which is the material that provides bulk to your stools.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, constipation, pain in the lower left abdomen, pain when passing stools, feeling of needing to constantly pass stool
    Symptoms that always occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber:
    constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Constipation Resulting From Dehydration

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not drinking enough water, which causes the stools to be dry and hard.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, constipation, general abdominal pain, pain in the lower left abdomen, pain when passing stools
    Symptoms that always occur with constipation resulting from dehydration:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with constipation resulting from dehydration:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Normal Variation of Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with normal variation of constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with normal variation of constipation:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Anal Fissure

    Anal fissures are splits or tears in the part of the anus closest outside of the body. They're very common and typically affect the young and middle-aged and both genders, equally. 11% of people will have an anal fissure in their lifetime.

    Conservative treatment leads to 50% healing rate. More aggressive treatments are needed for those with chronic anal fissures.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal pain, pain when passing stools, painful rectal bleeding, hard stools, mild rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with anal fissure:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  5. 5.Diverticulosis

    Diverticulosis is a condition where small pouches bulge outward through the large intestine (colon). It increases with age, with up to 50% of people over the age of 60 having developed it. Most people don't have symptoms. Eating fiber is shown to reduce the risk of diverticulosis, with vegetarians reducing their risk by half.

    Diverticulosis does not typically go away; however, the risk of complications can be reduced with a better diet

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, incomplete evacuation of stools
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Chronic Anal Fissure

    Anal fissures are splits or tears in the part of the anus closest outside of the body. They're very common and typically affect the young and middle-aged and both genders, equally. 11% of people will have an anal fissure in their lifetime.

    60% of people will heal with the pain-relieving cream. 30% will require a surgical option.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal pain, pain when passing stools, painful rectal bleeding, hard stools, mild rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic anal fissure:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Opioid - Related Constipation

    Opioids (oxycodone, morphine, percocet, fentanyl) are powerful pain relievers that act on different chemical receptors throughout the body. In the intestines, opioids signal the gut to slow down movement, leading to constipation.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, feeling of needing to constantly pass stool, straining while passing stool, hard stools, pain in the lower left abdomen
    Symptoms that always occur with opioid-related constipation:
    constipation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Celiac Disease

    Celiac disease is an immune disease in which gluten damages the small intestine. Avoid products containing gluten such as wheat, rye, & barley.

    Upon starting a gluten-free diet, nausea and bloating are likely to improve within a few days or weeks. It may take months or longer to feel completely better.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Hard Stools Treatments and Relief

Diet and exercise:

  • Drinking more water will help hydrate the stool, making it easier to pass. Getting more exercise will help the bowel to contract and pass stool in general. Since fiber dissolves into liquid in the gut, eating more soluble and insoluble fiber can help as well as taking fiber supplements.

Medications:

  • Using a stool softener or anal suppository can often bring the quickest relief. Colace, Senokot and Correctol are good brands to try and Fleet enemas shoot water up into the colon, helping you to pass stools more easily.

Medical:

  • If hard stools persist despite your attepts to eat a healthy diet, exercise, drink more liquids, or trying over-the-counter aids, you need to see a doctor, who can look for any deeper issue that may be at work.

FAQs About Hard Stools

Here are some frequently asked questions about hard stools.

What foods can make your stool hard?

In general, foods that are low in fiber may cause or worsen constipation. Some examples include dairy products, white bread, red meat, fried foods, and alcohol. Not taking in enough fluids can also lead to constipation and hard stools.

Can hard stools lead to hemorrhoids?

Yes. Constipation is one of the main causes of hemorrhoids, or swollen rectal veins, in part because of straining during bowel movements. Hemorrhoids can be painful and may bleed during a bowel movement. If you see blood in your stool or if your stool appears tar-colored, you should see a doctor to assess for other causes of bloody bowel movements besides hemorrhoids.

How do I soften my stool?

There are several ways to decrease or prevent constipation. Eating a high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables will improve bowel movements. You can also take fiber powders (Metamucil, Citrucel) and pills or eat high fiber cereals. Alternatively, there are medications that can improve constipation. They include stool softeners such as docusate sodium and laxatives such as psyllium seed, methylcellulose, polycarbophil, and dextrans.

Why is my toddler's poop so hard?

Your young child may have constipation because he/she may have a tear in his/her anus, which could lead to voluntary holding due to pain with defecation. He/she may have less frequent bowel movements if he/she is in an environment where he/she does not feel safe and secure. Alternatively, your child's constipation may be due to a medical problem such as Hirschsprung disease, an abnormality in the anus, or an abnormality in the spinal cord.

What can I do for constipation when pregnant?

Ways to improve constipation during pregnancy include consuming plenty of fluids, eating a high-fiber diet, and maintaining a moderate amount of exercise. In addition, you may consider using laxatives approved for use during pregnancy if the above methods do not improve your constipation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Hard Stools

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our hard stools symptom checker to find out more.

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Hard Stools Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced hard stools have also experienced:

    • 12% Constipation
    • 8% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 7% Rectal Bleeding
  • People who have experienced hard stools were most often matched with:

    • 47% Normal Variation of Constipation
    • 12% Constipation Resulting From Dehydration
    • 9% Constipation From Not Eating Enough Fiber
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

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