Dry, hard stool can be painful, extremely frustrating, and turn a good day to a bad one in a hurry. And if you don’t do your best to treat the dehydrated food waste as quickly as possible, the occasional discomfort can become a much worse chronic condition. Hard stools that hurt to pass can turn into stomach pain, bloating, and potentially severe constipation.
Thankfully, you can treat it with a number of home remedies. Hard stool can usually be corrected by a few lifestyle and dietary decisions, many of which do not require too much time or effort. Softening stool can be as simple as drinking more water, eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise, and improving gut flora.
What Causes Hard Stool?
Hard stool causes are usually a lack of water and fiber in the diet, which prevents waste from moving quickly and easily through your digestive system.
After eating, bacteria in your digestive system break down the nutrients needed for bodily function. However, many of the items you consume have no value and need to be expelled. This, ultimately, is what ends up in the toilet. In order to move quickly and comfortably, this waste needs enough fiber and water to make it soft enough to pass through the intestines without struggle.
Hard stools are typically a result of constipation. They are dry, hard, and excreted in small parts, offering no sense of bowel relief. They are painful to pass and cause strain in forcing the slightest bowel movement. If you don’t act on it, constipation can become quite severe and require hospitalization.
How to Soften Hard Stool
If you’re frustrated by hard stool and constipation, there are a number of things you can try to soften it for comfortable, normal bowel movements.
Home Remedies for Hard Stool
1. High-Fiber Diet
One of the biggest reasons for constipation and bowel trouble is a lack of dietary fiber. Men and women should be getting 38 and 28 grams (g) respectively per day, and most Americans come nowhere near that.
Getting a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber can offer major relief from constipation, and can be derived from eating a variety or fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some of the best dietary sources of fiber include:
- Leafy greens
Really, if it comes out of the ground, you can bet it will have some fiber. So, eat as many fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains as possible throughout the day.
To maximize the effects of fiber, keep these things in mind:
- You need to drink plenty of water.
- Fruits and veggies need to be consumed in whole form—not smoothies and juices—for fiber to be present.
- Fiber is best consumed intermittently throughout the day, so make sure to include some with every meal and snack.
2. Physical Activity
Body movement also plays a big role in bowel movement. If you’re eating enough fiber and drinking water, the issue may reside in the fact that you’re not spending enough time upright and moving during the day.
Gravity, muscle contractions, and the movement from exercise may all help stool pass through the digestive tract a little easier. Aiming for 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week, taking place over the course of three to five days, is recommended. Walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, or resistance training are all strong options.
3. Fluid Intake
Sipping water, tea, and other beverages throughout the day can also help soften stool and kick-start the effects of dietary fiber. Try and avoid sugary and alcoholic drinks that can lead to health problems.
And perhaps include a morning coffee or two in your daily routine—it’s been found to induce anal sphincter contractions that can help induce bowel movements. That said, it is a mild diuretic, so be sure to increase water intake for balance.
The priority should be drinking water or prune juice to soften stool to help it move effectively through the intestines.
4. Massage Therapy
Abdominal massage may also help ease the pain of hard stool and play a role in relieving constipation. This method may be most effective for people with specific medical conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, which increase the risk and occurrence of constipation.
It may work by stimulating peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food and waste through the digestive tract. This decreases transit time and increases the frequency of bowel movements.
5. Epsom Salt Water
The presence of magnesium in Epsom salt is what provides its stool-softening benefits. Magnesium helps draw water into the gut to soften stool.
But be warned, it can easily lead to diarrhea and therefore great discomfort. Although magnesium is very healthy overall, drinking it might not be the best idea for you. Talk to your doctor.
6. Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil
Both of these oils could help relieve the symptoms of constipation. Olive oil is likely your best bet, however, as research has shown that it can help with more symptoms than flaxseed oil. A dose of about four milliliters per day is a good place to start, but it’s also entirely possible that it will have no effect.
Medication Treatment for Hard Stools
There are a variety of medicines used to help with constipation and soften stools. Some use psyllium fiber to push stool down through the system, while others draw water into the gut to help soften or provide lubrication.
There are natural and pharmaceutical brands, but neither should be used for more than a week. Typically, they are taken at night before bed and should be consumed with plenty of water, and come in a variety of forms like capsules, tablets, liquids, syrups or powder.
2. Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is a type of laxative that falls into the “lubricant” category. It works by keeping water in the stool and intestines, helping to provide a slippery surface that can assist in moving stool though the intestines. Talk to your doctor before taking it and after you have exhausted dietary efforts.
Complications from Hard Stool
Left too long, hard stool and constipation can lead to much more than discomfort in your stomach and pain during bowel movements. Without treatment, severe constipation can lead to fecal impaction—a solid, immobile bulk of feces collected in the rectum; bowel obstruction; bowel perforation; and electrolyte imbalances and disturbances, which can to an increase in the risk of colon cancer and a higher risk of mortality.
Having excess waste remain in your system is not good for your health. The sooner you can remove it, the better you will feel and the less overall health risks you will experience. It’s important to pay attention to make sure soft, easy-to-pass stools are occurring regularly.
How to Prevent Hard Stool
Give yourself the best chance at preventing constipation by:
- Eating plenty of fiber from whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
- Drinking water throughout the day—aim for about eight glasses, making sure urine is clear or slightly yellow.
- Getting some exercise every day.
- Monitoring the consistency, frequency, and difficulty of bowel movements.
- Eating fermented foods (probiotics) that encourage “good” gut bacteria.
Home Remedies Handle Hard Stools
Unless you have a medical condition that inhibits regular healthy bowel movements, you should be able to restore your digestive system and get rid of hard stools with the help of some simple, natural methods.
Replace sugary, fatty, and processed foods with fiber-rich items and some additional water and exercise, and you should see some positive change within a few days. By using home remedies, hard stools can be easily treated and prevented.
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