How to Prevent and Relieve Hard Stool

Having hard stools can be a very uncomfortable experience. People may occasionally or chronically find hard stools difficult to pass through the rectum. However, at times, having this condition can also lead to several complications. Some peopleoften associate hard stools with constipation, but one can experience having hard stools without being constipated. Know what may cause it and how to prevent hard stool here.

What Causes Hard Stool?

When the food is eaten, it is broken down and emulsified in the stomach for efficient digestion. It will then enter the small intestine for nutrient absorption, leaving liquid and fiber to be sent to the large intestine where the formation of stool occurs. Majority of the water is reabsorbed by the intestine, leaving a semi-solid stool ready to evacuate the body. If the stool remains in the large intestine and colon for a longer period of time, excessive amounts of water are drawn out, causing the stool to become hard and dry. 

How to Prevent or Relieve Hard Stool

Hard stools are unpleasant. It is important to know how to prevent hard stool for a better and easier bowel movement. Learn some of the helpful tips and ideas that you can try for yourself below.

1. Avoid certain foods

Low fiber foods. Fiber is important for softening stools because it can absorb large quantities of fluids. Some of the low fiber foods that should be avoided include eggs, meat, pasta, white bread, white rice, canned vegetables, canned fruits, fruits without skin, and fruit juice without pulp.

Fatty foods. Fatty foods can aggravate the condition as they move slowly in the bowel, leading to reabsorption of the water content of the stools. The higher the amount of water reabsorbed from the stools, the harder they become. Some of the fatty foods that should be avoided include butter, French fries, ice cream, margarine, salad dressings, whole milk, and whole fat yogurt.

Processed foods. Processed foods contain a very small amount of fiber which is more likely to cause hard stools. Some of the processed foods that should be avoided include cakes, crackers, donuts, canned foods, and prepackaged meals.

Refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates can greatly contribute to hard stools and may cause an imbalance in the gut bacteria. Some of the refined carbohydrates that should be avoided include cakes and sweets, pasta, rice, and white bread. 

Insoluble fibers. Insoluble fibers are harder to digest. Some of the foods that contain insoluble fibers include wheat and bran.


Spicy foods

Artificial sweetener

2. Include certain foods

Include more helpful as listed below in your diet!

Fiber-rich foodsRegular eating of fiber helps bulk up and softens the stool. The commended amount of fiber intake is approximately 20 to 35mg per day for both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Foods rich in fiber include:

  • Bread – Ryvita and whole meal bread
  • Cereals and grains – porridge oats
  • Fruits and dried fruits – apples, berries, pears, and prunes
  • Legumes and nuts – beans, chia seeds, flax seeds, lentils, and peas
  • Vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, leeks, spinach, and sweet corn

Foods rich in vitamin CFoods rich in vitamin C can help soften stools, allowing them to pass easier and faster. Some of the good sources of vitamin C include:

  • Fruits – kiwi fruit and strawberries
  • Vegetables – broccoli, pepper, and tomatoes

Magnesium rich foodsMagnesium helps the muscles to work and promote peristalsis which can move the waste in the body. Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Almonds, cashew, and sunflower seeds
  • Avocados and dark green leafy vegetables
  • Wholegrain bread

Complex carbohydrates like vegetables and whole grains.

3. Drink more water

How to prevent hard stool? Full hydration can help prevent hard stools that are difficult to pass. Inadequate amounts of water in the body will draw more liquid out of the stools, causing it to become harder and drier.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Fruit, peppermint, and herbal teas can also be taken to help ease the digestion process. Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks should be avoided as they can both cause dehydrating.

4. Go to the toilet when necessary

Never put off bowel movements. Having hard stool is a sign that the stool is spending too much time in the colon. It is essential to tune in to the body’s needs and urges especially when it's signaling that the stool is ready for evacuation. Bowel movement is a natural thing that shouldn’t be delayed nor rushed.

5. Exercise regularly

Moving the body and incorporating a modest amount of exercise in the routine stimulate the intestinal activity. It helps massage the intestines and promotes the movement of waste out of the system. Take a walk and aim to exercise for about 30 minutes daily. Try to do Pilates or swimming for enhancing bowel functions and movements.

6. Relieve or minimize stress

Stress can cause hard stools. Take time to relax and have ‘me’ time. Eat meals in a relaxed manner to help and ensure that the digestive system is properly functioning.

7. Alternative therapy

  • Massage. Massaging can promote activity in the intestines and stimulate the skin and muscles around the gut. This may include compressing, stretching, and manipulating of the stomach for better motility.
  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that helps stimulate the colon through the insertion of very fine needles in various areas of the body. Though the efficacy of this technique is not well researched, it is believed to relieve the negative symptoms and release pain brought about by hard stools.
  • Other remedies. Homeopathic remedies are non-toxic, holistic and natural method to help promote softer stools. It is safe and effective to use as many laxatives are plant-based. However, consulting a doctor prior to starting this remedy is important as it may interfere with prescription medications being taken.

8. Use stool softener

How to prevent hard stool? Stool softeners are over the counter products that help soften the stools and initiate bowel movement in 12 to 72 hours. The active ingredient in stool softener is docusate. These products reduce the fluid that the intestines absorb, leaving more amount of water in the stool. It is generally safer to use but only for short-term use.

9. Seek medical help

Seeking medical help is necessary especially if symptoms persist. Normally, doctors will recommend stool softeners, laxatives, and both over the counter and prescription medications that can help draw water into the intestines.

Surgery may be an option for more serious digestive problems. Removal of bowel segment or segments of the rectum may be done to help prevent more problems from occurring. 

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