Hard stools: Causes and home remedies

hard stoolsHard stools can be unpleasant to pass and may occur occasionally or chronically for some.

When we eat, the nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, which releases liquid and fiber into the large intestine. In the large intestine, then, the stool is formed. As the newly formed stool moves along the large intestine, the liquid is drawn out. If the stool is present in the large intestine and colon for too long, then additional liquid can be drawn out, making the stool dry and hard.


Many people associate hard stools with constipation, but you can have hard stools without being constipated too. Constipation is characterized as passing less than three bowel movements a week, so it’s possible to have hard stools every day.

Hard stool causes

To understand the cause of hard stools, it is helpful to know how the digestive system works and forms normal stools. When food is consumed, it is emulsified in the stomach, breaking it down into smaller pieces for efficient digestion. Leaving the stomach, it then enters the small intestine where the majority of nutrients are absorbed, leaving mostly fiber and liquid to be sent to the large intestine. Here is where the formation of stool occurs, as the majority of water is reabsorbed by the intestine, leaving a semi-solid stool ready to be evacuated by the body. When the stool is in the large intestine for prolonged periods of time, excessive amounts of water can be drawn out, leaving hard and relatively dry stools.

Hard stool home remedies

If hard stools are plaguing you, try some of the home remedies below to improve your bowel movements and prevent hard stools.

Eat a high-fiber diet: Eating fiber regularly helps bulk up your stools and soften them up. Adequate fiber intake is 20 to 35mg a day. High fiber foods include bread, cereal, grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts.

Exercise regularly: Physical activity can stimulate bowel movements.

Hydrate: Being well hydrated can keep your stools soft.

Don’t hold in your bowel movements: Holding in bowel movements can cause the stool to become dryer and harder.

Give yourself a massage: Massaging the abdomen by compressing, stretching, and manipulating the skin can help relax the bowels and get things moving.

Try acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicinal technique may help stimulate the colon and relieve pain related to constipation.

Avoid fatty foods: Foods high in fat can promote hard stools and slow down the bowels.

Drink water with Epsom salt: Drinking a combination of water and Epsom salt can help relieve constipation. This is not intended to be used for long term. Adding in some lemon juice can ease the foul taste.

Take oil: Olive and flaxseed oil have been found to be natural laxatives.

With some of these natural home remedies, you can have better relief from hard stools and even constipation. If hard stools and constipation are chronic, speak to your doctor, as there may be an underlying condition such as an obstruction.

How to Soften Hard Stools

Having hard stool can be an uncomfortable experience commonly associated with constipation. When the stools remain in the gut for prolonged periods of time, the body naturally leeches out an excessive amount of water from the stool, leaving hard, relatively dry stools that can be difficult to excrete. Severe cases may cause excessive pain and possibly bleeding while passing stool, even leading to some bowel related medical conditions. In most cases, thankfully, there are things you can do at home to help relieve hard stools, but if you are experiencing unbearable pain—or believe that you are not having normal defecation—speak to your doctor to seek a more definitive solution. The following are some ideas you can try yourself:

Home remedies

High fiber diet: Often a change in your diet is the only change you need to make to remedy abnormal digestive tract problems, constipation being one of them. Adding high-fiber foods (20g to 35g of fiber) into your rotation of everyday foods can help the body form softer stools. Some examples of foods include whole wheat bread, cereal and grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit.

BreadGranola bread, wheat bran muffins, whole wheat bread, Nutri-Grain waffles, popcorn
Cereal and GrainsRaisin Bran, Bran Flakes, Frosted Mini Wheat’s, Shredded Wheat, Oatmeal, Muslim, Bran Buds, All-Bran, Fiber One, 100% Bran, Corn Bran, granola, oat bran, brown rice, rye bread, multigrain
VegetablesArtichoke, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green peas, green beans, sweet corn, corn, spinach, butternut squash, potatoes with skin, turnip greens
LegumesLentils, baked beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chili with beans
FruitsAvocado, apples with peel, banana, oranges, papayas, nectarines, kiwis, pears, blackberries, raspberries, mangos, strawberries, cooked prunes
OthersPeanut butter, trail mix, almonds, pistachio nuts, pecans, dried figs, sunflower seed kernels, tomato paste, applesauce, raisins, dates

Regular exercise: Moving your body and getting a modest amount of exercise helps promote and stimulate intestinal activity. Taking a walk can do wonders to help get things moving along.

Fluid intake: Drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated but also allow for your stool to retain more water, creating softer stools.

Bowel movements: When nature calls, it is best to listen. It is recommended to listen to your body and visit the bathroom whenever you need to expel waste. Don’t ignore this urge.

Alternative therapies

Massage: Compressing, stretching, and manipulating the stomach area through massage can stimulate the skin and muscles around the gut. This may help promote activity in the intestine, stimulating guy motility.

Acupuncture: A traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of very fine needles into various areas of the body. While not based on scientific knowledge, the theory behind this practice is that energy is channeled through these needles, which are thought to relieve the negative symptoms a patient may be having. This therapy can help stimulate the colon and release any pain from constipation, although its efficacy is not well researched.

Homeopathic remedies: Often considered a non-toxic, holistic, and overall natural method to relieve symptoms of all kinds, homeopathic medicines exist to help relieve constipation and promote softer stools. Many laxatives are plant based and do an effective job while being safe to use. However, it is important to speak to your doctor before starting any homeopathic remedy if you are currently taking prescription medications, as they may interfere with previously established regimens set out by your physician.

Medical treatments

Laxatives: These are generally chemicals that help add to stool mobility, frequency, and bulk, with the express purpose of relieving constipation. The issue with using such medication is its potential for overuse or abuse as it may be used by some individuals irresponsibly to aid in weight loss. This can lead to a negative impact on health and can even be life threatening in extreme cases.

Other medication: Prescription medication exists to help alleviate constipation using such agents as Lubiprostone or Amitiza. They mainly increase fluid content of stool, being chloride channel activators, which play a role in fluid excretion in the intestines. Due to various health and safety concerns, these medications are not available in the United States


Surgeries: When all other options have been exhausted or a more serious problem has been discovered, surgery may be an option to help relieve digestive symptoms. Depending on the issue, removal of bowel segments or segments of the anal sphincter or rectum may help your particular gastrointestinal problems.

Treating potential diseases: There are many diseases and abnormalities that result in hard stools and other digestive problems. Speaking to your doctor about your specific situation may shed some light on how to proceed.

Related: Floating poop (steatorrhea): Understand why your stool floats



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