While it is natural for stool to vary in appearance and consistency, poop that frequently appears stringy may require further medical investigation.
A person’s stool and bowel habits are considered good indicators of overall health. A healthy stool is a couple of inches in diameter, but stringy poop appears much narrower in comparison. It may also be flat, solid, or liquid.
Causes of stringy poop
Poop can take on a stringy appearance for many reasons. Here are some of the common reasons for stringy stools.
1. Poor diet
Consuming an unhealthy diet increases the chance of constipation.
A diet that is low in fiber or fluids increases the chance of constipation. As a result, the stool can be less bulky and shrinks in size, taking on a stringy appearance.
Chronic constipation often leads to blockages that develop in the colon, leading to the passage of thin, stringy stools.
A simple way to counter constipation is to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereal, beans, and lentils.
Potatoes with the skins on, oats, almonds, and peas are other examples of high-fiber foods to include in your diet.
The American Heart Association recommend a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber, which helps soften the stool and aid bowel movement. The diets of most Americans, however, contain less than half this optimum amount.
2. Intestinal infection
Some bacteria or parasites cause infections in the digestive tract, particularly the intestines. Besides stringy stool, symptoms of intestinal infections include nausea, cramps, fatigue, and weight loss.
In most cases, doctors can easily treat these infections with antibiotics, antiparasitic drugs, or medicines that neutralize stomach acidity. These treatments will both clear up the infection and resolve the issue of stringy stool.
3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a disorder of the large intestine and could be responsible for changes in a person’s bowel habits. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and persistent discomfort.
The cause of IBS is not fully understood. Among the theories is an oversensitivity of nerves in the intestine, intestinal muscle disorders, and inflammation of the lining of the intestine.
Medicine cannot cure IBS, as yet, but many people experience relief by avoiding triggers and learning to manage their symptoms in other ways.
4. Colorectal cancer
People should talk to their doctor if they find blood in their stool.
- rectal bleeding
- blood in the stool, giving it a dark appearance
- abdominal pain
- persistent weakness
- unexplained but noticeable weight loss
If any of these symptoms are present, it is wise to check with a doctor who can confirm or rule out the presence of colorectal cancer and start treatment, accordingly.
Other common conditions that are known to cause stringy stool include:
- a stretched or distended colon
- narrowing, or anorectal stricture, between the rectum and anus
- tiny growths or polyps in the colon
- a hard mass of stool stuck in the colon, called fecal impaction
- inflammation of the colon, occurring with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- abdominal hernias
Diagnosing stringy poop
A doctor may recommend taking a stool sample test to check for bacterial or parasitic infections.
Depending on the frequency of the problem, and the presence of other symptoms, a doctor may need to carry out further investigation to determine the underlying cause of stringy stool.
The doctor will recommend one or more of the following tests:
- stool sample test to detect a bacterial or parasitic infection
- fecal occult test to check for blood in the stool
- imaging tests, such as CT scans or X-ray, with a contrast solution, or barium, to show the digestive tract
- colonoscopy to study the entire colon
- flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine the lower colon
Stringy stool is not usually a cause for concern and tends to resolve on its own.
If it continues for longer than a week and is present alongside other symptoms, people should check with a doctor.
Most cases of this type of stool have a good outlook, especially when diagnosed and treated early.
Written by Gillian D’Souza