The term “narrow stool” describes feces smaller in diameter than usual and identifies several health problems. The cause of narrow stools may be constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon cancer, or other gastrointestinal conditions. In addition, your healthcare provider can help identify the problem and provide effective remedies. See a doctor right away if your stools are thin.
What is Narrow Stool?
The narrow stool is pencil-thin, ribbon poop, or narrow-shaped stringy poop. In some cases, it’s both thin and flat stool. It could be rigid or fluid. Its estimated diameter is somewhere between one to two inches.
You can experience narrow stool in combination with additional gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and cramping in the stomach.
To know what your springy narrow poop is trying to indicate, let’s look at the causes in detail.
Causes of Narrow Stool
Causes of Narrow Stool can be both dependent and independent. Independent reasons, like your dietary intake, are in your control, but independent causes are out of your reach! Because it’s some infection or disease that makes your poop shape unusual.
Here are some most common causes of narrow stool.
Low Fiber Diet
Diet is the most influencing factor that can help maintain healthy bowel movements and frequency. When it comes to a thin narrow poop, it is most likely to be experienced by obstructions that develop in the colon due to chronic constipation. As a result, the stool size may be less, making it seem narrow and stringy. Constipation occurs more often if you eat a diet low in fiber.
As this cause depends on your dietary intake, you can easily manage it by adding insoluble fiber.
Intestinal infection is an independent cause of where the body may experience altered bowel movements and thin stools. Infection can be mainly in the colon, for example, gastroenteritis. Narrow stools may result from a constricted stoma channel caused by inflammation of the intestines.
Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, a condition of the large intestine, may lead to abnormal bowel movements and frequency. Moreover, it causes intestine swelling, ultimately altering the stool shape and turning it into a bit of pencil poop.
Gastrointestinal parasite infections
Parasites can be the silent enemy that is causing a disturbance. Gastrointestinal Parasites, also known as roundworms such as little worms, might cause thin and narrow stool or diarrhea. They can survive in your gut after living in the soil and getting into your diet.
The following also includes the causes of narrow stools:
- Anorectal stricture is a dilated or constricted colon, Obstructing the rectum and anus.
- A tiny growth or polyp in the colon, known as fecal impaction, or a mass of hard stools trapped there.
- Colon inflammation carried on by Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Abdominal Hernias
Medical Conditions Associated with Narrow Stool
Following are the common coexisting or related medical conditions with narrow stools.
These, often known as piles, are most likely veins with swelling similar to varicose veins in the lower rectum and anus. Also, hemorrhoids can form under the skin around the anus (external hemorrhoids) or inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids)
Narrow stools may result from hemorrhoids. Numerous factors might lead to hemorrhoids, including:
- Straining when having bowel movements
- Spend a lot of time on the toilet
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Consuming low-fiber food
- Lifting heavy objects repeatedly
- Being overweight or obese
Usually, increased abdominal pressure causes hemorrhoids to form.
Diverticula are small, sharp-edged pouches that can develop in the lining of your digestive tract. They are usually present in the lower part of the large intestine (colon). When diverticulosis significantly worsens, the lower colon may become highly fixed, twisted, and restricted. It can lead to constipation, thin poop, and the sporadic start of diarrhea.
Fecal impaction, similar to constipation, occurs when a bulk of dry stool is stuck or lodged in the rectum and blocks the path of stool, making evacuation difficult. Thin feces pass through the blockage.
Narrow stools could indicate a cancerous gut tumor around the anus. Pencil-thin stool might be the only thing that can pass through the obstruction if it is big enough to stop the stool from moving through the intestine.
Skinny stool caused by HPV (human papillomavirus)may result from this rare form of cancer. Feeling bloated and rectal bleeding are common symptoms.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Changes in the stool can result from Crohn’s disease. The feces’ frequency, consistency, and appearance may differ from regular due to the inflammation (swelling and redness) and ulcers carried on by Crohn’s disease in the small or large intestine.
Twisted bowel (Volvulus)
“Volvulus” means when an intestine loop bends around itself and obstructs the gut. In several disorders, Volvulus may transmit diseases like Hirschsprung disease.
Risk Factors of Narrow Stools
- A family history of the condition
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- A diet rich in red or processed meat
- A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for colorectal cancer
- A history of abdominal surgery, particular drugs, and specific medical diseases like Crohn’s Disease are risk factors for intestinal blockage.
Suppose you frequently see changes in the appearance of the stool, or it may be narrower than usual. In that case, your doctor can refer you to a rectal or colon specialist who can suggest various tests to diagnose the disease. Doctors recommend several methods.
Fecal Occult Test
A fecal occult test (FOBT) is to find hidden blood in stool samples. Additionally, this test checks for colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal conditions that may result in gastrointestinal bleeding. Moreover, the FOBT test takes a tiny feces sample and checks in a lab to identify whether blood is present. The guaiac-based FOBT (gFOBT) and the fecal immunochemical test are the two types of FOBT assays (FIT). To detect the presence of blood in the stool, the gFOBT test uses a chemical called guaiac, which turns blue with the sample.
Stool Sample Test
A doctor can also recommend doing a stool sample examination for infections. Using a stool culture, the doctor can check whether the intestines have bacterial contamination.
Little stool samples are collected by a technician in sterile plastic dishes with nutrients that promote the growth of particular bacteria. Growth will occur only if the targeted bacteria are already in the stool sample.
Blood tests to detect infection
The process of a blood test is simple and familiar. Lab attendants examine particular biomarkers that analyze the blood changed composition. When inflammatory bowel disease is present, a blood test will show an increased white blood cell count, which could indicate inflammation.
The following tests are essential to get the correct diagnosis
- CT Scan
- X-ray imaging of your abdomen and pelvis
The doctor may occasionally use a CT scan or X-ray to obtain a better image of the colon and rectum. These examinations can reveal further information regarding the internal structure of the organs and other abnormalities.
Endoscopy or colonoscopy
Medical techniques like endoscopy and colonoscopy can help identify the root cause of thin stools. In these procedures, a doctor may insert a long, flexible tube with a camera at one end into the colon and rectum to check their linings.
When a patient experiences thin stools, the doctor may detect a constriction or obstruction in the colon or rectum. In addition, you can use endoscopy or colonoscopy to find the position and size of any blockage.
The doctor may do a biopsy, which comprises collecting a microscopic tissue sample for analysis if an obstruction is found. It can help determine whether a tumor, scar tissue, or inflammation is the cause of the block.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is another medical diagnostic procedure to find the cause of narrow stools. Like a colonoscopy, this operation focuses on inspecting only the rectum and the bottom part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon.
During a flexible sigmoidoscopy, a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera on its end into the rectum and sigmoid colon. Also, they are making it possible for the doctor to identify any irregularities, including inflammation, polyps, or tumors, on the lining of these organs.
Narrow Stool Treatment
The following treatment options are most commonly applied during clinical practices.
If enema and manual removal are failed, a doctor may advise laxatives. In addition, they increase the amount of water the colon produces, softening the impacted stool and facilitating removal.
These are prescription drugs that ease constipation and improve bowel movements. Stool softeners make stools easier to pass by increasing the amount of water and fat in the stool. Furthermore, stool softeners, which produce softer, easier-to-pass feces, can help reduce symptoms of narrow stool disease.
A short tube irrigating the colon is pushed into the rectum. A machine that emits water through a tube is connected to the hose. After the irrigation, your doctor will massage your abdomen to help another line remove the waste from your rectum.
Increasing Water Consumption
Drinking more water is a quick and efficient way to ease the symptoms of a narrow bowel movement. Furthermore, water is necessary to keep a soft bowel movement and avoid constipation, which can result in pencil poop and difficulty in releasing.
You can promote regular bowel movements and avoid constipation by increasing your diet with high-fiber meals, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, it is essential for narrow stool disease because constipation worsens symptoms.
Surgery might be necessary in some cases of narrow stool illness, mainly if a physical obstruction or structural issues are responsible for the symptoms.
The following surgical methods could be used to treat narrow stool disease.
In this procedure, a segment of the bowel that has been obstructed or narrowed is removed. Reconnecting the remaining intestinal ends restores normal bowel function.
This treatment includes making lengthwise incisions and then suturing the incisions to increase the diameter of the gut to enlarge a narrowed segment of the colon.
Colostomy or ileostomy
In some circumstances, a temporary or permanent opening (stoma) may be made in the abdomen to allow stool to flow through a constricted or blocked part of the colon.
It is a neurotransmitter that functions in various biological activities, including regulating bowel movements. Anticholinergic medications are a type of medicine that suppresses this neurotransmitter’s action. These drugs may help treat symptoms of thin stools.
Anticholinergic drugs treat constipation by relaxing the smooth muscles of the intestines, which might promote more frequent bowel movements.
Painkillers are not preferable for treating narrow stools since they can aggravate the symptoms of constipation and narrow stools. Also, opioids and other painkillers can slow the passage of stools through the digestive tract and lead to constipation, making feces more challenging to pass. In some circumstances, non-opioid painkillers, physical therapy, or other non-pharmacological treatments may reduce pain.
Specific antidepressants can help treat narrow stool disease. A particular class of antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can help treat narrow stools. Also, TCAs prevent the brain from absorbing certain neurotransmitters, which can help in mood regulation and anxiety reduction. Moreover, these drugs might stimulate regular bowel motions and ease constipation.
Radiation and Chemotherapy
The colorectal and anal cancer treatment plan depends on the cancer’s stage, the tumor’s location, and other circumstances like the patient’s age and general health. Additionally, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery are options in combination with treatment.
When to Consult a Doctor
If your bowel motions change or you have prolonged thin stools, consult your doctor; it can signify a more serious medical problem that needs diagnosis and treatment. Call your doctor immediately if your bowel changes are accompanied by severe stomach discomfort or rectal bleeding.
FAQS about Narrow Stools Answered by Your Doctor Online
NSAIDs, often called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These medications may disrupt the digestive tract’s lining and cause bleeding, which may cause thin stools.
Heparin and Warfarin can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, resulting in narrow stools. Moreover, antibiotics like penicillin or clindamycin may alter the average bacterial balance in the gut, changing bowel patterns and causing thin stools by taking supplementing iron. However, narrow stools may arise from constipation brought on by iron supplementation. Antacids with aluminum hydroxide may result in constipation, which might cause pencil poop.
The color of normal feces ranges from tan to espresso and is always brown.
Although the appearance of a good bowel movement might vary, it should typically be easy to pass and smooth.
According to research, high-stress levels can disturb the digestive system, resulting in thin stools.
Polyps could be a condition that could impact how stool passes through or leaves the colon, causing narrow stool.
Green poop is usually due to consuming green meals, such as leafy green vegetables, taking iron supplements, and having insufficient bile in your feces.
IBS patients suffer from diarrhea, feces that change in texture and shape, gas, bloating, and constipation.