You can learn a lot about your health from the appearance of your stool. Stringy stool may be caused by something simple, such as a low fiber diet. In some cases, the cause is more serious.
Stringy poop may also be referred to as stools that are pencil-thin, ribbon-like, thin, or narrow. Normal stool is about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Stringy poop is narrow and, in some cases, almost flat, giving it a stringy appearance. It may be solid or loose.
Stringy poop may or may not be accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
There are several reasons your stool may be thin.
Constipation may be caused by a low fiber diet and lack of fluids. Fiber adds bulk to stool, increasing its size. If you don’t eat enough fiber or drink enough fluids, stool loses its bulk and may become thin and stringy.
There are a number of symptoms that signify
- fewer than three bowel movements a week
- hard, dry, or lumpy stools
- stools that are difficult or painful to pass
- feeling as though not all stool has passed
If the stringy stool is caused by constipation, drinking plenty of water and eating more fiber-rich foods should help. Some fiber-rich foods are:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
Increasing your fiber intake may be as simple as making a few changes to your diet.
- Whole grains, like bran, whole wheat, or oats, are an easy way to increase your fiber. When buying groceries, look for a whole-grain bread, pasta, or cereal.
- Getting your recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables can also help you increase your fiber intake. Look for fruits and vegetables with 5 or more grams of fiber.
- Beans are another great source of fiber. Throw beans in a salad or add them to whole-grain rice for a fiber-rich meal.
If necessary, you may also take a fiber supplement.
Some people may be concerned when they see stringy stool because they’ve read or been told it’s a symptom of colorectal cancer. However, the
Some symptoms of colorectal cancer
- rectal bleeding
- changes in bowel habits
- the persistent urge to have a bowel movement
- cramping in the abdomen or belly
- weakness and fatigue
- losing weight without trying
While many of the above symptoms may not be due to colon cancer, it’s important to be checked by a medical professional if you are experiencing them.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may cause changes in bowel habits, leading to thin stools. It may also cause mucus in your stools, which can give poop a stringy appearance.
IBS is also known as a spastic colon. It is not linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or other bowel conditions. Rather, IBS is defined as gastrointestinal symptoms that show up together. Symptoms appear differently in every person, including in severity and duration. However, the
- abdominal pain
- bloating and gas
Treatments for IBS are primarily focused on
- diet changes
- a balanced diet
- anti-constipation medication
- anti-cramping medications
Some intestinal infections such as salmonella, gastroenteritis, and shigellosis may cause loose stools or diarrhea. You may get one of these infections through ingesting contaminated food or water, or coming into contact with someone who is sick.
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches
- mucus or blood in the stool
If stringy poop is caused by a parasite or other infection, you
Salmonella and other intestinal infections often clear up on their own in several days. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antidiarrheal medications. It’s also important to drink plenty of water to replenish fluids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
These other conditions may cause narrowing in the colon and lead to stringy stools:
- fecal impaction
- colon polyps
- trapped abdominal hernias
- anorectal strictures, or a narrowing between the rectum and anus
- distended or stretched colon
- twisted bowel or volvulus
Some intestinal parasites, such as giardia, may cause loose, thin stools. If you have a parasite, you may have other symptoms such as:
- weight loss
Stringy stool may also occur for no obvious reason.
When the cause of stringy poop is serious, such as a bowel obstruction or hernia, you’ll need urgent care. A combination of surgery and medication may be needed.
There’s no reason to call your doctor if you have occasional stringy stool. If it happens for more than a week, or you also have vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, or rectal bleeding, you should call your doctor. They will discuss your symptoms and determine if tests or treatment are needed.
Tests to determine the cause of stringy poop may include:
- fecal occult test to check for blood in your stool
- stool sample test to check for the presence of parasites or bacteria
- blood tests to rule out celiac disease
- flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine your lower colon
- colonoscopy to examine your entire colon
- X-ray with contrast (barium) to view your gastrointestinal tract
- CT scan to view your abdominal organs
Most people experience stringy poop at least once. In most cases, the outlook is good. When the condition is sporadic and you do not have other symptoms, it’s likely nothing to worry about and should resolve on its own within a short period of time.
When stringy poop is caused by a serious condition, your outlook depends on how quickly you receive care and the extent of the damage. In many cases, dietary changes, medication, surgery, and good aftercare successfully resolves symptoms.
When it comes to poop, the important thing is for you to know what is normal for you. If you’ve never had stringy poop before and suddenly have it regularly, contact your doctor.