While normal poop can vary from person to person, if your poop seems to have the consistency of pebbles, this could be cause for concern. Pebble, or pellet, bowel movements aren’t usually a reason to worry, but they likely mean stool is moving through your intestines at a slower pace than usual.
While they may be small, these hard lumps of stool often hard to pass. They’re also are one of several symptoms that occur with constipation.
As food moves through your digestive system, your intestines absorb nutrients at different points. The stool also absorbs water along the way. Your intestines are frequently moving to propel the stool forward. Stool is typically soft and formed. Being soft makes stool easier to move out of the rectum.
Pebble poop bowel movements usually occur when stool doesn’t pass quickly enough through the intestines. While forming, it’ll linger inside the large intestine, which usually absorbs some water. This makes stool more concentrated and compact. But if the stool lingers too long in the intestines, it becomes dried out and breaks apart into hard pebbles or pellets.
There are many potential causes of pellet poop, most of which are the underlying causes of constipation.
Medication can sometimes slow down stool through the large intestine. Some cause pebble poop bowel movements by reducing the amount of water in your body or stool. Medications that can cause pebble poop bowel movements include:
- antacids, especially those with aluminum and calcium
- anticholinergics, which can slow down how fast you eliminate stool
- diuretics, which cause your body to release extra water through urine, drying out stool
- certain opioids for pain, which can slow how fast your intestines propel stool
Lifestyle and medical conditions
Dehydration can be a significant contributing factor to pebble poop bowel movements because your body may not have enough water to help soften stool. Drinking more water is often a way to reduce constipation.
Other potential lifestyle and diet-related causes include:
- brain or spinal disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or multiple sclerosis
- a diet with too much or too little fiber, depending on the fiber type
- hypothyroidism, which can reduce the hormones that help stimulate bowel movements and other metabolic functions
- physical inactivity, which can reduce regularity in motion of the bowels
- large uterine fibroids, which could press on your rectum and make stool harder to pass
If you have pebble poop bowel movements often, see a doctor to identify an underlying cause.
When stool is hard and pebble-like, it can be difficult to pass because the hard, dry edges make it feel sharp. This can be painful. Besides the visual proof of pellet poop bowel movements, you may experience the following symptoms:
- feeling like you still have to go, even after you’ve made a bowel movement
- pooping less than three times a week
- straining when you go, even though the poop isn’t very large
Sometimes, pebble stool can cause a backup in your colon to where only liquid stool escapes around it. This could make you think you have diarrhea, when you actually have hard stool still in your intestines.
If you see blood in your pellet stool, this could be cause for concern. While a small streak of blood may be due to irritation in your colon’s surface lining, significant blood could signal gastrointestinal bleeding.
Constipation can be concerning because it can lead to bowel obstructions or impactions. This is when stool becomes lodged in your intestine and won’t let any other material come through. Other possible complications include:
- anal fissures, which are small, thin tears in the tissue around your anus that can cause blood and pain when passing a bowel movement
- hemorrhoids, which are irritated areas of swollen rectal veins from straining to push out a bowel movement
- rectal prolapse, which is when a portion of the rectum abnormally protrudes through the anal opening, with an inside-out appearance
There are a number of ways you can remedy constipation and pellet stool, including at-home treatments.
Changes to your diet and increased physical activity may help you see typical stool in the toilet bowl.
- Choose “P” foods. An easy way to remember some foods that will help you poop are those that start with p: peaches, plums, pears, and prunes. Incorporating these in your diet can help boost your fiber intake and promote regular bowel movements.
- Cut back on constipating foods. Foods such as milk, cheese, and high-fat processed foods can have a constipating effect.
- Drink more water. Drinking a glass first thing when you wake up is a good way to start the day. You can add fruits such as lemon, strawberries, blueberries, or oranges to enhance taste.
- Exercise. The movement and motion from walking or dancing can stimulate your bowels to move at more regular times. Adding a 30-minute exercise session to your day or breaking up exercise into 10-minute sessions can help.
If home treatments aren’t enough, a doctor may prescribe or recommend:
- Lubricants. Some lubricant enemas make it easier for hard stools to pass. An example is a Fleet enema, which is made from mineral oil.
- Stimulants. These medications help to stimulate your bowels to move, propelling a bowel movement forward. Examples include Dulcolax.
- Stool softeners. These medications help to make hard, pebble stools softer and easier to pass. Colace is an example.
Some of these medications are available over the counter. Speak with a doctor before taking one to make sure it won’t interfere with other medications you take.
While pebble poop bowel movements aren’t usually a medical emergency, they can be uncomfortable for you. See a doctor if it interferes with your daily activities.
They’ll be able to help you find out the underlying cause and help you find relief.
Pebble poop bowel movements can be a signal that your stool is very dry and breaking apart in your intestine before coming out.
Most of the treatments are the same as those for other constipation symptoms, including drinking more water, increasing physical activity, and changing your dietary fiber intake. If these don’t work, you may want to talk to a doctor.