Poop that comes out like pebbles may mean you have constipation or an underlying medical condition. Drinking more water, changing your diet, or treating the underlying condition may help.
The texture of your poop doesn’t change at random. It can actually tell you something about your overall health, diet, or lifestyle.
What’s considered normal poop can vary from person to person. But if your poop seems to have the consistency of pebbles, it’s not something you want to ignore — especially if it’s a frequent occurrence.
Pebble or pellet bowel movements aren’t usually a reason to worry, but they may mean stool is moving through your intestines slowly. These small, hard lumps of stool can be hard to pass. They’re also one of several symptoms that occur with constipation.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes pebble poop — in adults, children, and babies — and what you can do to get your poop back to normal.
Your poop is made up of the waste products from the meals and snacks you consume each day. After your body takes in fuel and nutrients, the resulting poop works its way through your digestive tract until it reaches its final destination — the rectum.
Poop may resemble small balls or pellets if it’s been sitting stagnant in the colon. With time, the large intestine absorbs the water content of the poop, which dries it out and hardens it. It may break it into smaller pieces as well, giving it that pebble-like appearance.
Pebble-like stool can be difficult to pass because the hard, dry edges make it feel sharp. This can make your bowel movements painful. Besides the shape of your stool, you may experience the following symptoms:
- feeling like you still have to go, even after a bowel movement
- pooping fewer 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 so only liquid stool escapes around it. This could make you think you have diarrhea when you actually still have hard stool in your intestines.
You may even see blood in your pellet stool. A small streak of blood may be due to irritation in your colon’s surface lining. Significant blood could signal something more, like gastrointestinal bleeding.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice a significant amount of blood or if your stools are black.
Bristol Stool Chart
Poop comes in all different shapes and textures. The Bristol Stool Chart, which is based on a
Again, as food moves through your digestive system, your intestines absorb nutrients at different points. The stool absorbs water along the way, which helps it propel forward through the intestines.
Healthy stool is typically soft and formed. Being soft makes stool easier to move out of the rectum.
But if stool lingers too long in your bowels, the large intestine can absorb too much water from the stool. This makes the stool more concentrated and compact. It dries 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.
Some medications can cause pebble poop by slowing stool or reducing the amount of water in your body or stool. Such medications 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 diet
Physical inactivity can reduce regularity in bowel movements, causing poop to harden into pebble-like consistency. Not moving the bowels enough or holding in bowel movements may also lead to constipation.
Certain medical conditions can also contribute to pebble poop. These conditions include but are not limited to:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- brain or spinal disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- hypothyroidism, which can reduce hormones that help stimulate bowel movements
- large uterine fibroids, which could press on your rectum and make stool harder to pass
- calcium disturbances
- overuse of laxatives
- autoimmune conditions
- peripheral nervous system disorders like Hirschsprung disease, neurofibromatosis, and autonomic neuropathy
If you have pebble poop bowel movements often, or if seeing pebble poop is new to you, you may want to talk with a doctor to identify an underlying cause.
Importance of colon cancer screening
Constipation can be a sign of colon cancer due to tumor growth. Talk with a doctor about screening for colon cancer. Catching colon cancer early can improve treatment outcomes.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the
If left untreated, constipation can lead to bowel impactions. This is when stool becomes lodged in your intestine and won’t let any other material come through. Other possible complications include:
When to seek medical attention
Seek medical attention if you have constipation with the following symptoms, as these may indicate partial or complete bowel obstruction:
- severe abdominal pain
- abdominal swelling
- inability to pass gas
There are a number of home remedies and medical treatments for constipation and pellet stool.
Changes to your diet and increased physical activity may help you see typical stool in the toilet bowl.
- Choose certain “P” foods: Incorporating peaches, plums, pears, and prunes in your diet can help boost your fiber intake and promote regular bowel movements.
- Cut back on constipating foods: Milk, cheese, and high fat processed foods can have a constipating effect.
- Drink more water: Drinking water, particularly mineral water, can help with constipation.
- Exercise: Movement and motion 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
- Lubricants: Some lubricant enemas make it easier for hard stools to pass.
- Stimulants: Medications like Dulcolax or Senna can help stimulate your bowels and propel bowel movements forward.
- Stool softeners: Stool softeners like Colace help make hard pebble stools softer and easier to pass.
- Bulk-forming laxatives: Metamucil or Fiber-Lax are examples of bulk-forming laxatives that add more fiber to your diet.
- Osmotic laxatives: Some products, like MiraLAX, draw water into the colon, softening the stool.
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. Talk with a doctor if constipation interferes with your daily activities. They can help you identify the underlying cause and find relief.
Check in with a doctor if you see blood in your stool, experience loose stools while feeling constipated, or have any other concerns about your bowel movements.
Infants and children may also have pebble poop from time to time. You may see the consistency right away if you’re changing your baby’s diaper. With older children, you may not know until you see other signs of constipation, like skid marks or fecal accidents.
- introducing babies to formula, solid foods, or new foods
- intolerance or allergy to certain foods or beverages, leading to chronic constipation
- other dietary situations, such as drinking too much milk, not enough water, or taking in too much fiber
- certain medications, such as iron supplements
Children may also deal with constipation if they wait too long to go to the bathroom or hold their poop for some other reason (for example, fear of using the bathroom at school). In these cases, you might try encouraging them to use the bathroom after meals for
Talk with your pediatrician if your child’s constipation doesn’t respond to home remedies after 2 to 3 weeks. Your pediatrician may suggest certain medications, suppositories, or an enema. Also let them know if your child shows other signs of food sensitivities or intolerances, like gas, nausea, or bloating.
Your poop tells a story about your health. Pebble poop bowel movements can signal that your stool is very dry and breaking apart in your intestine before coming out.
As with other constipation symptoms, treatment includes drinking more water, increasing physical activity, and changing your dietary fiber intake.
If these don’t work and you continue to have dry, pebble-like bowel movements, speak with a doctor. They may want to check for underlying medical conditions.