You might pass a large stool as a result of eating a big meal. But if it occurs with other symptoms, such as pain or going a few days without pooping, the cause may be another health condition.

We’ve all been there: Sometimes you pass a poop that’s so large, you’re not sure if you should be calling your doctor or awarded a gold medal in pooping.

A large poop can be because you had a large meal — or just because. It could also mean you’ve got some room for improvement when it comes to maintaining your digestive health.

Keep reading for our guide on how to tell when a large poop is cause for concern.

Poop comes from the digested food material you eat, and it can come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Most of the time, having one or two episodes of an abnormally shaped or unusually colored poop is not cause for concern.

However, there may be times when you or even a little one in your household make an abnormally large poop. Some of the characteristics of a large poop include poop that’s:

  • so large it clogs your toilet
  • so large it fills up most of the toilet bowl
  • resembles large, hard marbles
  • perhaps initially difficult to pass, then seems to keep coming

Sometimes you have to consider the average size of your poop, then compare if the poops you’re making have become significantly larger.

Average size of poop

Believe it or not, there’s actually a visual scale called the Bristol Stool Form Scale that provides images of different types of poop appearances that are all within the range of normal.

What the scale tells us is that some people poop in pieces while others poop in larger, longer amounts. Neither is wrong. Most poops are several inches in size because this is the amount that fills and stretches the rectum, indicating to you that you need to poop.

The “ideal” poop is one that either resembles a corn on the cob or sausage as these are usually softer and easier to pass.

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Sometimes, your poop is so big because you simply ate a larger meal. If you had plenty of fiber and water (which both increase the rate of speed that stool travels in your intestine), the stool exits your body sooner and in a large quantity.

Other times, having a large poop can be cause for concern. Some examples of these times include:

  • Constipation. Constipation occurs when you have poops that are difficult to pass, or you don’t pass stool very often (usually three times or less a week). This can make for stools that are very large and hard to pass.
  • Megacolon. People who experience chronic constipation or who have a history of bowel obstruction can develop something called megacolon. This is when the colon (large intestine) becomes overstretched. The large intestine will then hold more stool and therefore may mean a larger poop. A megacolon can be a complication of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and may be cause for concern.
  • Encopresis. Encopresis is a condition that may occur in children, especially children who struggle with chronic constipation. A child loses the ability to sense when larger amounts of stool are present in the rectum and ultimately passes a very large bowel movement (often in their underwear) because they don’t recognize the stool sensation.

These are just some examples of potential underlying causes for large poops.

If you find you’re consistently making large poops, this could indicate opportunities for changes in your diet and activity. These changes could make your stool easier to pass, which could decrease the likelihood your poop will be abnormally large.

Some steps to take include:

  • Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Fiber adds bulk to stool, which makes it easier to pass. Try to add a serving or two to your daily diet to see if it improves how frequently you poop.
  • Increase your physical activity level. Examples include walking, swimming, or other activities that can stimulate additional movement in the bowels.
  • Try eating several small meals throughout the day instead of very large meals at one sitting. This can reduce the volume of food that your intestines process at a time and ideally maintain your blood sugar at consistent levels.
  • Drink plenty of water (enough so that your pee is light yellow in color). This can make stool softer and easier to pass.
  • Try going to the bathroom at consistent times each day. An example could include in the morning and at night when you get home from work or school. Provide yourself a few anxiety-free moments to go, but try not to sit on the toilet for more than 10 minutes. Straining or struggling to poop can do more harm than good.
  • Always poop when your body tells you that you need to. Holding in stool can increase the incidence of constipation.
  • Refrain from using laxatives (medications that make you poop) unless your doctor specifically tells you to.

You can also talk to your doctor if these tips don’t do much to change the size of your bowel movements.

While a single episode of a large poop usually isn’t cause for concern, there are times when you should see a doctor related to stool size and the symptoms that often come with it. Examples of these include:

  • Consistently going three days or longer without having a bowel movement. This can indicate chronic constipation.
  • Experiencing sudden, unexplained urges to poop and pooping a significant amount. This could indicate IBD or a rectal mass that’s affecting the nerve sensations in your intestine.
  • Experiencing significant to severe abdominal pain after making the large poop. This could indicate a number of gastrointestinal causes.

Your doctor will likely ask you about:

  • your usual bowel habits
  • any patterns you may notice for when you have a large poop
  • your diet
  • any medications you’re taking

They may recommend further lifestyle changes as well as prescribe medications that may help you go more frequently. Having bowel movements more often reduces the likelihood you’ll have an extremely large poop.

The general rule that if something is concerning to you, you should get it checked out applies. Making an appointment with your doctor or gastroenterologist (if you have one) may provide peace of mind.

Extremely large poops may be the outcome of eating a very large meal or the result of chronic constipation that alters your bowel habits.

If you’ve tried increasing your physical activity and upping fiber and water intake, and your poops still fill the toilet, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Doing so can provide peace of mind and keep you from having to use the plunger.