Hard, Small, or Pellet Like Stool - What Can it Mean?

Constipation and pellet stool - causes include a lack of water and exercise.
For some types of pellet like stool or constipation, drinking fluids throughout the day and getting exercise may help. Tara Moore/Taxi/Getty Images

Pellet-like stool is stool that comes out in small, often hard pieces. It’s also known as constipation (although constipation is commonly thought of as a condition in which you have fewer than three bowel movements a week, it’s also defined as having small, hard, and dry bowel movements that are difficult to pass).

These small, hard stools are typical in people who eat too little dietary fiber or drink inadequate amounts of fluid.

Other common causes include a lack of physical activity, life or schedule changes, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, and certain medications, but it’s always a good idea to consult your primary care provider to rule out underlying medical conditions that could be causing the change in stool. Examples of conditions that can cause constipation are diabetes, hypothyroidism, neurological disorders, tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The treatment for pellet like stool depends on the cause, the severity, and how long you’ve had constipation, but it may include drinking water and other fluids throughout the day, increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, and fiber-rich foods, and engaging in physical activity every day. Your primary care provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medicines.

Some people may choose to see an alternative medicine practitioner in addition to their conventional care.

In alternative medicine, pellet-like stool indicates a body imbalance. For example, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), pellet stool is often caused by liver qi stagnation and is typically brought on by stress. A lack of exercise may exacerbate the problem.

Other symptoms of liver qi stagnation include:

  • stress-related symptoms
  • symptoms that improve with exercise
  • feeling bloated all the time
  • copious amounts of gas
  • symptoms that are worse before or during menstrual periods

In TCM, an excessive intake of red meat, wheat, sugar, and alcohol are believed to cause “congestion” and “heat” in the body and worsen liver qi stagnation. Reducing intake of these foods are believed to help. Some alternative practitioners may recommend additional dietary changes, such as an elimination or detox diet.

Related: Detox Diet Quiz and Detox Diet Plan (a 7-day plan including lists of foods to eat and avoid)

Herbs that an alternative medicine practitioner may suggest for stress and to ease digestion by reducing intestinal bloating and cramping include chamomile and lemon balm. Both can be found in tea form or may be taken in capsule or liquid extract form.

Stress reduction techniques such as yoga, breathing, massage therapy, shiatsu, and aromatherapy, may also help.

In Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine that originated in India, pellet stools may indicate a Vata imbalance (take the ayurvedic type quiz here).

Stools may be infrequent, dark in color, and accompanied by excess gas or flatulence.  The key to balancing Vata is staying hydrated, relaxed, and eating regular meals. An ayurvedic practitioner may suggest the herb triphala or slippery elm tea to support the digestive system.

Related: Natural Remedies for Constipation

Keep in mind that you should always discuss with your doctor any symptoms or health issues, including changes in stool.

SEE ALSO: Loose Stool | Floating Stool | Dark or Bright Red Stool | Mucus in Stool | Green Stool | More Poop Colors Explained

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using any alternative medicine or making any change to your regimen.

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