Help someone with useful health advice.

Hard Bowel Movements

Hard Bowel Movements

Lack of activity and eating foods low in fiber are the most common causes of hard bowel movements. In some cases, the solution is as simple as addressing these causes. In others, the condition may be slightly severe and may require medical attention. The information below will help you recognize it's symptoms and causes, in adults as well as children, and different ways of treatment for the same.
Puja Lalwani
Last Updated: Jan 24, 2018
Man suffering from severe abdominal pain hands on stomach
Hard bowel movements are usually a result of a condition called constipation. Most of you may be familiar with this term and it's symptoms. In this condition, the stool becomes hard, lumpy and dry. When the stool remains in the gastrointestinal tract for more than 48 hours, the fluid it contains is reabsorbed by the body. This causes it to become hard, dry and difficult to pass from the body. Constipation tends to become chronic if not dealt within time, where in extremely severe cases, it may cause pain and bleeding while passing stool. In most cases, all it takes are a few home remedies to cure this problem. However, in more serious cases, it is important to visit a doctor and understand the root cause of the problem. Here, we take a look at the causes, consequences and treatment for this problem.

Hard bowel movements can be very uncomfortable and may be caused due to several reasons.
  • Wrong diet and lack of exercise can contribute to this problem. Eating foods heavy in starch and refined flour and low in fiber, eating excessive dairy products, not getting enough exercise in a day, or leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause hard bowel movements.
  • In some cases, even stress and depression may cause this problem due to hormonal changes.
  • Sometimes, hard bowel movements are also a side effect of the medication one has been prescribed.
  • Suppressing the urge to defecate on a regular basis will ultimately lead to a loss of the urge for the same.
  • The overuse of laxatives can ironically lead to this condition. This is because constant use of laxatives weakens the muscles of the intestine, thereby causing slow digestion of food, in turn, resulting in hard bowel movements.

Suffering from hard bowel movements can have several consequences such as pain or bleeding. It is crucial, therefore, to identify the reasons for the same. This way, timely treatment can be given to take care of the condition before it worsens.
  • Sometimes, when bowel movements are hard, pain is experienced in the stomach. This is because certain toxins are being released in the process of digestion. These are not dangerous and just cause some mild discomfort during bowel movements.
  • Pain in the rectal area is also common, especially in case of hard bowel movements. This is because in the process of bowel movements, the hard stool slightly damages the anal walls, thereby causing pain which may last from 1-4 days.
  • If bowel movements are hard and difficult, the pressure applied to be able to pass stool results in an anal fissure, or a skin tear in the area, which may cause pain and bleeding. Hard bowel movements causing bleeding may appear to have bright red streaks on the surface.
  • Hemorrhoids or swollen veins, either inside or outside the rectum, also tend to cause pain and bleeding when passing hard stool.
  • In children as well as adults, sometimes the stool may become so hard that it tends to pack the intestine and rectum. This is called fecal impaction. In such a case, passing stool by applying normal pressure is not possible. Laxatives or stool softeners have to be administered, after which a doctor may have to manually remove the hardened stool by inserting a finger in the anus.
Hard Bowel Movements in Infants and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers also tend to suffer from hard bowel movements, mostly due to the intake of certain baby foods and products, or when their diet changes from breastfeeding to baby formula. One may notice the condition of hard bowel movements in infants and toddlers when they strain uncomfortably while passing motion, and also when the motion they pass is large and hard. They may suffer from this problem for the following reasons.
  • Babies who are fed cow's milk are likely to develop constipation, which may cause severe pain and discomfort in them. If sugar is used as an additive to milk, changing the type of sugar may help ease the condition. For instance, brown sugar instead of white, will help reduce the problem of hard bowel movements in infants.
  • During illnesses such as fever, children may develop this condition. It is, however, temporary and needn't be worried about.
  • Toddlers may develop this problem because of the fear of pain and discomfort upon passing stool. This means that they tend to develop a psychological fear that they will experience pain when passing stool. This further worsens the condition.
Apart from these causes, lack of fibrous foods and exercise are also applicable to the causes of this condition in infants as well as in toddlers.

The suggested treatment for hard bowel movement is almost similar in adults and children. Most of the suggestions constitute home remedies and do not require professional intervention. If you find the condition to be serious and unbearable, consult a doctor immediately.
  • It is important to increase the intake of a high fiber diet by incorporating fruits and vegetables in the daily diet to facilitate easy bowel movements. Moreover, foods like oats, bran and cereal also help ease bowel movements.
  • Prunes are excellent natural laxatives, and consuming a small amount everyday either in its raw form, or in the form of prune juice, can go a long way in eliminating the problem of hard bowel movements.
  • It is IMPERATIVE to exercise to get those bowels moving. Try to incorporate a daily exercise routine of at least 30 minutes to solve the problem.
  • Drinking enough water is another essential remedy for this condition. It helps in the digestion of fiber, thereby helping with easier bowel movement.
  • Do not suppress the urge to pass motion.
  • In case of infants and toddlers, try to set a fixed time for them to have a bowel movement, and reward them for the same, till they get habituated to it. This way, once a pattern is set, hard bowel movements have a rare chance of occurring.
  • Last, but not the least, laxatives may be used to induce bowel movements. Nonetheless, it is crucial to remember that an overuse of laxatives may only worsen the situation and not alleviate it.
If the condition is serious, and if one tends to experience bleeding in the process of bowel movements, it is advisable to visit a doctor, as only a doctor will be able to identify the degree of severity of the condition, and prescribe the necessary medication. This rule applies to both children and adults.
Digestive health is as important as any other aspect of personal health care. Unknown to many, digestive problems such as hard bowel movements, reflect in way of poor skin condition identified by acne and dandruff. Even hair begins to lose its luster and shine as a result of hard to pass bowel movements. It is hence, essential to ensure that our bowel movements are regular and soft, in order to be able to lead a healthy lifestyle, and vice versa.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.