Stringy poop is when stool appears thin or narrow, often resembling strips of ribbon. Possible causes include dietary factors, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and infections. Less commonly, it may be a symptom of colorectal cancer.

While it is natural for stool to vary in appearance and consistency, poop that frequently appears stringy may require further medical investigation.

A person’s stool and bowel habits are considered good indicators of overall health. A healthy stool is a couple of inches in diameter, but stringy poop appears much narrower in comparison. It may also be flat, solid, or liquid.

This article explains some potential causes of stringy poop and when to speak with a doctor.

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Poop can take on a stringy appearance for many reasons. Here are some potential reasons for stringy stools.

1. Poor diet

A diet that is low in fiber or fluids can cause constipation. As a result, the stool can be less bulky and shrinks in size, taking on a stringy appearance.

Chronic constipation often leads to blockages that develop in the colon, leading to the passage of thin, stringy stools.

A simple way to treat constipation is to increase intake of foods such as:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • wholegrain bread and cereal
  • beans
  • lentils

Potatoes with the skins on, oats, almonds, and peas are other examples of high fiber foods to include in your diet.

According to the American Heart Association, the average daily fiber recommendation is 28 grams. This helps soften the stool and aid bowel movement. However, most Americans only consume around half of this optimum amount.

2. Intestinal infection

Some bacteria or parasites cause infections in the digestive tract, particularly the intestines. Besides stringy stool, symptoms of intestinal infections include:

Depending on the cause, doctors may treat these infections with antibiotics, antiparasitic medication, or medication to relieve symptoms.

3. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a disorder of the large intestine and could be responsible for changes in a person’s bowel habits. Common symptoms include:

Healthcare professionals do not fully understand the cause of IBS. However, factors such as an oversensitivity of nerves in the intestine, intestinal muscle disorders, and inflammation of the lining of the intestine may play a role.

Medication cannot cure IBS as of yet, but it can significantly improve a person’s symptoms and quality of life.

4. Colorectal cancer

In rare cases, stringy or narrow stools could indicate colorectal cancer. Other symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:

If any of these symptoms are present, it is wise to check with a doctor who can confirm or rule out the presence of colorectal cancer and start treatment if necessary.

Other causes

Other conditions that may cause stringy stools include:

Depending on the frequency of the problem and the presence of other symptoms, a doctor may need to carry out further investigation to determine the underlying cause of stringy stool.

The doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • stool sample test to detect a bacterial or parasitic infection
  • fecal occult test to check for blood in the stool
  • imaging tests, such as CT scans or X-rays, with a contrast solution or barium, to show the digestive tract
  • colonoscopy to study the entire colon
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine the lower colon

A stringy stool does not always indicate a severe health condition. Some people may find that their stools regulate following lifestyle changes, such as eating more fiber and staying hydrated.

However, people should speak with a doctor if their stools do not improve with these changes or if they also experience symptoms such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • blood in the stool
  • unexpected weight loss
  • weakness and fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting

Stringy stool is not usually a cause for concern and tends to resolve on its own or with lifestyle changes, such as eating more fiber.

If it continues for longer than a week and is present alongside other symptoms, people should speak with a doctor to diagnose any underlying causes.

Most cases of this type of stool have a good outlook, especially when a person receives early diagnosis and treatment.