Recently a follower of this blog emailed me with a problem they were seeking advice for. I must admit, this was something I had no experience with, and the thought had never even crossed my mind that might happen to people, but in researching the issue I discovered it is actually quite common.  The problem? Impacted stool. In other words, stool that is literally stuck in the butt, and won’t come out.   Impacted stool means that the stool has solidified and hardened and NO amount of pushing will dislodge it. The question I was being asked was, how do you soften stool that is already hard, and therefore unable to come out?

First of all, don’t panic (a lot of people do, quite understandably).  Impacted stool is very uncomfortable and can even be painful. Some people push and strain so hard that they literally pop blood vessels in their face.  But there are several ways of dealing with the situation if you feel you need to soften stool that is already hard.

Dr Ben Kim advises :

“First, it’s vital to remember that whenever you have the urge to have a bowel movement, it’s best that you relax rather than try to force stool out with exertion. Conscious relaxation is necessary for optimal function of your internal anal sphincter muscle, which is a ring of smooth muscle that helps keep your anal sphincter closed when you’re not having a bowel movement, and also helps push stools out during defecation. Your internal anal sphincter muscle is entirely involuntary, meaning that it works without your conscious input. By consciously straining to eliminate stools, you can actually disrupt the natural activity of your internal anal sphincter muscle.

When stools are healthy, you don’t need to generate momentum for a bowel movement by contracting your external anal sphincter muscle, but when stools are harder than they should be, it can be helpful to consciously contract your external anal sphincter muscle to get things moving. The key is to stop consciously contracting and to relax once stools begin to pass, as this allows your internal anal sphincter muscle to contribute to expulsion of feces”.

Dr. Kim goes on to say that if hardened stool is stuck at the anal sphincter, you can try applying a natural lubricant like coconut oil around the sphincter and see if that helps the stool side slide out.  If you don’t have coconut oil in the house (you should!), petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is another option, however, keep in mind it is made from petroleum (yes, just like motor oil), so I encourage people to find a healthier, natural replacement every time they think of putting a petroleum based product on their body – especially in delicate areas.

Be sure to wear a medical grade disposable glove (not the same as household rubber gloves which absolutely should not be used for this purpose) to apply the lubricant. It might also be necessary to insert a finger to manually remove bits of stool. Its vital that you apply lubricant generously lubricating before you do this or you run the risk of causing an anal fissure.

~ Amy says, “I frequently have stubborn stools, ones that are hard/dry/thick and just don’t want to come out even though I have to go really bad, with a strong urge. I always carry disposable gloves in my purse ; with the gloves on and reach down and help it along (I know it sounds gross)”.  She goes on to say that before she knew to use this method, she had strained so hard at time when stool was stuck that she literally popped blood vessels in her face, mostly around her eyes, due to the build up in pressure.

~ Henriette says, “I had this problem once. I don’t know the cause, must’ve eaten something odd; but “it” was hard as a rock I just couldn’t go. I was getting scared; it had been 3 days where pushing like crazy didn’t do a thing. Probably made the situation worse. The solution was to put a hot wet facecloth down there, ie., hot compress, for several minutes, over & over, and voila. The deed was done”.  You can also use hot water on toilet tissue.  Its possible to get relief in as little as 5 minutes with this method.

~ Long before toilets were invented, human beings would bend their knees and to squat to have a bowel movement.  When society became more civilized, humans adopted the sitting position for passing stool – first there were outhouses, and then came toilets. But in fact, the squatting position is actually a much more natural position for passing stool, due to the way the human body is designed.  You may have seen a product on the TV show Shark Tank (look up the Squatty Potty) which was designed exactly to address this situation. So the bottom line is, if you are having a problem passing stool that is impacted or so hard that it won’t come out, try to assume a squatting positions – perhaps open a large garbage bag and position it beneath you on the bathroom floor as you try to push the stool out. It sounds weird,  but it often works.

~ Try a product called Docusate.

To help avoid the problem of stool so hard that it gets stuck in the butt, its important to eat a healthy diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables (including raw veggies). Juicing is also helpful; juice raw beets, celery, carrots, cucumbers, dandelions, turmeric, and ginger.

Drinking lots of water on  a daily basis will also help avoid dry hard stools. Water is so important and healthy for your body in so many other ways as well, so its a good practice to consumer at least 8 cups of water per day, just as you’ve always been told.

Herbs like fennel and ginger are also beneficial for people who tend to have hard stools. You should take the herbs on a regular basis to avoid hard stools, its hard to soften stools that are already hard, after the fact. The herbs can be taken in capsule form for convenience.

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