By Sally Wadyka for MSN Health Fitness
Hard and dry
The amount of time it takes for the food you eat to make its way through the gastro-intestinal system and exit into the toilet will have an impact on the consistency of your stool. “Intestinal transit averages 40 to 45 hours from when you eat to when it comes out,” says Foxx-Orenstein. If it stays in the GI tract for longer than that, fluid is re-absorbed into the body and the stool becomes harder and dryer. Certain medications—like blood pressure drugs, antidepressants and histamines—can slow down the GI tract. Constipation, which has a myriad of causes, will lead to harder, drier stools (since you’re going less often, your stool will stall in the system and the fluid re-absorbed). For some people, a diet high in dairy can be a cause of constipation, so if you are experiencing problems going (and have dry, hard-to-pass stool when you do finally go), it is worth reducing your dairy intake for a week or two to see if that helps. And being dehydrated can also lead to this problem because if the body is lacking in water, it will draw it—and conserve it—from wherever it can find it.
“An ideal stool looks like a torpedo—it should be large, soft, fluffy and easy to pass,” says Foxx-Orenstein. But when conditions are less than ideal, the stool may become more like little deer pellets. Again, transit time may be part of the issue because slow-moving stool will lose fluid, making them less fluffy and lumpier. A lack of fiber in the diet may also to be to blame. Beware if you’re following a weight-loss plan (such as Atkins) that focuses on increasing protein and decreasing carbohydrates, since that can leave you with a diet that’s low in fiber. And since fiber holds on to fluid, a lack of it will lead to harder, pellet-like poops that may be more difficult to pass.