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When it comes to your stools, a lot can be said about the size and shape of what is left in the toilet bowel. String-like stools are quite common but some of the pathologies behind what is causing the symptoms can be quite severe.

When it comes to your bowel health, as we have seen, a simple trip to the bathroom can give you a lot of insight into the current status of your health. We have seen already that there are many different issues to concern yourself with when you present with frequent bowel movements. Diet and exercise habits can go a long way into explaining why this could be wrong but there are some more sinister worries like Celiac disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome that you must also check for. Sometimes, the frequency of bowel movements is not the only thing to worry about, but also the shape that you may notice. Here, we will explore some of the causes of stringy bowel movements

Possible Bowel Obstruction 

When it comes to the consistency of your stools, one of the reasons you may be suffering from a "stringy" appearance of your stools could be because of narrowing along your intestinal tract. Bowel walls can lose their stability when someone constantly has a poor diet, and this can lead to outpouching or blockages along the intestinal tract. Patients with this type of pathology can expect to have symptoms of constipation and only have small, string-like bowel movements if the material is clogged along the intestinal tract. [1]

If this is a short-term problem, try to change your diet to include more sources of fiber. Fruits and vegetables are quite beneficial in these conditions, as well as nuts and cereals [2]. If this is a persistent problem, diet could be at play as well, but it is best to consult with a gastrologist to rule out more worrisome symptoms. 

Abdominal Hernias 

Another potential cause of stringy stools would be an indirect cause of intestinal obstructions. What is seen in this pathology is ligaments found on the outside of the intestinal canal are able to herniate at times and this leads to increased pressure on the intestines. When the ligaments are no longer able to support the weight of the internal organs they are supposed to hold up, these organs can cause the diameter of the intestines to narrow so stool will become more narrow as a result.[3]

Abdominal hernias are also quite common, especially in patients seen to have a lot of abdominal fat. These ligaments in our core muscles are effectively only up until a certain weight has been reached. Patients may not necessarily have a lot of symptoms either with abdominal hernias so it may be only noticed by an observant physician during a physical examination [4]. If you notice a lump around your belly button or lower abdomen that you are able to push in without pain, an abdominal hernia is what you are experiencing. Surgery to implant a metal mesh to provide support for your ligament is the quickest and most effective way to resolve the problem. [5

Colorectal Cancer 

The most worrisome by far of all potential pathologies that could explain the cause of your stringy bowel movement would be a tumor. Colorectal cancer is considered to be the third most common cancer in men and second most common in females. It is also one of the most deadly forms of cancer. [6]

Based on where we find the highest prevalence of this disease, it is apparent that diets high in meat (not just red meat) are linked with colorectal cancer. These would be locations like New Zealand, Australia, Europe and North America. Take note that recent evidence in medicine has shown that red meat can be just as bad as chicken or large amounts of pork so you should not have a false sense of security thinking avoiding red meats means you are not likely to have the disease. Studies also show the people from a lower income tend to be more likely to have colorectal cancer. [7]

Risk factors can predispose you to this disease could be from genetics, irritable bowel diseases like Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis or chronic constipation. You may notice frequent bowel movements and blood in your stools. There are a number of factors working against you living in the Western world that make this disease likely. You need to make sure you following screening recommendations in order to begin colonoscopies as soon as possible in order to catch the disease as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of survival. I can sympathize with those of you who are less than excited about needing to drink the preparation liquid that will cause frequent trips to the bathroom or the idea of having a camera shoved up your rectum but it is a far less inconvenience than colorectal cancer. Screening in most places begins in your 50's without a family history and then continued every 10 years as a general rule so make sure you are keeping up with your country's recommendations. [8]

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