What It Means When Your Poop Is Stringy

We're not sure if it's the TikTok influencers who talk about poop or the ever-evolving interest in gut health, but assessing your stool after relieving yourself in the bathroom now almost feels like an important part of the process. You go in there, finish your business, and take a quick peek to see if everything looks okay. What happens to your poop when you eat fruit every day will probably look quite different from what happens to it when you go on a high-protein diet. 

Either way, we've all probably come across stringy poop. You know what we're talking about: those long, pencil-thin, straggly-looking stools that make you spend a few more minutes scrutinizing your morning excrement. 

There are a few different reasons why this might happen, starting with your diet. It is not uncommon for your feces to appear stringy if you're having constipation. Not consuming enough fiber, not exercising enough, pregnancy, some medications, and even travel can cause someone to become constipated (via WebMD). While not having enough fiber in your diet can cause your stool to lose volume and appear thin and stringy, other forms of constipation might simply mean that you can't easily pass the waste, which may cause whatever's inside to come out in wispy bits.

Stringy poop might also mean you have an underlying health condition

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal infections like salmonella, gastroenteritis, shigellosis, and roundworms, and even anxiety can cause string-like poop. If IBS is what's causing thin stools, you may also experience other symptoms like bloating, gas, stomach pain, and mucus in your waste (via Web MD), and if the stringy poop has to do with an infection, you may also experience fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, blood in your stool, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, and in the case of roundworms, actual worms in your feces. 

What's going on in your mind (like anxiety and depression) can also contribute toward stringy stools, explained functional gastroenterologist Dr. Sameer Islam via YouTube. "It's called the brain-gut axis. There's a connection ... Sometimes the treatment for what's going on in your colon may be treating what's going on right here (the brain)," said the expert. 

Straggly thin stools could also be indicative of more serious health conditions like colorectal and anal cancer. Although you probably don't have to worry about this unless there are other symptoms like blood in your stool, diarrhea, incontinence, and other changes in your poop, unexplainable weight loss, stomach pain, anemia, and vomiting, narrow stools from colorectal cancer occur because of the "narrowing or obstruction of the colon," according to gastroenterologist Dr. Elizabeth Rajan (via Mayo Clinic). 

What should you do about stringy stools?

Most of the time, stringy stools might mean something less scary, like a low-fiber diet or bad lifestyle choices. You can simply add more fiber to your meals, exercise more, work on your stress levels or anxiety, and see if that makes a difference. Stringy poop when you feel anxious might mean that you need to take better care of your mental health. 

Even with IBS, a diet high in fiber and stress reduction can help. IBS is also treated with additional medications like low-dose antidepressants, laxatives, and antibiotics (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). In the case of intestinal infections, you may want to visit your healthcare provider, who might run additional tests (like stool testing) to find out what the problem is, after which you would be put on antibiotics or antiparasitic drugs (via Medical News Today). 

If your straggly stool is bothering you and you think something more serious is going on, it's perfectly okay to address your concerns with your doctor. "Check with your doctor if you notice any changes in the appearance of your stool — such as narrower than normal stools — that last longer than 1 to 2 weeks. Consult your doctor immediately if your bowel changes are accompanied by rectal bleeding or severe abdominal pain," shared Dr. Elizabeth Rajan (via Mayo Clinic).