Having Flat Stools? Two Possible Causes Explained

Flat stool will have a ribbon-like appearance and be accompanied by other symptoms.It occurs if there is an intestinal issue such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or an obstruction like a colon polyp. It is important to recognize the symptoms as this will help you prevent or remedy the problem. If your condition doesn’t improve, it is important to talk to your doctor about professional treatments.

1. Colon Polyp

Colon polyps are small groups of cells which form on the colon’s lining and in most cases will not cause symptoms. Although anyone can develop a colon polyp, certain factors can increase the risk and while they are usually harmless, they have the potential to become cancerous.

Symptoms

In many cases a colon polyp will not cause any symptoms but at times they do occur. Some symptoms that are associated with colon polyps include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, narrowing of your stool, diarrhea, constipation, pain or obstruction. It is important to note, however, that most of these symptoms can indicate other conditions as well so they should be discussed with a doctor.

Causes

Although most colon polyps are not cancerous, they form due to abnormal cell growth as do cancerous cells. Healthy cells will only grow and divide at a rate that is necessary but some mutations can lead to the cells dividing when it isn’t necessary, creating the polyps.

Risk Factors

As mentioned earlier, anyone can be affected by colon polyps and thus have flat stool. Despite this, there are some risk factors that can contribute to the potential of developing them such as older than 50, the presence of inflammatory intestinal conditions, a family history which may be hereditary or due to environmental factors, alcohol and tobacco use, a lack of activity, being overweight or obese and race, as there is an increased risk for Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe and black people. Another risk factor is a group of genetic mutations such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Gardner’s syndrome, MYH-associated polyposis (MAP), Lynch syndrome and Peutz-Jehgers syndrome (PJS).

Remedies

There are several things that you can do to significantly reduce the risk of developing colon polyps and related cancer including being screened regularly and paying attention to your lifestyle and diet.

  • Calcium can be a significant prevention for colon polyps and related cancers and this is true even for people who have had them in the past. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium so it should be consumed in sufficient quantities as well.
  • Whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables have a high fiber content which can reduce the risk of colon polyps. Fruits and vegetables additionally have antioxidants which can prevent cancer. You should also reduce your intake of saturated fats.
  • People who have moderate to heavy quantities of alcohol can have an increased risk of developing colon polyps so it is important to limit consumption. Tobacco products such as cigarettes can increase the risk of both colon cancer and other diseases so you should avoid smoking.
  • People who stay active and keep a healthy weight are at a reduced risk of developing colon polyps and cancer.

When to See a Doctor

It is important to see a doctor if you experience a change in bowel habits lasting over a week, abdominal pain or blood in the stool. In addition, anyone who is over 50 or has risk factors should be screened regularly.

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, known as IBS, affects the large intestine does not cause any permanent damage despite causing flat stool, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping. It can usually be managed by lifestyle and diet changes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person and will also range in intensity with some having mild issues while others having symptoms that are almost disabling. The condition is chronic although the symptoms may be worse or better at times. Common symptoms include mucus in your stool, constipation or diarrhea, gas, bloating and abdominal cramping or pain.

Causes

Doctors are unsure what exactly causes irritable bowel syndrome but they believe it is because the food is forced to go through the intestines either more quickly or more slowly than normal. In most cases, someone will have certain things that will trigger the IBS to worsen and these triggers vary from person to person. The most common ones include foods, medications, stress and hormonal changes.

Risk Factors

IBS symptoms affect many people but there is an increased risk of developing the condition for people who are under 35 (at onset), female or have a family history of this disease.

Remedies

In most cases, people who make simple diet and lifestyle changes can experience relief from their IBS symptoms. The following are some of the most common diet and lifestyle changes that help:

  • Adding fiber to the diet (via dietary fiber or a supplement)
  • Determining problem foods and avoiding them
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Having less dairy
  • Drinking more fluids
  • Regular exercise
  • Limiting the use of laxatives and anti-diarrheal medications

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor if you experience any signs of IBS including a consistent change in your bowel habits.

 
 
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