Abnormal Changes in Bowel Movements:
Are They What You Think They Are?

Any abnormal changes in bowel movements are not to be disregarded. Changes like irregular frequency or unusually dark colored or pencil shaped stools over time are to be reported to your doctor.

If you start experiencing difficult or frequent and ribbon-like bowel movements, they might mean presence of colon or rectal polyps.

The worst you can expect is these abnormal bowel movements are symptoms of tumor growth.

Knowing what symptoms are considered abnormal is a good step on prevention of colorectal tumor. If rectal or colon polyps are found early and while small, they can be surgically removed and not cause any trouble later on.

It is common and even alright for you to experience some abnormal changes in bowel movements every now and then. Usually those problems are not symptoms related to tumor. Irregular movements can be caused by something you have eaten.

What Changes to Look Out for

1. Constipation

Constipation is one of the abnormal symptoms or changes in bowel movements. It is not a cause of worry if it only happens once in a while.

Frequent constipation is abnormal and more suspicious. This irregular change can be caused by a cancer pressing on the nerves in your spinal cord. The cancer can slow down or prevent the movements of your large intestine.

Also, tumors in the abdomen can compress, squeeze, or narrow the colon and the rectum making it hard for you to have a bowel motion. If you are able to go, your stool will look pencil shaped. A tumor in the lining of the colon can also affect the nerve supply to the muscles and can also lead to constipation or pencil shaped stool.

If you have lymphoma, constipation is caused either by the cancer itself or the drugs (chemotherapy and painkillers with morphine) used to treat you.

Prevention of constipation starts with a clean colon.

How to colon cleanse naturally? You can:

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables more often.
  • Sprinkle a teaspoon of ground flax seeds in your dishes.

Relief from constipation is only one of the health benefits of flax seeds.

ground flax seeds to prevent constipation

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2. Diarrhea

Are you having frequent bouts with diarrhea lately? It is one of the irregular changes in bowel movements you must not take for granted for varied reasons. Diarrhea may mean presence of intestinal bacteria or amoebiasis. But if it is accompanied with pencil shaped stools, they may be symptoms of tumor.

There are cancers that release hormones and chemicals which cause diarrhea. This is called paraneoplastic syndrome. One such cancer is lymphoma. Diarrhea in a lymphoma patient can worsen if radiation targeted at the abdomen is the prescribed treatment.

3. Blood In or On the Stool

Traces of blood are characteristics of abnormal and irregular stools. If you have hemorrhoids, you may experience rectal bleeding. But be aware that hemorrhoids may exist with cancer especially if irregular bloody stools are pencil shaped and they occur with unexplained chronic pain.

Therefore, even when you have hemorrhoids, it is wise that a doctor examines your entire intestinal tract when you see blood and your stool is pencil shaped.

4. Unusual or Irregular Stools

What is considered irregular? Unusual color and ribbon or pencil shape are considered abnormal.

Dark bowel movements which resemble black or tar-like stool and unusually pale or light yellow stools are abnormal colors of bowel movements.

Stools that are either ribbon or pencil shaped are also symptoms that something is wrong.

5. Mucus or Pus in Stool

Finding traces of mucus or pus in your stool is not normal. You should see a doctor about such irregular change and have your stool tested. It doesn't necessarily mean there is a tumor in your colon. It might only mean an infection. But if it's a pencil shaped stool with traces of pus, it's wise to be certain.

Now that you have an idea of what irregular or abnormal changes in your bowel movements to look out for, don't worry too much over these symptoms. The abnormal changes may also be symptoms of a mild infection or irritable bowel syndrome.

Possible Reasons for Abnormal Bowel Movements

How your colon behaves is affected by any of the following factors:

1. Your diet

Your body can only remove what you have put into it. The quality of your stools depends on what you eat and drink.

Have you not been eating enough fiber rich foods such as vegetables and fruits? Or have you not been drinking enough water? Missing out on fiber and water can lead to constipation.

too much spicy food causes diarrhea

Diarrhea is also one of the abnormal symptoms. It may be caused by eating something unclean or something you don't normally eat.

Some foods that are spicy can also cause loose bowel movements especially if you're not used to eating them. Too much of spicy foods is one of the chronic indigestion causes.

2. Your lifestyle

Are you in a lot of stressful situations lately? Too much stress can cause your digestive system to be irregular. When you are under so much stress, you usually experience abnormal changes such as constipation and diarrhea.

3. Certain medications you are taking

Taking iron supplements or some antibiotics can lead to abnormal color in your bowel movements. Your stools will have a dark color. If they are dark and pencil shaped when you're not taking iron supplements, see your doctor just to be safe.

You shouldn't take irregular changes lightly. They can be possible symptoms of cancer in your colon.

Patients with lymphoma can also experience either diarrhea or constipation.

The possibility of an important disease such as colorectal cancer is there, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.

Irregular changes in bowel movements plus other symptoms like unexplained fever may mean metastatic tumor in your colon.

Thus it is important that irregular symptoms or changes in bowel movements such as pencil shaped stool are diagnosed properly.

Related Pages on Symptoms:

Excessive Fatigue | Persistent Fever | Unexpected Weight Loss | Trouble Swallowing | Pain from Cancer

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