Everyone knows what normal stool is supposed to look like. Anything out of the ordinary can be a cause of worry. The reason is that changes in stool are commonly associated with many diseases.
One of the things that many people complain about is seeing pea sized black balls in stool. So, if you have the same problem, then know that you’re not alone. So, what is the cause of these pea-sized black balls in stool? That’s what we’ll be talking about now.
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Pea-Sized Black Balls in Stool: Why Do They Occur?
The reason why this happens is due to constipation. However, constipation can occur due to various causes as well. They can range from a simple dietary change to more serious diseases. So, you can’t figure out what is the exact cause without consulting with a physician.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at why and how this happens.
So, what exactly is constipation? The general idea is that constipation means not passing stool properly. However, there is a cutoff point. If you have less than three bowel movements in a span of three days, then you have constipation.
Constipation is a rather common occurrence, especially in the United States. Some people confuse it with a disease. But, it is actually a symptom of an underlying problem. It can affect people of all ages.
What causes constipation? Let’s look into a few common causes.
Not Taking Enough Fibers
Veggies and fruits aren’t always the tastiest thing on the table. So, if you’ve been skipping them, then we get where you’re coming from. But, they really are needed for the body.
Fruits and veggies make up the ‘dietary fibers’ in our diet. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. But, the interesting thing about fibers is that we can’t digest them. We don’t have the enzymes to break down some plant carbohydrates which are the fibers
If we can’t digest and absorb them properly, why do we need them? That’s because fibers help in making your stool bulky and soft. Fibers can’t be absorbed and broken down. So, they hang around in your poop. And they themselves can absorb water and keep some water.
If you don’t have enough fibers in your diet, your intestines can absorb more water from your stool. So, the stool becomes very dry and hard. This also decreases the amount of stool. This makes the stool stay in the intestines even longer. And so, even more, water can be absorbed making the stool even drier.
That’s why it becomes very difficult to pass these kinds of stool. In some cases, as these pass through the large intestine, they can break down. The stool can then turn into small pea-sized black balls.
Fibers can prevent all of this. By keeping some of the water, they make the stool softer. They also increase gut motility, a term used to describe how fast food moves through your digestive tract. So, you have a more regular bowel movement when you eat lots of fiber.
Dietary fibers also help support the normal gut flora. Your intestines are filled with helpful bacteria which help your body in many ways. They can develop your immunity, prevent other harmful bacteria and even help with food digestion.
So, eating fibers will help sustain these bacteria. And they can control digestion and prevent constipation as well.
Besides preventing constipation, fibers have some other useful functions as well. Some of them are:
- Helping in weight loss
- Preventing cancer
- Preventing diabetes
- Lowering LDL cholesterol, having a positive effect on the lipid profile.
Another cause of constipation is a lack of fluid intake. If you don’t take enough fluids throughout the day, your gut can’t produce enough digestive juice. The cells of your intestines will also try to absorb more water.
Your body’s water content is very important. If you are dehydrated, the amount of blood gets lesser. So, blood flow to vital organs can decrease.
In response to this, your body releases some hormones like adrenaline. And one of the effects of these hormones is to decrease gut motility. The longer the food stays in the gut, the more water will be absorbed.
This makes the stool hard and lumpy. So, this is another reason why you might see pea-sized black balls in your stool.
There are several diseases that can slow down the food movement in your gut. These are called motility disorders. Most of these conditions are chronic in nature. So, if you had pea-sized black balls in your stool for quite some time, you might have these conditions.
These disorders are:
- Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
- Slow-transit constipation
- Irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
These disorders can decrease gastric motility. So, the food stays in the intestines much longer. And thus, more water can be absorbed. This is how they can cause constipation.
Several drugs can cause constipation as well. These drugs can work on various receptors in the colon. They can also have an effect on the brain or spinal cord. Nerve impulses come to the colon from here. So, altering these can cause constipation as well.
Some drugs which can cause constipation are:
- Iron Supplements
- Calcium channel blockers or antagonists
Several neurological disorders can sometimes be the reason for constipation. The nerve signals to the colon come from the brain and spinal cord. So, these diseases can hinder gastric motility and cause constipation. Some of them are:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord lesion or injury
- Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Anxiety and depression too can cause constipation. These can lead to the release of various hormones and nerve signals. If these go on for a long time, they can alter gut motility as well.
Several metabolic conditions may lead to constipation. For example, diabetes, hypercalcemia, thyroid abnormalities can all be the cause. However, constipation doesn’t occur regularly with these. It’s only an occasional finding.
Defecation-related problems like Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), hemorrhoids, etc. can cause constipation as well.
Finally, colonic carcinoma can cause obstruction of the colon. So, more water will be absorbed leading to hard poop. Hence, constipation may occur in this case as well.
Pea-sized black balls in stool: baby
If pea-sized black balls in stool occur among babies, Hirschsprung’s disease might be the cause. This is a congenital anomaly, which means the baby is born with this disorder. Genetic mutations are responsible for this condition.
In this disease, some of the nerves of parts of the intestines are missing. So, the intestines can’t contract at those spots. Food becomes stuck there. So, more and more water can be absorbed. Thus, this leads to the development of fecal pellets.
Other congenital structural anomalies of the gut can be the reason for these pea-sized black balls in stool among babies as well.
In rare cases, pea-sized black balls in stool can be due to other reasons too. Some of them are:
- GI bleed: If there’s bleeding in your gut, then black specks can form. Blood mixes up with the food and becomes almost black.
- Certain foods: Undigested foods can sometimes appear as small black balls. People eating blueberries, cherries, bananas, etc. sometimes complain of having these.
- In very rare cases, the black balls can be parasite ova or even broken-off colon polyps.
Bristol stool chart
The Bristol stool chart or Bristol stool scale classifies human stool for diagnosis. It was developed in 1997 at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.
The chart is very simple. By looking at the shape and consistency, you can determine if it’s normal or not.
The scale divides feces into seven categories. Types I and II indicate constipation. Types III and IV are normal. The type V means that there is a lack of fiber in the diet. And finally, types VI and VII are for diarrhea.
Pea-sized black balls in your stool fall into the Bristol Scale type I.
Treatment for Pea Sized Black Balls in Stool
Now you might be wondering what your next step should be. So, let’s talk about the possible treatment options.
Doctors will treat this condition depending on what caused it. However, some commonly used medications for constipation are:
- Bulking agents: These are like fibers. They can make your stool bulkier, hence the name. Drugs in this category include methylcellulose, psyllium powder, polycarbophil tablets, etc.
- Osmotic laxatives: These agents increase the water content of your stool. They hold water. So, they prevent the stool from drying out. Some of these are Lactulose solution, sorbitol solution, magnesium citrate solution, etc.
- Stool softeners: These make your stool softer and hence allow easy passage. Docusate sodium capsule is a stool softener.
- Stimulant laxatives: These drugs can cause contraction of the colon and rectum. This rhythmic contraction can push the stool out. Some of these drugs are Bisacodyl, Senna, etc.
- Other agents: Doctors use other agents too. These include chloride channel openers, mu receptor antagonists, etc.
Doctors might even go for other options. Biofeedback, surgery, nerve modulations are some other methods.
When to See a Doctor?
Your doctor can accurately diagnose if you have any abnormalities with your stool. Even if it’s a minor problem, seeing your doctor is always the best option. However, you should absolutely see your doctor if you see the following:
- If you see blood passing out with your stool. This is a sign of colonic bleeding.
- If the problem persists for a long time, like weeks.
- If you feel intense pain or nausea with the pebble poop.
- If you have a fever, body ache, or other symptoms.
- If your doctor started you on a drug and the problem happened after that.
What You Can Try at Home?
If the pea-sized black balls in the stool are due to constipation, then you can take some measures yourself. Some of them are:
- Increasing fiber intake is probably the single most important thing in this case. Scientists recommend getting around 25-30 grams of fibers every day for women. And as for men, around 38-40 grams of fiber is enough.
Vegetables and fruits normally contain lots of fiber. However, some particular items contain more fiber than others. Below are some high fiber foods:
- Whole grains and cereals
- Beans and legumes
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts, etc.
If you incorporate these foods into your diet, you will see your body change for the better.
- You can also try increasing your daily water intake. Water makes the stool softer. 6-8 glasses of water are recommended daily. However, if you have constipation, then you can bump it up to 10-12 glasses.
- If there’s a particular kind of food that makes your stool like pebbles, then you can try going a few days without that food. If the abnormal stool stops, then you have your culprit.
- Anxiety and stress management can help you in this regard as well. Stress sometimes can make constipation even worse.
- You can try getting some exercise. Moving your body around and strengthening your muscles too can help.
- Try avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- You can also try using some over-the-counter laxatives. These medications are for short-term relief of constipation. You shouldn’t take them for too long without consulting a doctor.
- Fiber supplements are available in the market. You can try those if you’re having a tough time including fiber in your diet.
Many diseases and conditions can cause pea-sized black balls in your stool. These range from simple preventable diseases to more serious conditions. So if your home remedies aren’t working, it’s best to see a doctor immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
With the proper treatment, most of these conditions can be managed. So you be able to get rid of the pebble poop.
What foods cause black specks in stool?
Certain foods like blueberries, cherries, bananas, licorice, plums, etc. can cause black specks in stool. However, black specks can also indicate the presence of blood. So, it can be due to GI bleeding as well.
Why are there black balls in my poop?
Black balls in your poop are most likely due to constipation. After the absorption of too much water, your stool becomes harder. They can break off into black balls. The most common cause is lack of fiber and fluid intake, certain drugs, slow gastrointestinal motility, etc.
Why does my poop look like it has seeds in it?
Sometimes, seeds can remain undigested throughout your gut. In that case, the seeds can appear in your poop. Undigested fibers can appear as seeds as well.
What’s a ghost poop?
A ghost poop is when you feel the urge to poop, but after doing it, there’s no poop. This happens when there’s too much air in your large intestines. The air expands the colon and the nerves carry the signal that the colon is expanded. Your body thinks that there’s poop in there. So, you feel the need to poop, and your colon is evacuated. But, due to it mostly being air, there’s no poop.
What does malabsorption poop look like?
If you have malabsorption, your poop can look more yellow, sticky, oily, and greasy. Since the fat remains, the stool can float. The smell of the stool is far worse than normal well.