Stool Consistency

What Causes Hard Or Loose Stools?

Hard or loose stools can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'very serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose hard or loose stools, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "hard or loose stools" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Blastocystosis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Giardia
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypothyroidism

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
very great unexplained weight gain
meal-induced pain for over a month
difficulty losing weight
hypothyroidism in family members
red palms/fingertips
major unexplained weight loss
high T3 free level
history of hyperthyroidism
hyperthyroidism
major mid-abdomen pain after food
trace amounts of occult blood
frequent meal-related bloating
... and more than 120 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of hard or loose stools:
Cause Probability Status
Gastroenteritis 93% Confirm
Lactose Intolerance 20% Unlikely
Blastocystosis 19% Unlikely
Hypothyroidism 0% Ruled out
Giardia 0% Ruled out
Crohn's Disease 0% Ruled out
Diarrhea 0% Ruled out
Hyperthyroidism 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate irregular stools, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
On average, how well-formed are your bowel movements / stools?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ Hard, difficult to pass
→ Well-formed, easy to pass
→ Loose
→ Very loose and watery
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate having hard stools, having normal stool texture, having loose stools or having watery stools, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Blastocystosis (Blastocystis hominis)

Watery or loose stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anal itching, weight loss and excess gas have all been reported in persons with blastocystis infection.

... and also rule out issues such as:
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