Stool softening will relieve the pain and discomfort of constipation. When an person becomes constipated, her stools are hard, making them difficult and painful to pass. Some hard stools may remain in the rectal vault, increasing discomfort. Most healthy people have bowel movements between three times a day and three times a week. When a person becomes constipated, stool softening may be required.
The primary problem that often initiates constipation and hard stools is a significant lack of fiber in the diet. According to FamilyDoctor.com, eating more fiber is one key to treating constipation. Fiber acts by increasing the bulk of the stool, helping the intestines to move it more efficiently; and holding more water inside the stool, making it softer and easier to pass.
FamilyDoctor.com recommends eating at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Dietary fiber can be added through the consumption of bran cereals, whole grain breads, brown rice, dried fruit and beans. Men and women should receive between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day for the formation of soft and bulky stool. The actual amount of fiber necessary will be different based on the individual's digestive requirements.
According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse, fluids have very little effect on the formation of bulk in the stool. It is waste from the foods eaten that produce the solids found in stool. However, drinking plenty of fluid is very important because even mild dehydration can cause hard stools. In an effort to reverse the effects of dehydration, the body conserves water by removing it from the solid waste as the stool passes through the intestines. This causes the stool to become harder. A person experiencing hard stools should drink 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily, and avoid liquids that contain caffeine or alcohol.
During the process of movement from the stomach to the anus, food products are metabolized and water is removed. The longer the stool remains in the small intestines and large intestines, the greater the amount of water that is removed. According to physicians at Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity will help to stimulate intestinal wall contractions and reduce the amount of time that stool remains in the intestines. Digestion can be improved with just 20 to 30 minutes each day of mild to moderate activity, such as walking, jogging, gardening and rowing.
Hard stools are a problem faced by both adults and children who have not taken enough time in the bathroom to relax and completely evacuate their bowels. According to physicians at Mayo Clinic, individuals should set aside a sufficient amount of time to relax undisturbed in the bathroom. By ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, individuals may increase the amount of water that is removed from the stool and cause it to become more difficult to pass. Spend about 15 minutes at the same time each day relaxed on the toilet to create a bowel habit that reduces the need for any medication.