Have you ever had the experience of flushing a toilet and watching the water start to rise? It is a scary sight. If the water overflows the toilet and floods the bathroom, it is a total mess. Cleaning up can be gross. Sometimes the problem is faulty plumbing. Other times it is caused by large bowel movements. If there is no plunger, it can be terribly embarrassing, especially if it happens at a friend’s house. That is this reader’s greatest fear!
Big Bowel Movements:
Q. I have bowel movements that are so large they clog the toilet. I am not constipated and eat my share of fruits and vegetables. This is not a big deal at home, since I have a plunger in the bathroom to deal with the plumbing problem.
My great fear is having to use the facilities elsewhere. One time I stopped up a friend’s toilet and there was no plunger in sight. It was extremely embarrassing.
Short of carrying a plunger with me, which is of course ridiculous, what can I do?
A. We have heard from many readers who face a similar challenge.
Debra writes about her grandchildren:
“I am very concerned with my two grandsons, ages 7 and 9. Their BMs are huge and painful for them. My daughter has taken them to the pediatrician, but nothing has been done for them.
“I am sure they have learned to hold it until they get home. They both are clogging the toilet constantly. The 7-year-old looks gaunt. He has horrible eating habits and eats very little and still has these humongous BMs.”
Another reader suggests that magnesium might help. The dose should be determined by a physician!
“My grandson has this problem despite lots of fiber and fruit. His physician said that because our water is very high in calcium, my grandson might be low on magnesium.
“Since magnesium is a vital nutrient, it made sense to try a supplement. This works like a charm!”
Another visitor to this site offers a different kind of solution:
“I’ve had this very same issue for my 70 years of life. I Googled the problem. This solution has actually worked at several different homes of friends and family. It is so embarrassing!
- Pour a healthy amount of liquid soap into your toilet bowl, about half a cup. (We use Dawn.) The soap is denser and heavier than water and should drop to the bottom of the bowl.
- Let the liquid dish soap sit in the bowl for 20-30 minutes. After about 20 minutes fill up a container with hot water and pour it into the bowl.
- So far, this has worked every time. Good luck.”
Our Guides to Digestive Disorders and Constipation have other suggestions and a list of medications that may contribute to this problem. Other ideas include chewing sugarless gum or sipping flaxseed broth.
One woman who developed this problem during her pregnancy was advised to take milk of magnesia on alternate days. On the other days, she took a stool softener like Colace and daily fish oil.
Here are several other comments. As you will see, this is a problem that affects a great many people:
Fiber Is NOT Always the Answer
B.L.B. consumes huge amounts of fiber with no benefit:
“It’s not constipation. Honestly I have it too. I go every day.
“I would like to consider myself a delicate lady otherwise but, no. Things I have tried over the counter cause my stool to swell up, which is not the desired goal.
“Fiber is also a lost cause. My diet consists mostly of kale, spinach and other vegetables and fruits, tofu and whole grains.
“The doctors don’t seem to think it’s a problem and they always dismiss it. I have been very persistent. I’ve heard “modern plumbing is just not designed to accommodate a healthy bowel movement.” A. it’s not healthy and B. shut up!
“It’s painful, it’s awful and it has little to do with diet. I’ve been diagnosed with IBS but the more I look into it the less I believe that’s really what’s going on. It doesn’t fluctuate back and forth – it’s always huge and painful.
“I’ve read that it has to do with something stripping the bacteria from the walls of your colon. I suspect it might be related to gluten- that’s the only thing I haven’t tried eliminating. I suspect a low starch diet might help and that’s my next course of action.
“My daughter has this problem too and it’s heart wrenching. I honestly have no words for what it’s like – it’s ridiculous. One thing I know for sure though, is that nobody can tell me to add more fiber to my diet. That’s been done and laxatives might be a step in the completely wrong direction.”
Kids That Hold It In
You would be surprised to learn how many children suffer from this problem.
Here is a message from Melanie. She is fed up and frustrated:
“My son has had this problem since he was 4. He is almost 9 now. A teacher told him that he was taking too long in the bathroom. From that point on, he has been holding it in. He even holds it in at home now.
“His stools are HUGE. They clog the toilet, too, which is very embarrassing for him. He usually comes home from school with a small stain on his underwear from holding it in.
“Encopresis is the only ‘diagnosis’ that fit our situation, and it is not one that will go away any time soon. We have tried all of the stool softeners, fiber etc… none of which has helped.
“Now we just try to cope and help keep him stay clean. I worry more about the pain of the large bowel movements. He won’t say whether they hurt or not.
“It just breaks my heart to see him go through this and feel so helpless. Kids dealing with this need a lot of patience and understanding….and maybe some dietary changes.”
Dr. Alan Greene Deals with the D-D-D cycle:
We consulted Dr. Alan Greene’s website to get an answer. Dr. Greene is one of the country’s leading pediatricians and his website is fabulous!
First, Dr. Greene warns about the nasty DDD cycle: “Discomfort-Dread-Delay.” The longer a child (or adult) holds in a bowel movement, the “bigger” the problem eventually. Dr. Greene suggests trying mineral oil to break the cycle (4 teaspoons a day to start for a 4-year-old).
He recommends adjusting the dose until the stool is soft every day. That dose is used for about two weeks. Then the mineral oil is tapered and eventually discontinued. Using mineral oil too long can affect nutritional status, so this must be considered a temporary approach.
One last suggestion from Dr. Greene: try avoiding white food, ie, white bread, white rice and white flour in all its guises. That means less standard pizza and fewer cookies and cakes. If the child can tolerate prune or pear juice, that may also help.
Other Suggestions for Dealing with Big Bowel Movements:
We heard from plumber Mark Harrison who offered this link to ways to unplug blocked toilets: https://www.mrblueplumbing.com/every-way-to-unclog-a-toilet/
Jeb in Montana has had some childhood trauma:
“I grew up in a household where we got a spanking if we plugged the toilet with large bowel movements. It was an unspoken rule that we had to pinch them out regardless of how big they were. I know I hated it. It was even worse when we moved into a new house with some water-saving toilets with a small opening at the bottom of the bowl.
“As for clearing plugged toilets, there are a couple things that can be done. Get a large bucket (like a 5 gallon bucket) and fill it full with the hottest water you can get from the bath tub and pour it down the toilet. If that doesn’t work, pour a large amount of liquid dish soap into the toilet and let it sit for about 5 minutes and then repeat with another 5 gallon bucket of the hottest water from the bath tub. That should do the trick between the lubrication the soap has and the hot water to get things moving along and on down the drain.”
Diane has a different solution to big bowel movements:
“I sprinkle baking soda followed by vinegar into the bowl so it will fizz. Let it set for about fifteen minutes before flushing. I always lay a ratty towel down and have the plunger ready just in case but so far I haven’t had any clogs since doing this.”
Rob in New York says the brand of toilet matters:
“I have had the problem of large stools since I was a child. When I finally lived in a home where I could install a toilet, I did plenty of research. The result was the Toto Drake with SanaGloss. The SanaGloss is a super-smooth pipe that is incredibly slippery. Now using a plunger is a rare occurrence. And I’ve urged my friends in town to get the same toilet, so my kids have other ‘friendly’ toilets to use.”
We checked the Amazon ratings on several Toto Drake SanaGloss toilets and most people agree that they flush better than average toilets. Whether it will work for very big bowel movements remains to be seen. Let us know your experience. Share your own story or solutions below in the comment section.