What Should You Know About the Undigested Pills in Stools?

You would often need to look into the toilet after the bowel movement and see a tablet or pill only partially digested. People who see this may wonder if a medication is working like it is supposed to or if something is wrong with digestion.

However, seeing the undigested medications in your stool doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with your digestive tract. In this blog, you will learn it may occur and when you should discuss it with your healthcare provider.

Medication coatings and shells

Pharmaceutical companies make many coatings to ensure that a medication dissolves when it is supposed to and at the correct rate for the medication to work. These include pills marked ‘sustained-release’ or ‘extended-release’ and capsules containing the active medication in a pellet or powdered form.

In many cases, the body’s digestive acids are likely to break down the outer shell, but not every time. It is especially true in the case of specific capsules. In some instances, the shell tends to remain intact and expels from the body usually intact. However, while you may think the medication has not been absorbed, it has.

It has a similarity to the digestion of corn kernels, where the inner grain gets absorbed. However, the tough fibrous husk passes through into the stool.

The best way to tell if a medication is absorbed is to poke around in your stool and check if the shell contains any traces of medications.

At the same time, you can easily monitor the response to the treatment and see if the medication is working. So, for example, if you are taking medicine for blood sugar and diabetes to remain normal, there’s a good chance the medications are getting absorbed correctly.

When you are in doubt, it is better to talk to your healthcare provider. They can let you know if this is one common situation and prescribe an alternate medicine if required.

Problem with absorption

In rare cases, there would be gastrointestinal motility problems that prevent medications from being properly absorbed. Motility is the muscle contractions that move food and other things through the intestines. If the contractions are very fast, referred to as rapid dysmotility, a capsule or a pill may pass through the intestines undigested.

Diarrhea is a common example of this. Here are the causes:

  • Specific medications
  • Celiac disease (CD)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Irritable bowel disease (IBD)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Food intolerance
  • Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

A few of these conditions, like celiac disease, may also lead to malabsorption, in which the intestines can absorb the medications and nutrients less. If you are not absorbing the medications correctly, you are also not getting nutrients from your food.

Lack of proper medication use

While it is not likely to take the medication in the wrong way, it may lead it to be unabsorbed in the stomach, which is quite highly possible. This is because medicines work in a quite peculiar way and must be taken per the prescription, which helps to ensure that they are broken down and absorbed as they should be.

For example:

  • Medication absorption may be affected when taken with specific food like grapefruit juice.
  • A few medications may not adequately absorb if you take them with food.
  • Specific medications require a high or large-fat meal to be absorbed.
  • Specific medications cannot be taken together due to interactions that either decrease or increase the absorption rate.

Even so, lack of absorption is usually ‘invisible’ and is not likely to cause a capsule or pill to be excreted in the stool intact. If you are not sure you are taking the medication correctly, it is better to ask your pharmacist or doctor.


There are many reasons why a capsule or pill may appear undigested. For example, it could be because the capsule hasn’t broken down fully, though the active drug wouldn’t have been absorbed. In other instances, you may have diarrhea or other disorders that may lead the medication to pass through the intestine too quickly. In another scenario, you would be taking the medication incorrectly.

Whatever the cause, you should inform your doctor if you find any undigested medication in your stool. It may not be a serious concern, but it is likely to be something your doctor would want to check out. However, if you want instant savings of up to 85% on your prescription medications, download a free pharmacy discount card now!

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