Bathroom habits are definitely not the most pleasant topic. For some people this can be one of the most relaxing and satisfying parts of their day, while for others it may just be a necessary inconvenience.
Either way, there’s no denying that being aware of what comes out is the easiest way to discover what’s happening inside the body.
Here’s everything you need to know about what your poop is trying to tell you.
SHAPE & CONSISTENCY
Hard and separate little lumps. These can look like little marbles or nuts and are hard to pass. This is typically a sign of constipation and should not happen frequently.
Log-shaped but lumpy
This can be another sign of constipation. Again, this shouldn’t be happening too frequently.
Log-shaped with a cracked surface
This is winner of poops, especially if it’s easy to pass and somewhat soft. This what you want to aim for.
Snake-like with a smooth surface
Also considered as normal. Frequency should be every, one to three days.
Soft separate lumps
These are small little lumps like the first type but are soft and easier to pass. They will also have clear cut edges. This type of poop is an indication of insufficient fibre. More fibre should be introduced to the diet through cereal or vegetables.
Fluffy and mushy with ragged edges.
The too-soft consistency of this type of poop could be a sign of mild diarrhea. Drinking more water and fruit juice could help to improve this.
Completely watery with no solid pieces.
Aka the runs, or diarrhea. This happens when stool moves too quickly through the bowels and did not have time to form into a healthy poop.
CHANGES IN COLOUR
A change in the colour of stool is usually not a cause for concern. Changes in colour can often be attributed to different foods in the diet as well as the bacteria present in the colon. Leafy greens, red fruits and veggies such as beets, artificial food colourings and some medications and supplements can all affect the colour of your stool.
However, if your poop appears to be black (without cause) or bloody, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Here’s a colour-based guide to what your poop says about your health:
Eating liquorice or taking iron supplements, or medications containing bismuth may be the explanation behind black stool. If none of these are the culprit, black poop could be a sign of bleeding in an area of the upper gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach of small intestine. Getting this checked out by Doctor is a good idea.
Poop that is a chalky light colour, could be due to a lack of bile. Bile is a digestive fluid excreted by the liver and gallbladder. Producing white stool, could be an indication that one of these ducts is blocked. It may also be a side-effect of medications such as anti-diarrheal medication. In either case, if the colour does not return to regular brown, it’s best to consult a doctor.
Red stool should not be a cause for immediate concern. Foods such as beetroot, tomato juice, cranberries and even red jelly can all turn poop red. If you are positive the red colour is not from food, it may be an indication of blood in the stool. This could be due to either haemorrhoids or bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. In this case, it’s definitely time to see the doctor.
Poop that is greasy, stinky, yellow and in some cases floats, is typically a sign of too much fat in the diet. It could also be an indication of a malabsorption disorder like celiac disease, where the body isn’t able to absorb enough nutrients. This can also happen after having the gall bladder removed and a range of other surgeries.
A slight green tinge to poop is actually quite normal. If it turns from brown to full green though, it could one of two things. Either there’s been a recent increase in green foods like spinach to the diet in the last 24 hours. Alternatively, it could mean that stools are passing through the digestive system too quickly and not getting enough time to pick up brown-tinting bilirubin and therefore contain more bile salts giving it a green colour.
Other things to watch out for
Apart from consistency and shape and colour, here are some other things to look out for.
In general, poop will normally have an unpleasant odour, courtesy of the bacteria in the colon that help to break down the food. If there is a change to the usual smell of the stool, either an extremely bad or abnormal odour, this may be a sign of infection in the body. Inflammation of the colon caused by inflammatory bowel disease, or diseases like celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, or lactose intolerance, that cause malabsorption may also be to blame.
There could be many reasons for experiencing constipation. Blockages or nerve issues in and around the colon or rectum may slow down the function of the gastrointestinal tract, as can problems with pelvic muscles. Conditions like pregnancy or diabetes, that affect hormones, could also be the culprit.
Oily or Greasy Stools
As already mentioned, poop that appears oily, has a greasy consistency and is difficult to flush, could be a sign that the body is not able to properly digest fat. This change in consistency could be caused by infection, inability to digest nutrients, which can happen in the case of celiac disease, or where there are problems with the pancreas.
Stool that is very thin, is likely due to muscle contractions in the large intestine, which helps to concentrate waste. If this only occurs every so often it is not a cause for concern. However, if stools are consistently thin, it could mean that there is a blockage in the colon and a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.
BETTER GI HEALTH
Most common gastrointestinal problems can be solved by making simple changes in diet and lifestyle. These could include:
- Eating a diet high in unprocessed, natural foods including fibre-rich vegetables.
- Boosting intestinal flora by taking probiotics or adding naturally fermented foods to the diet – think sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir
- Staying hydrated by drinking at least 2 litres of water each day
- Avoiding artificial sweeteners, fructose, chemical additives, MSG and excessive caffeine.
- Regular exercise or activity
- Finding ways to manage and reduce stress
WHEN TO GET HELP
It’s important to know how your gastrointestinal tract normally functions and what typical bowel activity is for your body. Prolonged changes in the activity or function need to be closely monitored. Where there is any pain or pronounced symptoms, a doctor should be consulted immediately.