What Is Your Poop Telling You About Your Health?
Everyone poops, as Taro Gomi, author of a children’s book by that very name, knows well. However, few people talk or think about their poop even though it’s a necessary and even vital part of human life. Adults could learn a thing or two from Gomi, however.
People need to be comfortable discussing defecation, particularly with doctors, and understanding what’s happening in the toilet can make that process much easier. So without further adieu, let’s talk about poop!
If your poop smells like rotting eggs, then you may need to go to the doctor. It’s possible that you picked up Giardia, a single-celled microscopic protozoan parasite that lives in bodies of freshwater like lakes and streams as well as unpurified drinking water.
If you have consistently pencil-thin poops or patches of dark blood in them, then you may have colorectal cancer. Your rectum is the last part of your large intestine (or colon) before the anal canal and anus.
If you haven’t consumed an inordinate amount of green food coloring, leafy greens or iron-rich foods, then your green diarrhea may be full of bile, which isn’t good. This is particularly worthy of concern if it’s a regular occurence.
White or Clay-Colored Stool
White or clay-colored stool means that your bile ducts may be obstructed. While passing through the digestive system, your food may not be getting the benefit of bile to help it break down. That can lead to infections or a buildup of bile in the liver and waste products in the blood.
Hard Little Nuggets
Small, hard stools are usually connected to constipation, not enough fiber, too many simple carbohydrates or sugars or dehydration — or all three. If your poop is small, hard, dry and difficult to pass, you probably need to seriously rethink your diet.
Black Stools — Straight to the Doctor!
If you haven’t eaten a pound or so of black licorice in the past couple of days and you're not consuming large amounts of iron, but still have black stools, go to the doctor’s office. Black poop is a sign of digested blood, meaning that your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract is bleeding.
Explosive Seaweed-Green Liquid Poop
If this sounds unpleasant, it’s even worse to actually experience. If you’ve got uncontrollable, dark green, liquid poop, a bacterial superinfection called Clostridium difficile (C. diff) may be the culprit. Superinfections happen when a normal bacteria such as C. diff runs rampant after healthy bacteria are killed by an antibiotic.
Bright Red Poop
While fresh blood in poop is usually from hemorrhoids or somewhere in the lower GI tract or rectum, if it’s ongoing, it needs to be addressed. The exception is if you ate nine red popsicles or similar foods in large quantities.
Loose, Yellow, Foul-Smelling Stool
Celiac disease is characterized by a gluten intolerance in which consumed gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that occurs when the immune system is hypersensitive to gluten, which is found in barley, wheat and rye.
It’s normal to have some poop that floats, especially if you’re into foods like sprouts, beans or cabbage. What isn’t normal is if your floaters are oily, which can mean that your body isn’t absorbing fat properly.
Floating poop can also be a sign of high-fat content in your diet, which may be a sign of malabsorption. Malabsorption happens when you cannot absorb the fat and other nutrients from the food you’re eating, which is not normal.
It turns out that passing gas 8-10 times per day is healthy and normal, although depending on where you are when you do it, it may be embarrassing. Farting is the result of your gut bacteria doing its job in your intestines and breaking down your food into nutrients and waste.
Yes, poop transplants are a thing. At least, fecal microbiota transplants are real and have proven to effectively treat problems like recurrent C. difficile bacterial superinfections and even inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are trillions of good bacteria working hard in a healthy person’s gut to keep them that way.
Your Bathroom Is Not Your Office
It may seem like a weird thing to study, but researchers have found a strange but strong correlation between time spent in the bathroom reading on the toilet and hemorrhoid development. The theory is that the longer you are sitting and straining, the more pressure it puts on the anal area, increasing the risk of swollen, irritated blood vessels.
Cell Phone Poop
Everybody knows that the best way to prevent disease transmission is to thoroughly wash your hands after every bathroom use. If you don’t, feces particles and the accompanying germs can get on everything you touch, which is not just gross, but can also make you sick.
What Is a Healthy Poop?
Dr. Oz made poop history when he said that a healthy stool "… should be in the shape of an S, and you want to make sure the color's normal because the color of the poop tells you a lot about how you made it."
The Bristol Stool Scale
Surprisingly, poop is about 75 water water and 25 percent indigestible food, inorganic substances and dead bacteria. The time it takes for the average person to consume a meal and then have a bowel movement is approximately three days.
Amount of Poop
You should have no more than three bowel movements in a day, and the total amount should equal less than 200 milliliters or 200 grams of stool. 200 grams is a little less than half a pound, so if you’re going more than this, you should evaluate your diet.
Hard, dry stools can be a sign of constipation. This condition is reported fairly often in the United States, with 4 million people experiencing it frequently. The problem with constipation is that it can be painful, cause impactions and hemorrhoids, and is usually preventable.
Medications Affect Your Bowels
You might not know this, but a lot of medicines can cause constipation. Some medicines affect the nerve and muscle activity of the colon and bind intestinal liquid, so you should take care to do your research before taking a new medication.
There are many types of intestinal worms that humans are capable of getting, including flatworms, such as flukes and tapeworms, and roundworms, like pinworms and hookworms. Common symptoms of a parasitic worm infestation are pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
Pus in the Stool
If you are unfortunate enough to experience food poisoning, you may see pus in your stool as a result of the bacterial invasion and subsequent white blood cell response. There are many bacteria that can cause GI tract illnesses, such as campylobacter, salmonella, shigella and yersinia.
Mucus During Chemo
If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, be aware that gastrointestinal mucositis, the severe loss of mucus from the gastrointestinal tract, can occur. Unfortunately, if you experience this condition, you may need to be hospitalized until your digestive tract is back to normal.
Coccidia infection, or coccidiosis, is a GI infection caused by the sporozoan parasite coccidium. Coccidiosis is characterized by watery diarrhea that sometimes alternates with constipation, pain in the abdomen, fever, nausea, headache, loss of appetite and weight loss. After the microscopic spores are ingested, the symptoms show up after about a week.
Timing Your Poop
Since there’s a correlation between how long it takes a person to defecate and hemorrhoids, doctors proposed guidelines for how long it should take to produce a healthy bowel movement.
Soft Little Nuggets
Fiber, fiber, fiber! Fiber is essential to your digestive health, and soft, small, easily passable stools are a dead giveaway that you need more fiber in your diet. If you have this problem, bust out the veggies, nuts and berries and go to town.
Sausage Shaped and Lumpy
If a stool has the right shape but is too lumpy, it could indicate constipation. This type of poop is type two on the Bristol Chart, and passing it can be uncomfortable. Nobody wants to pass a big, rock-hard, lumpy stool, so eat more greens, drink more water and exercise every day.
Sausage-Shaped With Cracks
Cracks in an otherwise normal-sausage-shaped stool are nothing to worry about. In fact, they fall under type three on the Bristol Stool Scale, making them close to the epitome of poop.
Soft Blobs With Obvious Edges
This type of stool is at risk of becoming diarrhea and is comprised of soft blobs with clear-cut edges. While it’s usually easy to pass, it doesn’t retain its shape well and signal future problems in the bathroom.
To Wrap It Up
The size, shape, color, and consistency of stool do matter, it turns out, and they matter a lot. How often you have a bowel movement matters too — some people go every day, while others go every couple days, and both are normal. What you want to pay attention to with frequency is if it changes — then it becomes significant.