Nobody likes to talk about their poop or stool, but it is worth understanding given the important role it plays in keeping your body healthy.
Bowel movements are an essential part of digestion. Stool formed by the large intestine is the body’s natural way of getting rid of waste products and toxins from within the body.
A normal bowel movement is a balance between not having to push or strain and also not having such an urgency to go that you barely can hold it.
Most of us do not think about checking our stool in the toilet before flushing it away. But if you are conscientious about your health, you must take a look on a regular basis. The color, texture and consistency of your poop can give clues about your inner health.
When it comes to your poop, look for consistent changes rather than temporary abnormalities that only last a day or two.
Consistent changes that last a week or more can say a lot about your health.
Here is what your poop says about your health.
1. Hard Poop in Pieces
If you are spending more time on the toilet seat because your stool comes in the form of little, individual hard pellets or sausage-shaped but lumpy that is hard to pass, it can mean that your body is either dehydrated or you are constipated.
You may also be constipated even if you are going to the bathroom on a daily basis, but your stool is consistently hard and comes out in pieces after straining to pass it. Pushing or straining too hard is not good, as it can lead to hemorrhoids that are all too common today.
Drinking more water and eating food high in both soluble and insoluble fiber can help.
Also, add magnesium-rich foods to your diet. Magnesium draws water into the bowel, making stool softer and easier to pass. It also relaxes the muscles in the intestinal wall, which helps with constipation.
2. Black-Colored Poop
Newborn babies’ stools are black in color for the first few days after birth, but soon the color changes to normal.
But if an adult passes black-colored stool, it may be due to certain minor issues like eating something very dark colored (i.e., black licorice or blueberries) or taking a medicine or supplement (for example, iron causes black poop).
But if black-colored stool is occurring consistently, it can be a sign of a more serious problem like bleeding in the upper part of your digestive tract due to ulcers, bleeding sores in your esophagus from acid reflux, noncancerous tumors and cancer.
If you have black poop and don’t think it is due to something you ate, you need to talk to your doctor.
3. Red- or Reddish-Colored Poop
Just like black stools, stools that are red or reddish is not normal. It may indicate bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, such as the large intestine or rectum. This can be due to noncancerous tumors, cancer, inflammation in the colon (colitis), polyps in the colon, diverticular disease and even hemorrhoids.
However, if you pass reddish-colored poop for only a day or two, then there is nothing to worry about. This can be due to intake of red food coloring, beets, cranberries, tomato juice or soup, red gelatin or drink mixes.
Consult your doctor immediately if you see red poop that’s probably not from food you ate.
4. Green-Colored Poop
Passing green-colored stools likely means you have consumed too many leafy green vegetables or food containing the same coloring, such as ice cream, cake frosting, jelly beans and so on. It can also be due to iron or other supplements you may be taking.
If you have green diarrhea, it means your meal moved through your gut too quickly, thus not giving the fat-digesting bile time to turn it brown.
However, explosive and seaweed green-colored poop may indicate that you have a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. This usually occurs after a course of antibiotics, which can kill off the good bacteria that normally keep C. diff bacteria in check.
5. Blood in the Stool
Seeing bright red blood in your stool is something you need to take very seriously.
Visible blood in one’s stool is the primary sign of rectal bleeding. Blood in the stool can be bright red, maroon or even black in color.
On the other hand, blood streaks on the outside of your stool may indicate that hemorrhoids have broken open or you have a strained sphincter due to constipation.
Other causes for blood in your stool are a bleeding stomach ulcer, colitis, abnormal blood vessels, inflammation of the stomach lining, anal fissures, polyps, cancer, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease or an intestinal infection.
Whenever you notice blood in your stool, you should see your doctor to rule out the possibility of any serious health issue.
6. Floating Stools
If you notice that your poop floats in the toilet bowl instead of sinking, it can be due to several reasons.
Usually, floating stools are due to something you ate. A change in your diet may cause an increase in gas, which can cause the stool to float. Another common reason is poor absorption of nutrients (malabsorption). Floating stools may also indicate a gastrointestinal infection.
However, if floating stools become a common occurrence, it may be due to inflammation in the pancreas that prevents the body from producing enough digestive enzymes. A food allergy or infection that can damage the intestinal lining can also be the reason.
Most causes of floating stools will go away without treatment, but see your doctor if the problem persists.
7. Poop that Smells like Sulfur
Unusually foul-smelling stool could indicate health problems like a malabsorptive disorder, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis (CF).
If your stool smells like sulfur or rotten eggs and you are having symptoms of diarrhea, it could indicate stomach infection due to bacteria, viruses or parasites.
8. Very Loose Poop
If your poop is very loose, but not so loose that you have diarrhea, it may mean gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Those who suffer from celiac disease are unable to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Eating gluten contributes to the loose stools that you could experience several times a day. Switching to a gluten-free diet can solve this problem.
Sometimes, if your stool has changed from regular to a looser consistency and the frequency has increased, it can be due to hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), a condition in which the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones.
If symptoms persist, definitely contact your doctor.
Tips to Improve Your Bowel Movements
If you suffer from chronic bathroom issues, consult your doctor.
Include unprocessed, natural foods like fiber-rich vegetables in your diet.
Avoid artificial sweeteners, fructose, chemical additives, MSG and excessive caffeine.
Boost your intestinal flora by including fermented or probiotic foods like yogurt in your diet. You can opt to take a probiotic supplement after consulting your doctor.
Drink enough water to keep the body well-hydrated.
Exercise daily to ensure good digestive health.
Take necessary steps to minimize chronic stress.
If you are on medication, ask your doctor if it could be affecting your bowel movements.