Want to know if your eating and lifestyle habits really working? Just ask your poo.
Oh yes! We’re going down there.
We have a lot of silly names for it: BMs, caca, doo-doo, turds, and of course, poop. We don’t generally discuss it in our daily conversations. But asking some important questions about your bowel movements might give you some insight into your gastrointestinal health.
Bowel movements are the end result of your body taking the nutrients it needs from the food you eat and eliminating what’s left. Bowel movements are important for your health because they are the body’s natural way of excreting waste from the body. When it comes to frequency, color, shape, and size, a general rule of thumb is that normal bowel movements are defined as what’s comfortable for you. But being knowledgeable about your digestive process can help you identify when normal goes awry.
Unless you’re a child in the process of potty training, we’re going to guess you don’t really spend much time talking about your poop. Or even acknowledge that they happen. But in this article, we’re going to give you enough reasons why you might want to give your poop a glance before you flush.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How often are you going?
- How does it feel?
- What color is it?
- How does it smell?
- Does it sink or float?
Taking the answers to all of these questions into account, you should have a good sense for where your poo falls on the health scale.
Check out these seven things your poop could be saying about your health.
It may mean: You’re constipated—but you probably already knew that. However, some people assume that if they go to the bathroom every day then they’re not constipated, but if your stool is consistently hard and comes out in pieces rather than a soft, single piece that passes without much effort, you may be constipated.
Constipation is a concern when you normally have a bowel movement once or twice a day, and that changes — maybe you haven’t gone in three days, or more. However long it’s been, you now feel gassy, bloated, and generally uncomfortable. When you try to go, you have to push and strain, and what comes out is a whole lot of nothing’.
Constipation can have many causes. It might be that you’ve had a shift in your diet, such as a drop in fiber intake, or maybe because you’re not drinking enough water each day, or because your physical activity level has decreased, slowing your metabolic processes down, including digestion.
One of the most significant warning signs when it comes to bowel movements is blood in the stool. Something in your G.I. tract is bleeding. Blood in your stool could be a symptom of something as significant as cancer. It is crucial to alert your doctor any time you notice blood in the toilet bowl.
Most of the time blood in the stool is due to something as benign as hemorrhoids or tiny tears in the anal tissue, as a result of constipation and straining.
It may mean: You have celiac disease. Signs in your stool may be one of the major—and possibly the only—indications you have it. With celiac disease, your body is unable to tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Eating gluten destroys villi (the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining your small intestines) and you’re unable to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. This contributes to the loose stools you could experience several times a day. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened for celiac disease. Switching to a gluten-free diet can aid absorption, firm up your stools, and address any other related symptoms such as fatigue, pain, bloating, depression, or rashes.
It may mean: You have excess gas in your digestive tract. If you’ve been eating lots of beans, sprouts, cabbage, or very large meals, it’s perfectly normal for stool to float because of gas, and it’s not a cause for concern. However, if floaters become more common for you or you spot an oil-slick appearance, it could mean something is preventing your body’s ability to absorb fats from food.
For instance, inflammation or an infection in your pancreas could prevent you from producing enough digestive enzymes. A food allergy or infection could be damaging the lining of your intestines that’s affecting absorption, too. Ask your doctor for a stool sample test to see if there’s fat that shouldn’t be there.
If your poop…Smells like sulfur or eggs and you have diarrhea
The answer is yes. It’s normal, and probably a good sign that your gut is abundant with bacteria that is working hard to keep you healthy.
It may also mean that you could have giardia. The parasite tends to hang out in fresh water, so if you went swimming in a lake, have gone camping, or drank unpurified water recently, you may have picked up the bug along the way. The issue isn’t always as obvious as you may think. You could have diarrhea for weeks or even months, but otherwise feel fine. Your doctor can run a stool sample test to diagnose it, and certain antibiotics can treat it.
It may mean:You’re constipated, or be an indication of rectal cancer. If you notice pencil-thin stool for a day or two, it’s probably not an issue.It may occur if you’re constipated and straining a lot, which prevents the muscles in the anal sphincter from opening and can narrow the way stool comes out. Adding more fiber to your diet can help. But if the issue is ongoing, it could indicate rectal cancer. With rectal cancer, the tumor is fixed and rigid and encircles the rectum so there’s less space for stool to squeeze through so it appears very thin and stringy. Make an appointment with your doctor. A colonoscopy can evaluate what’s going on.
It may mean: You have a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. It’s becoming more common and usually occurs after a course of antibiotics. C. diff is a normal part of the flora in your digestive tract, but taking antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria that normally keeps C. diff in check. As a result, the bacteria may proliferate uncontrollably and cause serious stomach issues that can lead to dehydration, hospitalization, and in extreme instances may even be deadly. Call your doctor immediately. If you’re still taking a course of antibiotics, find out if you should stop.
Generally, the tricks to keeping your poop on track are simple ones: a healthy diet high in fiber, lots of water, and regular exercise. If you are having infrequent bowel movements and are experiencing discomfort, then the first easy way to correct it is to increase dietary fiber through food, supplement, or both.