While it might not be the most popular topic of discussion, your fecal matter can actually be a pretty good barometer of your overall health. Of course, a lot of us don’t even want to acknowledge that we poop, much less talk about it.
But you might actually want to look before you flush once in awhile – it can give you a very good idea of how you’re doing, health wise. Here’s some info about the more common types of feces and what they indicate about a person’s well-being.
Black or Bright Red Bowel Movements
This can be an extremely alarming sign, one that means you could be suffering from bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract.1 While you might be bleeding from hemorrhoids, it could be blood due to a stomach ulcer or something even more concerning.
There are times, however, in which an over-the-counter medication like Pepto-Bismol could turn your feces black. The reason is that happens is the active ingredient in the medication, bismuth, is interacting with the sulfur that is present in your digestive system. This is harmless, temporary discoloration that will go away a few days after taking Pepto-Bismol.
Floating poo usually just means that you have too much gas in your digestive system. Your stool should sink.
This can happen when someone either eats a very large meal or ingests a great deal of foods such as cabbage, beans or sprouts.
It could mean, however, that your body isn’t doing a good enough job of absorbing the fats present in food. If you have some sort of pancreatic inflammation or infection, that could inhibit the production of the enzymes you need to properly break down the food you eat. And in some instances, an intestinal infection or a food allergy could have an affect on fat absorption.2
It would obviously be surprising to look down and see that your poop is yellow. And it could also be the sign of a potential problem. This could mean that your bile ducts are obstructed or – like in the case of floating poo – it could mean that your pancreas isn’t producing the enzyme needed to properly digest your food. In either case, see a doctor as soon as possible.
If your poop is yellow and you’re preparing for a colonoscopy, don’t worry. That’s normal.3
Hard Poop That’s Difficult to Pass
If your feces are hard and you have to work to get it out, that’s a sign of constipation.
A lot of people assume that if you’re constipated you can’t go, period. But that’s not the case. Constipation is associated with an inadequate intake of fiber. While men should get 38 grams of fiber a day and women should get 25 g… most adults only get about 15g.4 If you’re not getting enough, try mixing more beans, nuts, vegetables and fruits into your diet.
If your poop is about the thickness of a pencil every once in awhile, that’s not a big deal. But if it happens all the time, that could be another sign of constipation. However, it could also indicate a serious problem involving the rectal area.
If anything is obstructing the rectum, there won’t be as much room for your feces to fit through. That makes it look extremely stringy. There are real health concerns here, so stay on the safe side and get yourself checked out by a doctor. He or she might recommend a colonoscopy to see what’s going on.
This could be a sign that you have a parasite in your gastrointestinal tract known as giardia.5
If you’ve recently been camping or swimming in a lake, then you might have ingested the bug without knowing. While you might feel great otherwise, you can have diarrhea for an extended period of time – months in some instance.
Have your doctor take a stool sample so that you can find out for sure. If you do have the parasite, there are antibiotics that can get rid of the problem.
In the vast majority of instances, green poop is nothing to worry about.
It typically occurs when you eat a lot of kale, spinach, or other vegetables that have a deep, green color. However, if your poop is mainly liquid and it resembles the color of seaweed, that could mean you have an intestinal infection caused by the Clostridium difficile bacterium.6
If you take antibiotics, that can kill a lot of the beneficial bacteria in your gut that help inhibit the growth of “bad guys” such as C. difficile. When this happens, the bad bacteria can proliferate and lead to several different stomach problems. Some people with the infection can become so dehydrated that they have to go to the hospital.
Get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible if you have any reason to believe you have a C. difficile infection.
Like yellow poop, white poop could indicate that you have some sort of blockage in your bile ducts due to gallstones. If your poop is otherwise normal but seems to be covered in some sort of whitish mucus, that might be a sign you have Crohn’s disease.
This condition leads to the formation of ulcers in the intestines that often produce mucus. If your poop is white and you’re experiencing fever, vomiting, or pain – get to a doctor immediately. This is an indication that you have a liver problem such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or possibly serious pancreatic, gallbladder, or liver trouble.7
Even though it’s true that your poop can give you an idea about your health, there’s no need to obsess every time you have to go to the bathroom.
If you notice something abnormal, the odds are it will go away after a day or two. But if you see changes that last longer and you can’t figure out why they’re occurring, talk to your doctor and find out what’s going on.