Poop is hardly a hot topic at the dinner table or a fancy cocktail party, but it does provide important insight into your health. I have to say that, like you, poop is one of my least favorite topics of conversation. But since I live in a house of all boys, I’ve accepted my fate. I’ve learned to deal with it.
The good news is that I’m not going to show you any horrific pictures of actual human feces, but I am going to give you the breakdown of what you need to look for when it’s “business time.” Why is poop so important? Well, for starters, it contains waste produced by your body. If you have an underlying health issue that you don’t know about, your poop can provide some clues and even encourage you to seek medical help early on.
According to gastroenterologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Raufman, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, your digestive tract is kind of a big deal:
“The digestive tract contains more bacterial cells than there are cells in the entire body,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Raufman, a gastroenterologist at University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It’s very important that our bowels work well to absorb necessary nutrients but also keep out any foods, chemicals and germs that could do us harm.”
Your poop matters, so give it a glance the next time you take a bathroom break. Here are seven important guidelines that reflect what your poop says about your health:
- Dark Color: Black stool is cause for concern since it could indicate bleeding in the small intestine or stomach. In some cases, iron supplements can cause green stool; eating blueberries or black licorice can also cause black stool.
- Light Color: Very light-colored stool is rare, such as gray or pale white, but it can indicate blocked bile flow or liver disease.
- Hard, Dry: This is a sign of constipation, possibly related to medication or diet; experts recommend cutting back on dairy for several weeks to see if transit time improves.
- Small Lumps: Stool should be long, smooth, and easy to pass; pellet-like stool may be related to constipation and a fiber-deficient diet.
- Liquidy: Fast transit time can create diarrhea-like stool, potentially caused by infection or excess fiber in the diet.
- Sticky: Soft, sticky stool that clings to the side of the toilet bowl could indicate excess oil in the diet. Your body may have difficulty absorbing fat; sticky stool has also been linked to chronic pancreatitis.
- Strong Odor: Stool that smells worse than normal may be related to excess fat in the diet, blood in the stool, constipation, or medication use.
Ideally, poop should be medium brown in color and easy to pass. Healthy stool is normally 4-8 inches long with minimal gas and odor and will not stick to the toilet bowl. In most cases, you can expect changes to your stool based on diet, activity, and medication use. Give your doctor a ring if you notice any drastic changes—in frequency, color, and consistency, especially blood in the stool.