Not a lot of people would be comfortable talking about their poop, let alone look at it. And even though this may sound like such a mundane process that's not worth thinking about, it's still important to understand it.
Firstly, not all poop is the same. The texture, consistency, and color may vary depending on your diet, lifestyle, and health. A simple look at your poop may tell you a lot about your health. It may also save your life. Here's everything you need to know about your poop.
What Characteristics Make up Normal and Healthy Poop?
Poop varies from one individual to the next. What may be normal for you may not be so for someone else. However, if you are healthy, there are certain characteristics that your poop will not miss. These include:
A fair balance between soft and firm consistency
Your poop should neither be too firm nor too soft. It should be somewhere in between. If yours fails to meet these criteria then you may be suffering from some underlying digestive issues.
Takes less time to come out
Some of us have once made a joke about how long someone stays in the washroom. Well, for someone in optimal health, pooping shouldn't take too long. Your poop should come out easily without struggles. A single push should not take more than a minute.
A log/sausage shape
Naturally, poop follows the shape of the intestines. As such, your poop should take a log/sausage-like shape. But what happens when it doesn't? A variation in shape, such as a persistent ribbon-like appearance, may communicate different things.
Healthy poop should have a natural-brown color because of the pigment compound bilirubin. If it's anything but, then another message is being passed.
A couple of inches in size
Poop shouldn't come out as pellets or be too big to push out. The natural size ensures it's not only easy but also comfortable to push out. The right-sized poop should be only a couple of inches long, with the right consistency.
How Often Should You Poop?
There are cases where people go for days before visiting the toilet to poop. On the other hand, some poop every day and sometimes even several times a day.
If you have trouble being able to poop and going for days without doing so, you may be suffering from constipation or other digestive issues like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It's best if you consume as much water as possible throughout the day to be able to poop. However, if you have diarrhea you may go more frequently than normal.
What Does It Mean to Have Painful Stool?
Many people with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disorder) and IBS may experience pain while passing stool. If your symptoms increase, you may be experiencing a flare-up which may be followed by bloating. It's best if you seek immediate help from your GI doctor (gastroenterologist).
Does the Color of Your Poop Indicate Anything?
Assessing the color of your poop can tell you what's going on with your body. Different colors indicate different issues. Shades of brown are often the most common poop color and also the healthiest. Here's what you should know about the other color types:
It's normal for people to have hints of green color in their poop from time to time. However, once your poop turns completely green, it can be a sign of an infection or the presence of parasites. It may also be due to medication like antibiotics or higher than normal presence of bile salts. This is what gives the poop its green color.
If you've increased your intake of cranberries, beets, red gelatin, or anything red in your diet, these foods can turn your poop's color to red. However, if that's not the case, this may be a sign of bleeding in your lower intestinal tract including hemorrhoids or a brisk upper GI bleed.
Just like red poop, this may be a sign of bleeding. However, the bleeding is in the upper gastrointestinal tract, meaning your poop has traveled quite a while with the blood, making it take a darker shade. It can also indicate a right-sided colon bleed. You may not have anything to worry about if you are under bismuth medications such as Alka Seltzer or generic equivalents. Additionally, iron supplements and licorice can also contribute to this color.
Yellow poop is often smelly and a little greasy. It may be a sign your body is not absorbing enough nutrients due to disorders like celiac disease or a sign of excess fat in your body.
White-colored stool that's quite pale is common after taking an anti-diarrhea medication. However, in other instances, it means your bile duct is blocked, and your poop contains no bile salt. If you keep getting this type of color in your stool, it's best to seek medical help immediately.
When to See Your GI Doctor in Wausau, WI
Once in a while, you may your poop may have a color other than brown, or become firm. But if this becomes the norm, you should get the changes checked out during a visit with your primary care provider. If no reason is identified, or the changes persist or worsen, call for an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist.
Your poop can alert you of more serious medical conditions. Looking at your poop can help you better understand your digestive health. If you experience any chronic diarrhea, constipation, unusual stool, or have any concerns regarding your digestive health, schedule an appointment with us to receive the best care.