What Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health

Let’s talk poop! We know, it’s not necessarily the most appetizing topic around, but paying attention to the specifics of your bowel movements is part of what it takes to stay heathy, happy, and free of potentially life-threatening conditions.

But, before we getting into the nitty-gritty of “bad poops”, let’s first discuss what constitutes a normal bowel movement

Frequency

To start off, you should be having a bowel movement at least three times per week. Many people have more, but anything less could mean that you are suffering from constipation.

Shape and Color

It goes without saying that the look of your stools can vary depending on a host of factors, including diet and lifestyle, but there is one special type of poop that all of us should try our bests to achieve.

It’s called the “S” shape, one long, smooth piece of fecal matter that is medium to dark brown and comfortable to pass. If you frequently end up with these guys in the toilet, then good job! This means that you are likely getting enough water and fiber in your diet.

If you have an occasional stool that is green or yellow, no need to worry. This may mean that you have been eating your veggies!

Smell

Ok, we’re sure that you try your best not to catch a whiff after you finish your business, but if you do, a healthy poop should never smell TOO bad.

Of course, there is a fine line here—there are times when food can affect the overall odor, which can make for some temporarily stinky situations!

Nonetheless, when it comes to smell, it’s best to take note of the scent on a normal day. If the aroma deviates and transforms into something very foul, then it’s time to pay a visit to your doc.

woman sitting on toilet with pajama pants downgpointstudio via DepositPhotos
Now that you know all about what you should hope to accomplish when on the toilet, let’s talk about the types of bowel movements that ought to give you pause.
  1. Black or Tarry Stools

    Passing a stool that appears to be black or tarry could mean something as benign as taking Pepto-Bismol or snacking on black licorice, to something extremely serious, like internal bleeding.

  2. Pale or Clay Colored Stools

    Passing a series of pale or clay colored stools is not something to be ignored. Poops with light hues may indicate that there is something going awry with your biliary system, the system that’s comprised of your gallbladder, pancreas, and liver.

  3. Deep Red Stools

    Similar to the first bowel movement featured on our list, a deep red stool could mean that you’ve recently eaten a lot of beets, or even a red popsicle. Nevertheless, it also could also indicate that you are experiencing IBD-related bleeding, hemorrhoids, or a potentially dangerous internal issue, like cancer.

  4. White Stools

    Passing a snow white stool can be particularly alarming. Though the causes can range, specialists usually first suspect an issue with either the gallbladder or liver, the organs that produce and excrete bile.

  5. Worrisome Shapes and Textures

    Believe it or not, there is actually a chart called The Bristol Stool Scale that shows doctors and patients the full spectrum of what can be experienced in the bathroom.

    The scale itself contains 7 types of stools, starting at 1 (hard, separate lumps) to 7 (watery, very severe diarrhea). Ideally, a person will want to pass a 3 (sausage-shaped with cracks on the surface) or the oft sought after 4 (sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft).

    Though you may not have those perfect 3 and 4s every time you go number 2, it’s key that you pay attention to changes in the textures of your bowel movements, as being on either end of the scale could mean that something is not quite right.

Hand flushing toilet.Devon via Deposit Photos
If you are currently passing any stools that fall into either the “bad color” or “bad texture” categories, then it’s imperative that you get in touch with a trusted medical professional stat—even if you feel completely healthy. Sometimes the very first signs of a serious illness make themselves known in irregular stools. Good to know!

What do you think about this list? Have you ever experienced one of these bowel movements? If so, what was your course of action?