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Poo and Bowel Health: What Should Your Stool Look Like?

[dropcap]H[dropcap]ave you ever wondered what your poo should look like as a healthy person? It might be a super weird thought to think of, but the reality is that the poo directly reflects your gut health and is more than waste as it provides insight into the health of your gut microbiota.

Let’s decipher the messages concealed in the toilet bowl in our brand new article.

What is it?

A bowel movement, or BM for short, is the body’s natural process for eliminating non-nutritional waste. These wastes are actually around 75% water, even if it doesn’t seem that way. What remains is a compilation of resources that includes:

  • Fats
  • Mucus
  • Bacteria
  • Food components that human body cant digest ( fiber, cellulose, etc)
  • Salts
  • Food wastes
  • Bilirubin, a brownish-red material produced when waste products from the liver and bone marrow are broken down, is another component of the stool. It gives it the typical color.

Elimination of these elements mentioned above is essential to human survival. When a person goes more than a few days without defecating, the waste can build up in the digestive tract. The longer this continues, the more of a danger it becomes and the more harm it can do to your organs.

What Constitutes a Typical Bowel Movement?

While the specifics of what constitutes a regular bowel movement could vary greatly from person to person, there are certain shared features. A broad summary is provided here:

The Apperance- What Your Poo Should Look Like? 

Though it is not the most fascinating subject to talk about, stool, color, and shape can give the most important information about your gut health. Based on the seven kinds of human feces, as defined by the Bristol Stool Chart, this can be a great guide to knowing basic information about gut health. It is a medical instrument that lets doctors divide stool into seven categories and determine how long the stool remains in the gut. 26760478 2201.q710.014.S.m005.c12.human poop diagram

Type 1 Separate hard lumps Constipated
Type 2 Sausage-shaped but lumpy Mild- constipated 
Type 3 Like sausage with cracks on the surface Normal 
Type 4 Smooth, soft lump  Normal
Type 5 Blobs with clear-cut edges pass easily  Lacking Fiber
Type 6 Fluffy pieces with ragged edges  Mild diarrhea 
Type 7 Watery, no solid pieces Diarrhea 

Everybody’s poop will vary slightly. These illustrations show that hard and difficult-to-pass stools (Types 1 and 2) suggest constipation. Types 3 and 4 are the kinds of stools that are well-formed and simple to pass. Whereas entirely liquid stools or excess liquid (Types 5, 6, and 7) suggest diarrhea or urgency.

Though it is not used to diagnose any health concerns on its own, healthcare practitioners frequently consult the Bristol Stool Chart to better explain symptoms. It’s also a good approach to see if your symptoms are improving or worsening.

Different Poo Colors and Health Conditions

Not only the shape but the color of the poo can also be a good indicator of your gut health. While all the color changes may not be serious and are usually normal, specific changes may suggest a health concern that requires medical attention. Such as

Brown

This healthy stool color ranges from light brown to dark brown.

White or Clay-Colored

An extremely pale brown, clay-colored, or light-colored stool might indicate:

  • It may indicate insufficient bile production, possibly due to infection or a clogged bile duct, or you may have an infection or inflammation in the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder.
  • Alcoholic hepatitis means that your liver is intoxicated or inflamed by excess alcohol consumption.
  • Side effects of certain medications, particularly those used for diarrhea, can also cause the stool to turn pale.

Yellow

Poops that are yellow, oily, and stinky could be an indication of,

Red

This color of poo can be caused by some usual and un-usual reasons, such as

  • Consuming foods that are red in hue might lead to red poops, such as beets, cranberries, red gelatin, and tomato juice.
  • Minor bleeding may occur as a result of menstruation or constipation.
  • The presence of maroon or deep red streaks or colors in stool indicates hemorrhoids or colorectal cancer in the lower GI tract. 

If you have red streaks in your stool despite limiting red foods, the best action is to consult a doctor as soon as possible. A physical check and lab or imaging tests can help your primary care provider figure out if there are any problems with your digestive system.

Orange

  • Carrots, sweet potatoes, and other foods rich in beta-carotene and some drugs can cause orange stools.
  • An issue with the secretion of bile may also be indicated.

Green

Black

No one likes to see black poo, but

See a doctor immediately if you notice that your stool is black and you haven’t taken bismuth-containing medicine or an iron supplement.

To get a precise picture of different colors of poo, one may also look into the chart below for reference.

gut health and stool color

 

Smooth, sausage-shaped stool is usually the healthiest form, normally suggest normal bowel function.

While food coloring might be the reason in a few cases, changes in stool color can occasionally indicate a more serious condition. If you have concerns about the color of your stool, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

Frequency

There isn’t a fixed number of times you should defecate—it’s different for everyone. Some people may poo daily, while others may poo every other day.

According to a 2010 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, the vast majority of individuals (98%) reported bowel movements anywhere from three times per week to three times per day.

It also depends upon the following factors, such as:

  • Diet: Eating habits and food choices play a massive role in the frequency of how many times a person goes to the bathroom. For regular bowel motions, fiber is a must-have ingredient. It has been found that people who eat less fiber in their diets tend to have lesser visits to the bathroom.
  • Physical Activity: Regular physical activity improves colon function and facilitates the movement of waste materials through the intestines. It is well established, via one study in 2021, that if you don’t do any physical activity, then it can cause changes in the bowels.
  • Medical History: Certain medical conditions and medications can impact a person’s bowel health, which in turn might alter the frequency of their bowel movements. Whether it’s a typical stomach virus or an inflammatory bowel condition like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, bowel motions might change more or less often than usual.
  • Aging: The digestive system slows down with age, which means that waste doesn’t travel through as rapidly. Additionally, it is more common for elderly individuals to be taking medications that might disrupt their regular bowel movements.
  • Caffiene Intake: Some people notice that caffeine works as a laxative by encouraging the colon to expel waste. However, the water content of stool increases as its colonic transit time decreases.
  • Water Intake: Dehydration makes passing stool more difficult because the large intestine absorbs more water than the body needs.
  • Mensturation/hormonal changes: Hormones like estrogen and progesterone can also affect a woman’s frequency of restroom use, with some experiencing more frequent bowel movements before and during menstruation.
  • Intolerances/Allergies: Individuals with food sensitivities or allergies may experience bowel irregularities like diarrhea or constipation. Some individuals have severe reactions to dairy products, while others, like those with celiac disease, experience negative reactions to gluten.

Maintaining a consistent schedule is key. There may be reason for concern if you notice a sudden change in the frequency of your bowel movements.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is characterized by loose or watery stool and more than three toilet trips per day. Not only is it annoying, but it may also be your body’s way of eliminating something from your digestive tract. It can be caused by a few things:

  • Microorganisms, such as bacteria or parasites, have made their way into polluted food or drink.
  • Intolerances to specific foods occur when the human digestive system has trouble breaking down particular foods. Lactose intolerance, in which the body has trouble absorbing the carbohydrate included in dairy products, is a prevalent kind of food intolerance.
  • Medications with magnesium, such as antibiotics or antacids
  • Viruses such as the flu, norovirus, or rotavirus
  • Conditions affecting the small intestine, colon, or stomach, including Crohn’s disease
  • Other intestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),.

Diarrhea is often actually common, but it’s still necessary to keep an eye on it. If you have any concerns, you should not delay seeing your primary care physician.

Constipation

Constipation is characterized by soft, loose, and uncomfortable stool, with three or fewer bowel movements per week. The stool also looks like rocks and pebbles as seen in the Bristol Stool Chart. It means it is totally other way around for diarrhea. It can be caused by:

  • A diet lacking in fiber
  • Physical inactivity
  • Dehydration
  • Medicines like opioids and antidepressants

Other Characteristics of Poo

There are a number of features that might shed light on your digestive health, in addition to its frequency, consistency, and color. They include,

  • Mucus in poo: An infection or underlying disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, both types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), might be indicated by mucus in stool. Mucus can also be seen in a number of medical conditions, including anal fissures, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and food allergies.
  • Floating Poo: Floating, or hard-to-flush stool might be signs of malabsorption.It also has symptoms such as indigestion, gas, diarrhea, excess gas, and oily appearance.
  • Smelly: Poops smell bad because bacteria and food waste break it down, but really bad odors in thecan be a sign of malabsorption, infections, or diseases like Crohn’s.

When Should I See a Doctor?

While a change in your poo color or consistency may not always indicate cause for concern, it is wise to keep an eye on it. However, you should get yourself checked if these digestive changes last more than 1 to 2 weeks or if there are additional significant symptoms, such as:

  • Blood in poo
  • Black-colored poo
  • Onset of a “pencil-thin” stool. Occasional changes may indicate only muscle contractions in the colon. But if it persists then one should consult a doctor as it might indicate colon obstruction.
  • Weight loss or fever with diarrhea or constipation
  • Constant stomach ache/cramps and painful defactation even after coming out of bathroom.
  • Vomiting blood or a material that resembles coffee grounds.
  • Smell. While its not a direct factor, but if the odor becomes intolerably strong all of a sudden, requiring you to use the air freshener after every restroom visit, then its better to consult.

The free bowel cancer screening test should be taken every two years by anyone aged 50 to 74. This test is helpful for the early detection of bowel cancer.

Want to learn more? Check out our other guide about gut health for more insight and exciting data.

Diagnosing Bowel Changes

The first steps in receiving medical treatment include providing a detailed account of your symptoms and medical history. The initial statistics will help the doctor to diagnose any changes. Some more tests that may be done to find out why people’s bowel habits have changed are:

  • Blood Tests
  • X-ray imaging to view trapped air in the bowel
  • Abdominal and maybe rectal exams that might identify problems.
  • colonoscopy, a diagnostic procedure that looks into the colon’s lining to find polyps, cancers, diverticula (small pouches), or hemorrhages
  • CAT scan to detect bowel cancers and other abnormalities.

Changing the Bowel Habits For Good

Changing your bowel habits for good entails adopting a lifestyle and diet that promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

  • Drink more water. The bowel movement becomes softer and easier to pass when one drinks enough water.  A reasonable amount is about 8 glasses (64 ounces) per day.
  • Avoid irritating foods. Caffeine, alcohol, and spicy meals can activate the digestive system, so it’s advisable to avoid these if you frequently experience bowel movements, particularly type 6.
  • Exercise. Regular bowel movements are encouraged by physical exercise because it stimulates intestinal function and doing 30 minutes of activity is a good way.
  • Reduce stress. Constipation is one symptom of stress. Your digestive system will thank you if you get enough of sleep, keep stress levels down at work, and live a less hectic lifestyle.
  • Folow the F Goals: A very innovative method introduced by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. Have a look at them here!
  • Try magnesium: Magnesium hydroxide oftenTrusted Source treats constipation. It is safe for most people, although doctors do not recommend it for people with renal insufficiency.

Change the posture 

Researchers suggest adjusting the way you sit on the toilet and the colon’s angle by adjusting your leg angle.

It is well studied that squatting is the best position to empty bowels. A foot stool for the toilet can be used for this purpose, resulting in a more pleasant and efficient defecation experience. 52 participants participated in a study on toilet usage and found this foot stool device to be useful. 

Individuals might have vastly different bowel and evacuation routines.

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Dr Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.
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