Let’s talk poop! I know you all hate talking about poop. You will talk some crazy stuff but get all prissy when we get near the topic of poop. What!?!! I’m not going to make you touch it! The average daily poop is just under a pound. Not everyone poops everyday even though they should! So, that average means there are some big poopers out there. It all adds up to over 1 million tons of poop a day! With all this poop, we need to talk about it because it’s a big indicator of health.
A good poop is a sign of healthy digestive system and microbiome of gut bacteria and flora. Many of our health concerns start in our gut. 80% of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. If you have a problem with inflammation, hormones, stress and many other concerns we are going to see signs of it in your gut. That’s why an allergy test and a stool test are some of the first tests I recommend to my patients.
What is poop?
First, we need to get something straight. Poop isn’t just what you ate today. Less than 10% of your poop is indigestible food matter like that corn you see in your poop. Overall, 75% of your poop is water and the other 25% is indigestible food, dead bacteria, fats, inorganic substances and proteins.
If it were just what you ate today- it wouldn’t tell us a whole lot, except what you ate. It would be easier to write a food diary than to watch the toilet. Poop is more than that! It’s the stuff left over from the digestive process and that’s why we can tell so much from it.
There are times when our poop speaks to us loudly. If we eat something we shouldn’t… then we feel the gurgle and we make a run for the toilet. A study found that “normal” poops aren’t all that common and that nearly half of the participants had less than optimal bathroom trips. (1) That means poop problems are all too common and we aren’t talking about it.
Sometimes these changes happen overtime and become our new “normal.” Just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s normal. So, you should always check the toilet bowl to see what your poop is trying to tell you.
You might know the basics of what’s going on with your poop long before we talk about it! There’s a lot your daily poop check can tell you. Take a look at the color, shape, frequency, smell, and buoyancy to learn a lot about your poop. Then follow up with a good stool test to learn even more. Keep me posted! I like poop talk.
Poop Check: What Does My Poop’s Color Tell Me?
Poop can come in lots of colors. It could be as simple as something we ate or something more serious. If you don’t think its something you ate, and rainbow poop is a regular occurrence, make sure to get yourself tested.
Brown: Brown poop is pretty standard for the world of poop. If your poop is a shade of brown you are doing good. The brown color comes from bilirubin, a substance from your liver, mixing with bile.
Green: Green is another common poop color. It can come from eating lots of veggies, chron’s disease and/or antibiotics. It also happens if your poop moves through the digestive tract too quickly. The bilirubin and bile didn’t have time to mix together so you get green.
Yellow: You are not pooping sunshine, and this could be a problem you should look into soon. It could mean you have a gallbladder problem, chronic pancreatitis, or celiac disease. Or you had too much Kool-aid. Lay off the artificial yellow foods and keep an eye on it.
Red: This can be an alarming shade to look at as you frantically try to remember if you had any beets or tomatoes. Blood in your stool is a reason to talk to your doctor, no matter how much you don’t want to talk about poop. It can be a sign of hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, inflammation, cancer and gastrointestinal bleeding. That doesn’t sound like something to ignore, does it?
Black: This color is also a sign of potential bleeding. It could mean bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. It can also be from iron supplements, medicines, or foods like meat, blue berries and black licorice.
White or Grey: It can be surprising if your poop looks like a peeled banana! It’s not normal for poop to not have color! It can be from medications like anti-diarrheal medicine or it means there is a lack of bile in your poop which could mean a more serious problem.
Poop Check: What Does My Poop Shape and Consistency Tell Me?
Tiny Hard Lumps: This poop shape probably means you haven’t pooped in a while and have severe constipation. This is one of the most common poop problems. This isn’t good. Your poop is all dried up because its been sitting in your digestive tract too long. Talk to your doctor to make sure there are no underlying problems.
Lumpy, Compact Sausage: This is also the poop of a constipated individual. Keep an eye on your poop and make sure this isn’t your “regular.” Make sure you are getting enough fiber, exercise and water.
Cracked Snake: This is what a doctor likes to hear about. This is the kind of poop I would hope my patients have. Keep drinking water and getting exercise.
Smooth Torpedo: This is the perfect poop. This poop appears soft and smooth. Don’t touch it! Take a picture and be proud! You are eating well, exercising, drinking lots of water, taking care of your digestive tract and this poop is your trophy.
Soft lumps: You have some diarrhea. It could be a sign of inflammation, allergies or irritable bowel syndrome.
Very Soft with Jagged Edges: This is mild diarrhea and if it is constant could be a sign of a bigger problem.
All liquid: You have full blown diarrhea and your body is trying to evacuate something out. It could be a parasite, bacteria, or some sort of infection. If it is happening regularly, something is going on that you want to get checked out.
It could also be that you ate something you shouldn’t have, lactose intolerance or maybe that expiration date wasn’t as flexible as you thought. Make sure you are getting plenty of fluids.
Pencil Thin: This poop could be sign of a blockage or inflammation in your intestines. If this happens a lot get it checked out as it could be a tumor or other serious blockage.
Poop Check: What is My Poop Frequency Telling Me?
I want to hear my patients are pooping 2-3 times a day to know they have healthy guts. It is common for women to poop every other day. Common is not normal.
Imagine the fermentation that is happening as your poop is hanging around in your gut. Aloe, magnesium and diuretics can help alleviate the problem in the short term. That’s not the answer. You need to do a test to get to the bottom of it. Not doing anything can cause your gastrointestinal tracts to get worse over time because you are not addressing the cause. It could be infection or allergies. Stress can also contribute to constipation. Cortisol and adrenaline slow down digestions when you are in fight or flight mode. You won’t know what is impacting your bathroom frequency unless you get tested.
Poop Check: What Does My Poop Smell Tell Me?
It’s poop, it smells! That’s normal. Nobody has poop that smells like roses. If it starts to smell really, really rancid then that could be a severe gall bladder issue. It smells because you’re not breaking down the fat. It can also be a sign of infection like giardia. If your poop gets a really strong odor, tell your doctor your poop really stinks!
Poop Check: What Does My Poop Buoyancy Tell Me?
Poop should sink. Like a smooth torpedo ready to take off when you flush. If its not sinking that might mean you have too much gas in your digestive tract from some of the foods you ate. If it is happening often it could mean your body is not producing enough enzymes or it might mean something is causing your digestive tract inflammation. You need to get your allergies and stool tested.
Poop Check: Healthy Pooping for All
If everybody got an allergy and stool test it would bring them good poops and good health. Some of the greatest information comes from testing the stool because it tells us how the immune system is doing, and how your gut bacteria is performing its vital role in your immune system function. It also tells us how to deal with different infections.
Getting help for your gut will help your immune system, food digestion, and nutrition absorption which leads to optimal health. Not having a good gut can lead to inflammation, hormone problems, auto-immune disease and a host of other problems. Everybody should have healthy poops every day. So, do your poop check and don’t be afraid to talk poop!
By Dr. Patrick Flynn