5 Warning Signs You Should Know About Your Poop And Your Gut Health
A regular bowel movement is an important part of digestion and gut health. Poop or stool is essentially a combination of bile salts, fibre, protein, fat, bacteria and other substances lumped together, and disposed of by the body. We all need to poop. For some of us, it might be a painful experience, but for others, a satisfying and liberating one. What your poop or stool looks and smells like though can be a sign or warning about your gut health.
What does a healthy poop look like?
What healthy poop looks like varies from person to person. Here are some general pointers to help you assess your own stool:
- Colour: Healthy poop is usually brown in colour. This is due to bile, the pigment compound produced from the breakdown of red blood cells in our body and excreted into our bile ducts and intestines.
- Shape: Healthy poop is shaped similarly to our intestine, slightly round and elongated.
- Size: Healthy poop should be decently sized and preferably not come out in tiny pellets.
- Consistency: Healthy poop should have a slightly firm consistency. If it is too hard, it might be a sign of constipation. Similarly, if it is too soft or watery, it might be a sign and symptom of diarrhoea, malabsorption, an infection or even inflammatory bowel disease. In some cases, changes in stool consistency can also be a sign of colon cancer.
- Time on the toilet bowel: A healthy poop session should take approximately 5-10 min. That being said, some individuals do like spending a longer time in the toilet. However, taking too long a time to pass motion may not be a good sign.
- Frequency: A healthy poop frequency varies from person to person. It can range from every day to only several times a week. What’s important again is if you notice a recent change in the frequency of your bowel movements.
What are the warning signs to look out for?
Taking a quick look at your poop before flushing and being aware of changes in your bowel movement can help you decide if you need to see a doctor.
Here are 5 warning signs you should pay attention to:
1. Pebbles and rocks
Poop that appears shaped like tiny pebbles or rocks and is hard to clear may be a sign of constipation. Our large intestine absorbs water, which then leads to the concentration of waste. Constipation occurs when the stool or waste moves too slowly through our large intestine, resulting in it becoming dry and hard. Constipation can also result from not having enough fibre in your diet. It’s important to take note of new or prolonged episodes of constipation. This may be a sign of a blockage or narrowing in your large intestine, slow colon transit due chronic diseases like diabetes or thyroid disease, or weak pelvic floor muscles.
2. Pencil-thin poop
Healthy stool is shaped similarly to our intestinal structure. That being said, the occasional pencil-thin poop is usually not a cause for concern and can vary depending on your diet that week. It might be due to insufficient fibre and bulk in your poop. However, prolonged changes or chronic pencil-thin stools can be a sign of colon cancer.
3. Changes in colour
A change in the colour of poop is usually the most typical concern patients have. The food we consume, as well as the diversity of our gut microbiome, can affect the colour of our poop. Any shade of brown to dark green is normal. However, there are four colours that you might not want to see:
- Black: Black stool or poop can be a worrying sign of bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract. Black stool however can also be the result of certain medications like iron supplements.
- White, Pale, or Clay-coloured: Pale coloured stool or poop may suggest bile duct blockage or pancreatic disease obstructing the flow of bile into the intestines.
- Red: Red usually indicates blood and is commonly seen in cases of bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract including piles or haemorrhoids in
- Yellow: Another sign to note is when your poop appears bright yellow. This could indicate giardiasis, a condition caused by intestinal parasites found in contaminated water.
4. Greasy or oily stools
Yellow, stinky, greasy stools are signs of fat malabsorption. This can occur in cases of chronic pancreatitis and even coeliac disease.
5. Smelly Poop
Very often gastro-intestinal bleeding results in black tarry stool that has a characteristic foul smell.. Paying attention to changes in the smell of your poop can also be a warning sign that suggests you need to seek medical attention.
Your poop is an important indicator of your gut health. Eating a well-balanced diet, high in fibre, staying well hydrated and doing regular exercise is key to maintaining healthy bowel movement. If you are worried about changes in your bowel habit, see your gastroenterologist at GUTCARE for further advice and management.
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