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What Your Poop Says About You

Hippocrates went so far as to say that all diseases begin in the gut. He might not have been so far off.

Want to find out whether you're getting enough exercise? Eating healthy? Drinking enough water? Look no further than that turd you left in the toilet bowl.

Poop: Your Handy-Dandy Health Indicator

It may be gross, but it’s not a joke. You can actually learn a lot about your fitness and nutrition from your doo-doo.

But if you’ve never spoken to your doctor about your feces, you’re not alone. Even doctors can be shy when it comes to talking excrement. It’s not like we learn what to look for in stool as kids, either.

Your digestive system is kind of like a barometer for your overall health. Heck, Hippocrates went so far as to say that all diseases begin in the gut.

He might not have been so far off.

While you can’t see what’s going on in your own gut, you can look for clues. And yes, those clues are in your poop.

Read on to find out what you can learn from your excrement.

You’ll want to look for four main things.

1. FREQUENCY

What’s healthy? Once per day.

That’s an average, but anything from three times per day to three times per week is still considered normal. The key is in knowing what’s normal—and what feels good—to you. Some people feel constipated if they go one day without pooping, while others don’t feel constipation until two or three days have passed. After you go, you should feel satisfied and relatively empty.

Constipation is normal for some people when they change their routine. But constipation that lasts more than a few days can be a sign of an underlying problem.

If you’re not pooping enough, it could be a sign that:

  • You’re not active enough
  • You’re not getting enough dietary fiber
  • You’re dehydrated
  • You eat too much dairy
  • You’ve overused laxatives

Health conditions such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, eating disorders, hemorrhoids, and damage to nerve or muscles in the digestive tract can also lead to constipation. Over-the-counter and prescription medication such as iron pills, antacids, pain drugs, and antidepressants can also cause constipation.

2. COLOR

What’s healthy? Brown.

Poop can come in many colors. Though it may vary, your stools should—in general—be a nice, milk-chocolate brown. (Yup, we went there.)

Keep in mind that certain foods can “dye” your poop temporarily. Eating a lot of beets can leave you pooping something with a reddish or purplish hue, while a lot of spinach can tint your feces green. If it’s something you ate and not consistent discoloration, though, you should be fine.

Pooping following stool colors might be a sign of a problem:

  • Green. Diarrhea, fat malabsorption, gallbladder problems.
  • Yellow. Celiac disease, Gilbert’s syndrome, giardia infection.
  • Pale. Blocked bile duct, liver disease.
  • Black. Ulcers or colon cancer.
  • Red. Hemorrhoids.

You should call your doctor if you notice a drastic change in color, and especially if your stool is darker than usual.

3. SHAPE & CONSISTENCY

What’s healthy? A smooth, S-shaped log is best.

Other shapes and consistencies can signal trouble:

  • Hard nuggets. Dehydration, lack of dietary fiber, lack of activity, thyroid problems.
  • Pencil-thin. Regular pencil-thin poops can signal endometriosis, uterine fibrosis, rectal or colon cancer, and tumors or masses in the abdomen.
  • Mushy, watery, or loose. Not enough nutrients, bad bacteria.
  • Liquid. In other words, diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea can be caused by a wide variety of health conditions, including alcohol abuse, allergies, the flu, diabetes, intestinal diseases, medication, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.

Speak to your doctor if you notice a change in shape from whatever's normal for you.

4. SMELL

What’s healthy? Yes, poop should smell. (But not too bad.)

Your gut is teeming with bacteria working to maintain your digestive health. These bacteria are the reason why your stool stinks. If your poop doesn’t stink, you may have a problem.

On the other hand, if your bowel movements are astonishingly smelly, it may be a signal of another health problem, including one of the following:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Celiac disease
[Image via Shutterstock]

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