Greetings readers, today I want to tell you about the importance of fecal matter and how stool color can be an indicator that something is right or wrong in our body.
Chances are, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your poop. While that’s perfectly understandable, there’s a very good reason to pay more attention to your digestion and take a quick look at the toilet before flushing.
In this article, we will see the types of stool, the changes that occur in your poop and the meaning of it to interpret it properly, such as when you have stools with mucus and blood or black, liquid or pasty stools and how these problems can be caused.
First things first, how do you know if there is something wrong?
The Bristol Stool Scale shows the types of stool that can occur, was created by doctors at the University of Bristol in 1997 and is now the widely accepted standard for identifying problems with your stools.
As you can see, a “normal” poop has a smooth sausage shape, perhaps with a few cracks on the surface.
On both sides of this, we begin to see stools that are less healthy. You are probably familiar with constipation and diarrhea, but do you know what causes them, or how they can be treated?
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The first two examples of the Bristol Stool Scale show what your poop can look like if you are constipated. You may notice that your bowel movements appear in separate, hard lumps, or that they may be grouped together. Either way, they won’t have the smooth appearance of the numbers three and four and it will probably be difficult to get past them without straining.
It is worth noting here that constipation is often ill-defined as an inability to have a bowel movement, while it actually covers any difficulty in moving the intestines. In fact, if you go to the bathroom regularly, but constantly see hard or lumpy stools, you are likely suffering from constipation.
The main cause of constipation is a lack of fiber in the diet . Fiber is found in many plant-based foods and helps keep the gut healthy by allowing food to pass more easily through the digestive system. Fortunately, fiber deficiency is a relatively easy problem to solve.
Also, there are two different types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and it is the former (soluble) that offers the best chance of relieving constipation. Soluble fiber is digested by the body and helps keep stools soft. In contrast, insoluble fiber is not digested or broken down on its way through the intestine.
Foods high in soluble fiber include:
- Cereals and grains.
- Garbanzo beans.
- Root Vegetables.
In addition to watching what you eat, it is also advisable to drink a lot of water, it is recommended to drink three times a day and exercise regularly. If these things don’t help relieve constipation, a doctor might prescribe other alternatives such as laxatives.
The last three examples of the Bristol Scale are stools showing signs of diarrhea. If your stools are softer than usual, or even runny stools, there is a possibility that you are suffering from diarrhea.
This is often a short-term problem, with causes including viruses, food poisoning, and parasites, such as water-borne giardiasis, generally clearing up on their own after a week. Some medications also cause side effects that can include diarrhea.
If neither of them is to blame, there could be a more serious reason for your diarrhea. For example, you could be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease (wheat intolerance), Crohn’s disease, or pancreatitis. All of these conditions will require treatment, so see your doctor if your diarrhea persists for more than a week.
Treatment of diarrhea
To help treat short-lived diarrhea and get your gut back to normal as quickly as possible, there are a number of simple steps you can take.
Hydration is important, as diarrhea can cause you to lose a lot of water. Although it probably doesn’t taste great, a salt water solution will help too, as the salt will help you absorb the nutrients you need in your gut. Salt plays an important role in the entire digestion process, from activating saliva when eating to creating hydrochloric acid in the stomach that helps break down food.
When it comes to meals, diarrhea can mean you’re not as hungry. However, you should try to eat small amounts if you can – just avoid foods that are high in fat or too spicy, as they can make the problem worse.
Of course, if your diarrhea has a more serious underlying cause, you will need to start treatment for that illness immediately. Your doctor will advise you on what this entails.
What does stool color mean?
We’ve seen how the consistency of your poop can make you realize when something is wrong, but what if the color of your stool changes?
There is no doubt that this can be quite alarming. While in some cases the change is an innocent fact related to something that you have recently digested, there are some changes that you should not ignore and you should alert a doctor even if only once.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Black or Red Stools
Black or red stools can be an indicator that there is blood in your poop, which of course is something you should take very seriously. This is one of those times when the safest option is to talk to a doctor and make sure it is nothing serious.
If your poop is bright red , this indicates that the poop contains blood and is fresh. That means that you are probably suffering from a bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, which indicates that you may have several possible causes, for example, hemorrhoids or bleeding from the anus. Although unpleasant, it is less likely to be an indicator of a serious or long-term problem.
If your poop is a darker red or black color , that may be cause for concern, as it suggests that bleeding is occurring in the upper part of your GI tract.
The biggest concern here is that this could be a sign of bowel cancer. This is far from true, so while it’s hard not to worry, seek clarification from your doctor to rule it out.
Often times, this type of stool can be attributed to lumps in the intestine called polyps. According to Cancer Research , these affect 15-20 percent of the population and are particularly common in people over 60 years of age. However, polyps are usually benign, and only 10% of cases lead to cancer.
Bowel cancer has the second highest death rate of all cancers. One of the main reasons for this is that people just don’t get checked as soon as they should. There are tests available that can provide the answers you are looking for, so don’t delay.
There are other potential causes, including:
- Stomach / peptic ulcer
- Cirrhosis, for example, if the blood is not able to flow properly through the liver
- The side effects of certain types of medications
There are a few reasons why your poop may be green, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions.
A common problem is that food passes through your gut faster than it should. This prevents your body from absorbing all the nutrients it needs from foods like green vegetables.
This can occur for a number of reasons, including food poisoning, infections, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, or celiac disease. This is a fairly wide range of options, all of which require very different treatments, so getting clarification from your doctor will help you identify the reason for these changes and treat the symptoms.
Another possible cause of green poop is the bacteria Clostridium difficile. Although it is often found in the intestine, some patients receiving antibiotics experience an imbalance in their intestines that allows Clostridium difficile to become more dominant than normal.
This often goes away when the antibiotics are stopped, while a doctor may also prescribe a separate medication to help treat the problem.
If your poop looks yellow, once again, there are several possible reasons. A high-fat diet may play a role, particularly if this nutrient is not properly processed in your digestive system.
A lot has been mentioned in this article, but celiac disease is another possibility here. If your body can’t deal with gluten properly, it can result in yellow stools.
If it’s not your diet, then you may be experiencing the early stages of a potentially serious liver, pancreas, or gallbladder problem. So if your poop stays yellow for more than a week, it’s probably best to get it checked.
White or pale stools
If your poop is white or very pale, this could indicate that your body has trouble producing bile. Bile is a substance found in the liver that helps digest certain foods, especially fats. It is also one of the substances that gives poop its natural brown color.
Lack of bile is a potentially serious problem. It could indicate a problem with the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or the tubes between these organs. There may be an obstruction such as a gallstone, or it may be an early sign of a liver problem, such as jaundice.
This is certainly something you should investigate further, so make an appointment with a doctor and explain your symptoms.
What to do if you are worried
Your gut is a tricky place. With so much going on, most of us will notice some changes from time to time. In the vast majority of cases, these are only temporary and will pass after a few days.
But if you’ve noticed any long-term changes in your bowel movements, this could be a sign of a condition like celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you are concerned about a digestive problem, I recommend that you visit a specialist immediately.