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10 Things Your Poop Is Trying to Tell You

by Patrick Welsh
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Enter the hero of bodily functions—pooping! It’s a topic we often avoid in polite conversation, but your bowel movements can reveal a lot about your health. So, let’s dive into the delightful world of ten things your poop is trying to tell you.

Related: Top 10 Gross Things You Can Find On Your Body

10 How Often Should You Go?

How Often Should You Poop?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should poop. While the Goldilocks principle applies to many things in life, there’s no universal “just right” when it comes to your bowel movements. However, a general rule of thumb is that anywhere from three times a day to three times a week is considered normal.

Your poop schedule can be influenced by many factors. Diet plays a significant role. Loading up on fiber-rich foods can keep things moving smoothly, while a diet low in fiber might have you feeling backed up. Hydration is also key. Water helps keep your stools soft and easy to pass.

But what if you’re suddenly going more or less than usual? Well, changes in poop frequency can signal a variety of things, from dietary shifts to underlying health issues. If you’re experiencing constant changes or discomfort, chatting with your friendly neighborhood healthcare provider is always a good idea.

9 Extreme Odors

How Should A Healthy Poop Smell?

What unmistakable scent could clear a room faster than a fire alarm? Extreme odors emanating from your poop, that’s what. The smell of your stool can reveal valuable insights about your health.

  • Sulfur Strikes: Have you ever noticed a smell similar to rotten eggs wafting from your bathroom stall? Blame it on sulfur. Foods rich in sulfur compounds, like broccoli, cabbage, and garlic, can give your bowel movements an extra pungency. However, suppose the stench is particularly foul and persistent. In that case, it might signal an underlying issue, such as a gastrointestinal infection or malabsorption syndrome.
  • Putrid Protein: A high-protein diet can turn your poop into a smelly affair. Protein breakdown in the gut produces compounds like hydrogen sulfide, giving feces a rancid odor. While protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, excessive intake without enough fiber can lead to constipation and foul-smelling stools.
  • Gut Microbe Musings: Your gut is an ecosystem with trillions of microbes, and they have a say in your poop’s aroma. Certain bacterial overgrowths, like in cases of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), can cause rank bowel movements. These odors often accompany symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.
  • Medication Matters: Prescription medications can alter the smell of your poop. Antibiotics, for instance, can disrupt the balance of beneficial gut bacteria, leading to foul-smelling stools. Similarly, supplements and over-the-counter medications can leave their olfactory mark on your bowel movements.

8 Size Matters

Comparison: What Your Poop Says About Your Health

In the world of bodily functions, poop speaks volumes about our health, and one of the loudest messages it delivers is through its size. Yes, size does matter, even in the realm of bowel movements.

Let’s talk about the Goldilocks scenario of poop sizes: not too big, not too small, but just right. Your droppings should resemble a smooth torpedo reminiscent of a ripe banana. Anything significantly larger might indicate you’re not getting enough fiber or hydration, leading to constipation. Conversely, if your output is similar to rabbit pellets, it’s a sign your diet lacks fiber or fluids, or you might be experiencing bowel issues.

If you find yourself straining on the porcelain throne, trying to birth a behemoth, it’s a sign to bulk up on fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains. On the flip side, if your excretions are so swift and petite they barely make a splash, it could suggest an overabundance of fiber or an overactive thyroid.

7 The Sink or Float Conundrum

Why Does My Poop Float?

The timeless debate: sink or float? While this question might summon memories of childhood science experiments, it turns out that your poop holds some clues to this mystery as well. So, what exactly is your poop trying to tell you when it comes to its buoyancy?

Let’s start with the basics. Poop is primarily made up of water, fiber, bacteria, and waste material from your digestive system. The density of your stool is determined by various factors, including your diet, hydration levels, and how well your body absorbs nutrients.

When it comes to the sink or float puzzle, typically, healthy poop should sink. Why? Because it indicates that your stool has a higher density, which is often a sign of adequate hydration and a well-balanced diet rich in fiber and nutrients. Plus, sinking poop is less likely to cause a splash—and who doesn’t appreciate that?

If your poop consistently floats like a buoy in the toilet bowl, it might be a sign of poor digestion. This could be due to various reasons, including malabsorption of nutrients, excess gas production, or a high-fat diet. While the occasional floater is nothing to worry about, it might be worth chatting with your doctor if it becomes a regular event.

6 The Firm vs. Soft Debate

How To Take The Best Poop, According To Science

Let’s start with the firm camp. Picture those perfectly formed logs—easy to pass, clean break, and maybe even a slight sense of accomplishment. This texture suggests a well-hydrated system and a diet high in fiber, making your intestines do a happy dance of efficiency. Think of it as the gold standard, a sign that your gut does its job with enthusiasm.

Now, onto the softer side of things. If your poop is more on the soft-serve spectrum, it could be a sign of too much fiber, not enough fluids, or a gentle nudge from your gut flora. Your intestines are whispering, “Hey, let’s slow down a bit.” While not always cause for concern, consistently soft stools warrant a closer look at your diet and hydration habits.

What about the in-betweeners, the ones that can’t quite commit to a firm stance? Your poop may be sending mixed signals, indicating a delicate balance between fiber intake, hydration levels, and gut health. It’s like your body’s saying, “We’re a work in progress, but we’re getting there.”

5 Undigested Food in Your Stool

Why Am I Seeing Undigested Food in My Stool

Undigested food in your stool might seem like a bizarre sight, but it’s a fairly common occurrence with a few interesting tales to tell. This is not a sign that your digestive system has decided to take an extended vacation. It’s quite the opposite—it’s diligently working away, but sometimes, it just can’t handle the load.

Undigested food in your poop is essentially a byproduct of your digestive system running a tad behind schedule. It could be a sign that you’re not chewing your food thoroughly enough or your digestive juices aren’t breaking things down as effectively as they should.

There are a few usual suspects when spotting undigested food in your stool. Corn is notorious for making an encore appearance, often recognizable down to the last kernel. Then there’s the occasional appearance of seeds, nuts, and even bits of vegetables that seem to have slipped through the cracks of your digestive process. It’s normal for some foods to pass through relatively intact, especially ones high in insoluble fiber.

4 Mucus and Foam

Mucus In Stool: Everything You Need To Know

Mucus, that slimy substance that makes you cringe at the thought, isn’t always the villain. In fact, it’s the hero of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Its presence in your poop can indicate various things, from minor issues to potential red flags.

A small amount of mucus can be normal, serving as a lubricant for your bowels. But when it’s excessive, it might be your gut signaling inflammation or irritation, possibly due to conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Now, let’s talk foam—yes, foam in your feces. Picture sitting down, doing your business, and instead of the expected plop, you’re greeted with a frothy surprise. While it might seem like your intestines are getting creative with latte art, foam in your stool can signify a malabsorption issue. This means your body isn’t properly absorbing nutrients, and the excess fat might create bubbles, leading to a foam-filled flush.

Before you reach for the panic button, remember that occasional mucus or foam in your poop isn’t always cause for concern. Factors like diet changes, infections, or even stress can play a role. However, if these symptoms continue or are accompanied by other worrisome signs like blood or severe pain, it’s time to call your doctor.

3 Color Theory: The Palette of Poop

What your POOP COLOR means | A gastroenterologist explains

When it comes to your precious bodily excretions, the hues can speak volumes about your health. Forget about Pantone swatches. Let’s talk about the rainbow spectrum of fecal tones that can grace your porcelain throne.

First, we have the classic brown, akin to rich chocolate or a well-brewed cup of coffee. This gold standard indicates a healthy digestive system chugging along smoothly. It’s like nature’s way of giving you a thumbs-up for a job well done in the digestion department.

But what if your poop decides to go rogue and turns a striking shade of green? It’s not necessarily a cause for panic. Green poop can be the result of consuming leafy greens or foods with green food coloring. However, if it persists, it might signal a faster transit time through your digestive tract, meaning your food isn’t spending enough time in the digestive blender.

Then there’s the alarming red or maroon stool. Before you envision the worst-case scenario, consider your recent meals. Beets, anyone? Red poop can also signify bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract, so don’t ignore it if there’s no veggie culprit.

Next, on the color wheel, we have yellow poop, reminiscent of a sunny day. This can indicate excess fat in the stool, possibly pointing to malabsorption issues. It might be time to consult your doctor if this becomes a recurring theme.

Lastly, let’s consider the absence of color altogether—white or clay-colored stool. This could signify a bile duct obstruction, which warrants immediate medical attention.

2 Bloody Hell!

Understanding the Causes of Blood in Stool (Rectal Bleeding)

A small amount of blood in your stool might not be as dire as it seems. It could simply be a sign of hemorrhoids, those pesky swollen blood vessels around your back door. They’re common and usually harmless, often caused by straining too hard during a bowel movement or spending too much time on the porcelain throne.

However, blood in your stool could also be a sign of more serious issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis. These conditions cause inflammation in your digestive tract, leading to symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and, yes, blood in your stool.

Let’s not forget about the possibility of colorectal cancer, though. While it’s less common, you can’t ignore this potential red flag. Persistent bleeding, along with other symptoms like unexplained weight loss and changes in bowel habits, warrants a trip to your gastroenterologist.

1 Why Your Bowels Hit the Brakes When You Travel

Why Can’t I Poop When I Travel?

The dreaded travel constipation—a situation that leaves you feeling more stuck than your plane during a layover. Your body isn’t just being a diva. There’s some science behind this travel-induced dilemma.

Firstly, blame it on your brain. When you’re on the move, whether jet-setting across continents or just enduring a road trip, your brain gets the signal that it’s not in the usual safe and sound environment. This can trigger a stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol and slowing down the poop production line.

Then there’s the change in routine. Your gut loves consistency, and when you disrupt its usual rhythm with a new schedule, different meal times, and perhaps even unfamiliar foods, it can throw your digestive system for a loop. Plus, let’s not forget about dehydration. Travel often involves being on the go, so you might not hydrate as much as you should. Without enough fluids, your stool can become hard and difficult to pass.

And we can’t overlook the bathroom situation itself. If you’re not a fan of using public toilets, your body might subconsciously hold back because it’s not comfortable with the environment. This can further worsen the problem.

So, what’s a traveler to do? Staying hydrated is key. Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich snacks like nuts, fruits, and whole-grain crackers to help keep things moving along smoothly.

fact checked by Rachel Jones