For most of us, our bodily functions mean one of two things: either they’re disgusting aspects of our daily lives, which we should avoid looking at and talking about; or they’re the source of many great jokes and (often guilty) laughter. But whether you personally view your poo with disgust or with fascination, we now know that you’ll learn a lot from studying it more thoroughly.
Our bodily functions aren’t simply mechanisms that keep our bodies functioning: they also give us a vital glimpse into what’s going on inside us. As uncomfortable as some individuals might be with the idea of looking down into the toilet when they’re done, doing so can alert them to problems within their body, and help doctors intervene before these issues get any worse.
No, we’re not referring to the environmental movement here. Your poo should be a healthy shade of brown with each trip to the toilet – should you find green poo in the bowl when you’re done, an alarm should go off in your head. Green poo is a sign of a potential issue with your gastrointestinal (GI) tract – so if your toilet bowl reminds you of the contents of your lawnmower, then a trip to the doctor may be necessary.
Again, we’re not talking about the sexual fantasy series that has women across the world hot and bothered at the moment. Variations in the color of your poo are normal, but consistent changes involving white, grey, or black poo can be a sign of internal problems. White or grey poo is generally a sign of a bile duct blockage, or even liver disease. Black poo, on the other hand, can be a sign of internal bleeding. GI bleeding that occurs over time can lead to black poo, and a visit to the doctor is a good idea if you frequently find this in your bowl.
When it’s coming from your body, red discharge isn’t usually a good sign. While red poo might be cause for concern, you shouldn’t fear the worst right off the bat – as anyone who has eaten beetroot should know. But actual blood in your poo may be GI bleeding, which can be a sign of hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, or in the worst-case scenario, colon cancer.
Ever felt the desperate urge to go, only to sit for hours, crimson-faced and struggling on the toilet? If you ended up struggling to no avail, then you’ve probably had a run in with constipation. There’s generally no cause for alarm: constipation is most often a sign that you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet. Fruits and vegetables can be a great source of fiber – but the best bet is to throw in more whole grains with your meals.
Most of us, surely, have seen our poo take some interesting positions in the toilet – and anyone familiar with the website Rate My Poo will be especially clued-up in this regard. Poo can sink or swim, and there’s nothing life-threatening in a poo that floats: in many cases, it is simply a sign of a poor diet.
While a floater isn’t necessarily a bad sign, it’s still important to be aware of other factors that can accompany that floater. In particular, if your poo smells abnormally strong and appears greasy, this can be a sign of underlying problems. Both serve as an indication of too much fat in your poo, which in turn indicates GI problems. These problems often lead to issues with the liver or colon, and indicate that the body is having trouble digesting fats.
If you’ve been going to the bathroom more frequently than usual, it isn’t necessarily indicative of a problem. There is no norm when it comes to frequency of disposal – and everyone has their own schedule. The average person unloads about 450 grams, or roughly one pound of poo per day. One thing is worth noting: as long as your body is disposing of poo regularly, it doesn’t matter if that happens three times a day or three times a week.
A good and normal poo should be soft enough to pass without stress, but not so loose as to suggest diarrhea. As mentioned earlier, a lack of fiber can lead to poo that has to fight every inch of the way, like a machete-armed explorer. On the other hand, if it is loose or watery, your body may be struggling with a bacterial infection or food allergies.
Overly thin and snake-like stools can suggest a number of problems. Its causes can range from the rather mundane – such as a contracted sphincter after struggling too ferociously – to the more serious, such as colon blockage due to rectal cancer.
Finally, your poo can simply affect how you feel. There is the potential for a large poo to cause your rectum to distend and your vagus nerve to fire, resulting in a pleasant increase of blood flow to the brain. And there is also the potential for stress – most often induced by a “log jam” in your body.
There is no perfect poo, nor is there a perfect schedule: your shapes, sizes and timings will vary according to diet, bacteria, and stress. But the lesson of this list is that you shouldn’t sniff at the thought of inspecting your poo carefully: it can tell you a lot about whether everything in your body is running smoothly.