What your poop says about your health – Sure it sounds gross, but paying close attention to your stool is important. Bowel habits, or a lack thereof, are strong indicators of overall digestive health. Changes in the shape, color, or texture of your poop can show signs of digestive issues, infection, and sometimes even cancer.
But how are you supposed to know if your poop is healthy? Well, you can monitor the four S’s that we will discuss today, for starters. But it’s not just poop that can say things about your health; it’s urine too. So, we’ll also discuss how to monitor when you go number one.
What Does Your Poop Say About Your Health?
Whether you realize it or not, your poop says a lot about your health. You should always speak with your doctor about concerns; changes in consistency and poop color are good indicators for what’s happening inside of your digestive system.
Here are five things to watch for in your poop:
Pebbles and Rocks
Poop that’s hard and shaped like small pebbles or rocks can indicate constipation. Before you say anything, it’s common to be still able to pass small amounts of stool while constipated.
Your body’s large intestine is designed to concentrate waste by absorbing the water that’s present. When the muscle contractions in this intestine do not work correctly, waste is left inside the colon and becomes very concentrated. This results in hardened stool.
A change in poop color is a widespread concern among patients. The type of bacteria that reside in your colon combined with the foods you eat usually create these changes. In fact, food coloring is a frequent culprit.
This is the main reason that patients who have an upcoming colonoscopy are warned to avoid foods and drinks that contain specific colors the day before. At any rate, different shades of poop usually aren’t a cause for concern. The only exception is when the poop has a bloody or black appearance because this can signal issues in the digestive system.
Tarry and Black
Iron supplements and medicines containing bismuth (think Pepto-Bismol) are the most common causes for poop to appear tarry and black. However, it can also be a sign that you’re losing blood somewhere in your GI tract, such as in the small intestine or stomach.
Greasy or Oily
When your poop appears oily or greasy and is hard to flush, it could signal that your body cannot digest fat the right way. Yet, changes in stool consistency can also be caused by pancreas issues, celiac disease, or an infection.
Thin as a Pencil
If your stool is occasionally pencil-thin, it’s not a cause for alarm. This can be caused by something small such as improper muscle contractions in the large intestine for a short time. However, if you notice a change in poop consistency and it’s always this thin, you should see a doctor because there may be a blockage in your colon.
The Four S’s That Could Save Your Life
Now that you know why it’s essential to monitor your stools, let’s look at precisely what you should watch. They are known as the “four S’s,” and they just may save your life!
The four S’s of what your poop says about your health are:
The Scoop On Poop (Poop Facts)
It’s always fun to learn new facts about random things. So, here are some of our favorite poop facts:
- Poop travels through around 30 feet of the intestinal tract.
- Healthy turds resemble torpedoes and are easy to pass.
- People in other parts of the world have different poop.
- Women and men poop differently.
- Contrary to popular belief – poop is primarily bacteria, not old food.
How Much Poop Is In Your Body?
The Centers for Disease Control found that the average man produces around a full pound of poop each day. On the other hand, the average woman makes just under a pound at 14-ounces per day. This means the average human produces over 9,000 pounds of poop over their lifetime! That’s a lot of poop!
Types Of Poop And What It Means
Your poop is made up of 25 percent solid material and 75 percent water. The solid portion contains indigestible food, dead bacteria, and other inorganic substances. Food usually passes through your system within three days, which should result in a bowel movement. However, if this food passes through your system too slowly or quickly, it can affect the texture, size, and color of your stool.
With that being said, the Bristol Stool Scale classifies the types of poop into seven categories based on texture and size. Here’s what the healthy stool chart says:
- Type 1: Small, hard pebbles of poop that are hard to pass.
- Type 2: Shaped like a lumpy sausage.
- Type 3: Again, like a sausage, but this type only has cracks on the surface.
- Type 4: Smooth and soft that looks like a snake or sausage.
- Type 5: Small, soft pieces that are passed easily and have defined edges.
- Type 6: This is a mushy stool that is made of fluffy pieces with ragged edges.
- Type 7: Entirely liquid; this type contains no solid pieces at all.
So, going by this chart, here’s what we know:
- If you have types 1 or 2, you are constipated.
- Types 3 and 4 are examples of healthy poop.
- Types 5 through 7 represent diarrhea and can be caused by stress, infection, food intolerance, or medical illnesses.
Urine Color Chart: What’s Normal And What’s Trouble?
Okay, enough about poop! Let’s move on to your urine, as it can also indicate some health concerns. In fact, urine has been used as a medical tool since the start of medicine. Your pee can tell many things, including how hydrated you are and if you have a urinary infection.
Urine is a mix of electrolytes, water, and waste that the kidneys have filtered from your blood. When you are hydrated and healthy, your urine will be somewhere between the color of honey or light straw and colorless. If you become dehydrated or stop consuming enough fluids, you could expect urine that’s more concentrated and darker such as an amber color or dark yellow.
One thing that shocks many people each year is when their urine turns a color other than yellow. There are some laxatives, dyes, antibiotics, medical conditions, and even foods that can alter the shade of your pee. Check out the pee color chart for more information.
The Meaning And Power Of Smell – The Nose Knows!
Urine doesn’t usually have a strong odor unless you are dehydrated. However, there are a few other factors that can make it smell funky. Those are:
- Vitamins: Specifically, B vitamins are known to produce dark and foul-smelling urine.
- Kidney Issues: Kidney disease or kidney stones can cause ammonia-smelling urine.
- Diet: Coffee and asparagus are two examples known to alter the smell of urine.
- Diabetes: If your urine smells sweet, it could signify that your blood sugar levels are high.
- Urinary Tract Infections: The same bacteria that causes UTIs can also lead to strong-smelling urine.
The Bottom Line
While most of the conditions that poop and pee can signify won’t cause death, it’s crucial to take action if needed. For this reason, it’s recommended that if you notice changes in your stools or urine that don’t go away within a reasonable amount of time, contact your doctor.
Remember, the earlier something gets caught, the higher the probability it’s treatable!
Original infographic via mysolluna (formerly kimberlysnyder.net) in 2012, content updated October 2021.