MountainView Hospital - April 11, 2020

Going number two isn’t something you typically bring up in just any conversation but there is a thing or two to learn about this interesting and most of the time stinky process. Stool (poop) is 75% water and 25% bacteria, digested food, protein, salt, and other substances broken down by the intestines. It comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

To help you better understand this process and recognizing a healthy metabolism and digestive system, there are a few things you should know.

  1. First, check out the color. Is it brown, green, red, black, or chalky white/grey? Brown and even green are considered a healthy and normal color. If you notice it being an abnormal shade of green (such as vibrant green), that might indicate you have been on a greens and leafy vegetables kick, or that your body is passing waste too quickly. Red and black could both mean GI bleeding, but that’s not always the case. If you do suspect it is a bloody stool, red would imply a lower GI Bleed or hemorrhoids, whereas black could be an upper GI or Gastric Bleed. I could see why you would jump to conclusions and think you have internal bleeding, but just know that beets can also turn your stool red as well as licorice and Iron supplements may change the color of your stool black. Although most of the aforementioned colors are most often a normal occurrence, you never want to see your stool turn a chalky white or grey color. This is a sign of bile dysfunction and could imply it is clogged or backed up, which in turn could enter the bloodstream and cause infection. Don’t panic! Just make an appointment with your primary care physician ASAP and get it checked out.
  2. The next important thing to look for is the shape and consistency. Shape and consistency help you determine if you are constipated, have diarrhea, or are within normal range. The main function of the intestines is to absorb water and nutrients from what we eat and drink. Typically the longer the stool sits in your intestines, the more water is absorbed and the harder the stool becomes, hence constipation. When you have a watery stool it is passing through your intestines too quickly and not allowing proper reabsorption to occur. You generally want your stool to be sausage or log-shaped and smooth and soft. If your stool resembles coco pebbles, or grapes bunched together, you are showing signs of constipation. If it is mushy or liquefied like soft serve ice cream or gravy, than you are experiencing diarrhea. To stay in normal range, try to drink lots of fluids and eat a high fiber well-balanced diet.
  3. Lastly, did it float or sink to the bottom of the toilet? Floating stools are often an indication of high fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption, a condition in which you can’t absorb enough fat and other nutrients from the food you’re ingesting. When your stool floats, it can be associated with celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis. Don’t be alarmed if you noticed your stool floating every once in a while, gas and changes in diet can also cause this and most of the time it is completely normal.

In addition to these three things, it’s important to note frequency and smell. The healthy person should use the restroom anywhere from every other day to up to three times per day depending on their metabolism, diet, and fluid intake. It should take between 1 and 15 minutes to pass a stool, any longer increases your chances of hemorrhoids. Poop never smells like flowers and rainbows, but pungent foul smelling odors could imply an underlying infection and should be addressed immediately.

In order to have the healthiest digestive system, and body, try your best to regularly exercise, eat a high fiber well-balanced diet, drink lots and lots of water, and live a fun and enjoyable life. Fun fact: Scientific evidence suggests that positive emotions can help make life longer and healthier.