What Healthy Poop Should Look Like

While it may not be a polite conversation topic, learning what to look for in the toilet bowl can tell you a lot about your health.

By Beth Levine

Like the popular children’s book title says, everybody poops. And while it may not be appropriate dinner conversation, you should be taking the occasional look in the toilet bowl to see if everything is okay down there. That’s all well and good, you may be asking, what are you supposed to be looking at, exactly? Read on to find out what the shape, color and more can tell you about your health.

Here’s the 4-1-1 on poo:

There is a wide range of normal when it comes to bowel movements, so there is no reason to panic over every change, says Alvin Newman, MD, author of The Essential IBS Book. Stool is mainly water, non-absorbable food-stuffs, bacteria, and sloughed intestinal lining. Its color is derived from bile pigments and food residues. It’s an imperfect process, producing all sizes, shapes, and consistency, and infrequent calls to nature.

An outspoken proponent of poop talk, Dr. Mehmet Oz unabashedly describes the three "S"s of an ideal bowel movement:

Sound: Your bowel movement enters the water in one piece and doesn't make much of splash – many little splashes indicate pebble-shaped poops and constipation, whereas a continuous splash could mean your poop is too liquid.

Shape: A curved or "S" shape is ideal, indicating the poop moved through your intestines at the appropriate speed and doesn't contain too much or too little water.

Shade: We know, obvious! But your poop should be brown.

For a full range of healthy to unhealthy poop consistency and color, check out the Bristol Stool Chart (normal falls within types 3, 4 and 5) and Dr. Oz's Poop Color Chart

When should you worry about poos? Contact your doctor if…

●      Your stools are bright red, dark red, burgundy, maroon or tarry black. “This could mean something either trivial like a small hemorrhoid or serious such as colon cancer, so it’s worth getting check out,” said Dr. Newman. Beets can turn your poop red and iron can make it black so if you know you’ve eaten either, wait a few days to see of the color goes back to normal. (Don't worry if it’s green – that just means food moved very fast through your intestines.)

●      Bright red, painless bleeding is often from hemorrhoids or anal fissures, but it may also signify polyps or cancer. Darker red bleeding could indicate a significant bleeding lesion such as a polyp, a malignancy or a vascular lesion. This must be reported to the doctor. Blood will be evident on toilet paper, but it will be copious. A light smear or two just means a small anal tear.

●      You are passing more than three watery or liquid stools per day for a few days. This kind of diarrhea, if not controlled, can cause dehydration and at the extreme, death.

●      Constant diarrhea or constipation – or alternating bouts of them – could mean irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic condition that affects the large colon. Look also for mucus in your stool. IBS can occur with other diseases so see your doctor right away if you suspect you might have it.

●      Passing stools is consistently a painful process. This can be caused by anal fissures, abscesses, protruding hemorrhoids or obstruction.

●      You have severe constipation. Normal frequency of bowel movements ranges from three per week to three per day. Call your doctor if you are only producing one a week or less. You could have slow-transit constipation, which means food doesn’t move fast enough through your system.

Keep your plumbing running smoothly

If you want to keep your plumbing in top shape, keep adequately hydrated (if you start to feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to drink) and eat foods high in fiber, which increases the size and weight of your poo. This makes it easier for waste to zip through you, helping you to avoid hemorrhoids, because you won’t feel like straining as much.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends intake for total fiber of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women for adults 50 years and younger, and 30 and 21 grams per day, respectively, for men and women over 50.

Fiber-rich foods include:

●      Fruits (avocados, raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, figs, and raisins)

●      Grains and cereals (whole wheat pasta, barley, bran flakes, oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat or rye bread)

●      Legumes, nuts and seeds (peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, pistachio nuts, almonds and pecans)

●      Vegetables (artichokes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, sweet corn, carrots, potatoes with skin)

If you aren’t able to incorporate enough fiber into your diet, try taking a high fiber supplement such as Metamucil.

Comments

My poop used to be 14 inches long and about 7 inches around. It came out at one time. WHen you poop and it stinks like a bitch you aren't eating right and probably drinking a lot.

oldgropedup on 2013-10-03 12:02:22

This was`a good` article. Informative. Thank You

maliaraap@ymail.com on 2013-09-20 22:28:59

Very good article. I enjoyed reading this even with my Glaucoma.

Grammigoofy on 2013-09-19 08:44:47