Poop Talk And What It Says About Your Health

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What Your Poop Says About Your Health

Low Section Of Woman Sitting On Toilet Paper In Bathroom
Michael Heim / EyeEm/Getty Images

Poop may be an embarrassing subject to talk about, but it's actually an important part of our health and fitness. The color and consistency of our stool are shown to be markers of a healthy colon or possible disease. According to research, stool consistency strongly suggests what type of microbes are living in our gut. It also lets us know if we're eating right and staying hydrated. In order to have happy poops, we must maintain a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) system.

Do you have mornings when you feel sluggish and often find yourself visiting the bathroom? This is especially problematic during a workout or even running errands. According to Dr. Alison Chen, ND, it can be annoying, embarrassing, but also an indicator of your gastrointestinal health. When it comes to our poop, what is normal? 

It's normal and healthy to have one to three bowel movements per day. Every time we eat, a parasympathetic nervous system reaction starts to signal for digestion, nutrient absorption, and eventually a bowel movement. This process can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours depending on the food consumed and our activity level. 

You may notice first thing in the morning with increased activity, drinking water or coffee, a bowel movement is stimulated. An early morning workout can hasten your need to use the bathroom even more. 

Going to the bathroom is a natural process and let's face it, many of us are checking out the product. Looking at our poop is one of the best ways to determine our health so don't flush too quickly. Feeling better and having more energy may be as simple as getting to know your poop and improving our colon health. 

Is your poop defined in one of the ten examples? 

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Cannonball

What Your Poo Says

Cannonball poop or severe constipation can occur for many reasons. Being dehydrated or not eating enough fiber can cause us to get backed up. Also, electrolyte deficiency, iron supplements, bacteria imbalance, prescription medications, and stress can make going to the bathroom uncomfortable.  

Constipation is typical of the cannonball poop with stool consisting of hard lumps difficult to pass. Straining can occur and sometimes injury to the anus, fissure (tearing) and frank bleeding. In chronic conditions, prolapse of the anus can occur.

Not drinking enough water or dehydration can cause digestion to slow down backing up our stool. The water in our stool is reabsorbed back into the body leaving our poop hard and dry. According to research, high water content in our intestines speeds up poop transit time and promotes a healthier colon environment. To avoid constipation, drinking plenty of water is essential

Inadequate fiber intake is another reason for cannonball poop. It's recommended women consume 25 grams of fiber per day and 35 grams for men. Unfortunately, the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber daily significantly below recommended intake. In order to soften and bulk up our stool, it's advised to consume a high fiber diet including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats

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Torpedo Bum

What Your Poo Says

Torpedo bum poop is similar to the cannonball. The stool is dry, sausage-shaped, lumpy, causing constipation, and difficult to pass. We can feel uncomfortable and often strain to go to the bathroom. Chronic torpedo bum can lead to frank bleeding, obstruction, perforation fissures, and prolapse.

Dehydration is usually the problem causing torpedo bum poops. It's recommended to increase your water before adding dietary fiber, especially if fiber intake is adequate. Consuming healthy fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, oils) can also help lubricate the bowels allowing us to eliminate stool more easily.

Essential oils are also indicated to help with constipation and relax the colon, along with clock-wise abdominal massages. Peppermint, lavender and ginger teas are shown to relax the stomach and improve colon function. 

Stress is also a huge component leading to constipation. When we're stressed and unable to relax, impaired hormone function can occur. The body responds by not absorbing nutrients properly adversely affecting our bowel movements.

Practicing deep breathing techniques can help. Take three deep, long, and slow breaths before eating and while sitting on the toilet.

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Half Baked

What Your Poo Says

Half baked poop is somewhat dry and requires better water intake to bump it up to optimal. It is sausage-like shaped with cracks on the surface. It can still feel uncomfortable to pass often causing us to strain. 

Increasing water intake and dietary fiber (raw nuts, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) will improve the quality of this poop. It's also suggested to sit with proper posture on the toilet to help pass healthy stool. Some experts indicate squatting is the best position for going to the bathroom and some are using a squatty potty to help with proper posture

As indicated above, consuming between 25-35 grams of fiber daily along with drinking plenty of water will improve the consistency of your poop. Research indicates eating a wide variety of healthy food, especially plants significantly improves gut bacteria and colon health. Improving gut bacteria reduces inflammation and our risk of developing certain gastrointestinal cancers according to studies. 

 

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Mr. Happy

What Your Poo Says

Mr. Happy is considered the perfect poop and our goal when it comes to having a bowel movement. It shows we're doing a great job with eating right, drinking plenty of water and an indicator of ideal bowel function and optimal health.

It has a sausage or snake-like shape with a soft and smooth consistency similar to toothpaste. The color is light to medium brown, slight odor (not foul), 1-2 inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long. This poop doesn't stick to the toilet bowl or paper and comes out without straining or discomfort.

These are optimal poops which are an indication you're being mindful of your nutrition, physical activity and maintaining a healthy state of mind. Keep up the good work. Happy poops make for happy people.

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Stick-n-Slide

What Your Poo Says

The stick and slide poop appear as soft blobs but with clear-cut edges. They are softer than Mr. Happy poops but still considered normal. These poops can leave a smear in the toilet bowl and on your toilet paper. 

Sticky soft stools can be caused by eating foods irritating to the gut (i.e. hot sauce, spices). Consuming mild laxatives or diuretics often upset the stomach, cause bloating and soften the stool. High sugar diets, food sensitivities, and fat malabsorption can also cause sticky soft poop. Sometimes, lack of dietary fiber can also contribute to a sticky, soft bowel movement.

It's suggested to increase fiber intake (leafy greens and vegetables), avoid food triggers, irritants, and sugary foods until your stools are back to optimal.

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The Avalanche

What Your Poo Says

Avalanche poops are close to diarrhea consistency with fluffy pieces and ragged edges. The rapid transit time of this poop from our intestines doesn't allow for water to reabsorb back into the body. The result is a quick rush to the bathroom and staying close to the toilet is advised with this kind of gastrointestinal (GI) upset. 

Overly mushy loose stools can occur eating foods our system is unable to tolerate or if we have a mild gut infection. Other possibilities include mild food poisoning, laxative use, consuming artificial sugars and indigestible additives. In all of these cases, the body wants to be rid of the unabsorbed molecules (poop) so attracts water into the intestines causing watery stools.

It's important to get back on track with healthy eating including dietary fiber intake (especially from green leafy vegetables). Drinking plenty of fluids to flush toxins and rehydrate the body is highly recommended. Taking probiotics once diarrhea has settled down is also encouraged.

In order to maintain a healthy colon, avoid laxatives, artificial additives, and sugars. Being aware of food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens ​are also essential to reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) upset.

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The Rafter

What Your Poo Says

This is severe diarrhea with watery and entirely liquid stools. Watery diarrhea can be due to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD- Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis), food intolerances, excessive use of laxatives, certain drugs, severe food poisoning or dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance).

The most important treatment for watery diarrhea (especially chronic) is staying hydrated. It is also advised to immediately stop using laxatives. 

Excessive diarrhea may require hospitalization to administer intravenous (iv) fluids. The most effective treatment for food poisoning or infection would be fluid and rest followed by taking probiotics or eating fermented foods to replenish good bacteria sources.

Food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergens can sometimes go undetected. Getting an IgG test can show some food sensitivities. Physicians may also prescribe a hypo-allergenic diet for one month. Not only will it show you how your body experiences intolerance, but it also gives your gut the adequate rest it needs to heal properly.

Once the bouts of diarrhea end, slowing introduce more dietary fiber, healthy fats, and proteins. Anti-inflammatory foods will help heal the gut lining along with a hypo-allergenic diet.

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Greasy Floater

What Your Poo Says

The greasy floater is poop that has retained more fat, floats to the top of the water and can leave a greasy film. This type of stool can happen when inflammation in the gut lining is caused by food intolerances. Food intolerances can impair our ability to absorb nutrients like fat from the gastrointestinal tract. When we're not able to absorb fat nutrients (fat malabsorption), it collects in our poop instead. 

Fat malabsorption causes a problem because it means our body is not absorbing nutrients properly. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies which can adversely affect our health and fitness. We may think we're eating right but in this instance, our body is still not taking in enough nutrients. 

Examples of foods common for causing intolerance are eggs, dairy, wheat, corn, and soy. Eggs are very nutritious, a great protein source, and many of us can eat them without a problem. However, an individual with a food sensitivity to eggs may suffer from gas, bloating, headaches, leaky gut, muscle fatigue, joint soreness, and lethargy. It all depends on how your body reacts to food and in what state of stress your body is in. 

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Chunky Stool

What Your Poo Says

Do you ever see what you ate the day before included in your poop? Seeing chunks of corn is common so no need to panic. This happens with foods difficult for our system to digest. The fibrous shell of corn is insoluble and can sometimes be seen in the stool. Other foods should not be appearing as recognizable pieces of food.

If your stool is chunky, it may be due to not chewing thoroughly, feeling stressed while eating or are eating too fast. The following mindful eating techniques will help reduce the incidence of chunky stools: 

  • Take 3 slow deep breaths before starting your meal or snack
  • Sit down with the sole purpose of eating
  • Chew thoroughly and swallowing before taking the next bite
  • Focus on slowing down and enjoying your food
  • Wait 20 minutes before having seconds
  • Eat to 80% fullness
  • Not exercising for at least 20 minutes after eating

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Poop Color

What Your Poo Says
Check Your Poo Color. CandO_Designs/Getty Images

The color of your poop can also be a marker of good health. The following color guide will help let you know if your poop is the right shade:

Medium to light brown is considered a healthy color.

Red stool indicates a lower intestinal bleed, but can also be from red colored foods (i.e. beets).

Red streak on toilet paper is due to a rectal bleed (i.e. hemorrhoid, fissure).

Green is the color of undigested bile, antibiotics or eating a lot of leafy greens.

Yellow poo means there is a gallbladder issue (bile) or a parasitic infection (i.e. Giardia)

White or a gray clay-like stool is indicative of a block in bile flow, liver disease, pancreatic disorder, or antacid use (aluminum hydroxide)

Black tarry or coffee ground appearance is most commonly due to an upper gastrointestinal bleed (esophagus, stomach, small intestine) when blood and bile mix to produce black. Black stool can also be caused by high meat consumption or iron supplementation.

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More Information Available and Helpful Links

Be your own detective and find out how to read your own poo to maximize nutrient absorption for improved health and fitness. Dr. Alison Chen is a Naturopathic Doctor and author of  What Your Poo Says About You, a 32-page, fully illustrated rhyming book about poop, educational and fun for people of all ages available on Amazon.  

Helpful Links

Hypo-allergenic diet and meal plan: A comprehensive and easy-to-read 28-page hypo-allergenic diet and meal plan for all your food sensitivities to reduce inflammation, decrease bloating and increase energy.

Food Foes: In-depth article discussing the differences between food allergy, sensitivity, and intolerance.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Printable PDF diet plan designed to improve blood sugar regulation and decrease inflammatory processes within your body contributing to chronic disease and pain. 

Sources:

Doris Vandeputte et al., Stool consistency is strongly associated with gut microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes and bacterial growth rates, BMJ Journal, 2015

Weir TL et al., Stool Microbiome and Metabolome Differences between Colorectal Cancer Patients and Healthy Adults, PLoS ONE, 2013

Disclaimer: Verywell is not a sponsor nor receives compensation for any book or product sales. 

 

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