It's not something that's usually talked about - unless, of course, you're in the midst of potty training - but the color, smell, and size of your bowel movements can reveal a lot about your diet and how healthy you really are. Before we dive into the details, remember that you should always consult a doctor if you notice anything irregular happening. But in the meantime, this helpful guide gives you a better idea of what your poop may be trying to tell you. Without further adieu, if your ...
1. ... poop is hard and in small pellets.
"You're dehydrated and don't have enough fiber in your system to flush everything out, [so] stool stays in your body longer than it should and your colon extracts water out of it, resulting in hard pieces," says Brenda Watson, C.N.C., digestive care expert and author of The Fiber 35 Diet. The solution is usually simple: be sure to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, and slowly incorporate more fiber into your diet via oats and flax seed. The keyword there is slowly, otherwise Watson says you could end up feeling bloated.
2. ... poop is black.
This poop color could signal some sort of internal bleeding high in your GI tract, says Charles Austin, author of The Toilet Book. According to Austin, the blood is darker than the usual red hue because it has been processed and moved through the digestive system with your food.
That said, dark poop could also just be a harmless side effect of taking iron supplements (the mineral is naturally black in color) or prescribed medications, like anti-depressants, codeine, or oxycontin. If you're unsure, it's best to call the doc.
3. ... poop is very loose, but not diarrhea.
This usually is nothing more than a sign of food sensitivity, Watson says. Having a sensitivity doesn't mean you're allergic, but food is irritating your digestive system and causing your body to create mucus that makes your poop more liquid-y than usual. Some of the common culprits include dairy, eggs, and gluten. Watson says in some cases, taking a probiotic supplement may help.
4. ... poop smells worse than usual.
If you notice a significant difference in stench, it could mean you're constipated and stool is sticking around longer than it should. When that happens, more natural digestive gasses - think methane, sulfur, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen - are produced and bacteria in your colon ferments. The fix: Integrate more high-fiber foods into your diet and stay hydrated, Watson says.
That said, if you've traveled to an international destination recently and your poop smells really foul, Watson says to see a doctor right away, as it could be indicative of a parasitic, viral, or bacterial infection.
5. ... poop color is light.
You probably need to get your liver checked, Watson says." Bile is produced in the liver and it's what gives your poop the brown color that it should be. When your poop is light, the liver isn't producing enough bile, which means your body is not detoxifying well." After consulting with a doctor, Watson says to try adding dandelion root into your diet, as preliminary research has suggested the plant can help boost liver function.
6. ... poop has blood in it.
This could signal a bunch of different things. One is that you may have pushed poop out too hard, which can lead to a small tear in the lining of the anal canal that's NBD so long as the bleeding doesn't persist. Or, if there's less than a half teaspoon of blood and it's accompanied by some pain and discomfort down there, Watson says the bleeding could be caused by internal hemorrhoids, in which case you need to see the doctor. It could also mean that there's bleeding somewhere in your colon or lower digestive tract, so Austin suggests getting checked out either way.
7. ... poop is seaweed green.
A green poop color could mean that you're eating a lot of leafy green veggies, but if it's a deeper hue, that could mean food is moving too quickly through your digestive system, Austin says. "Bile's natural color has a green tint to it, so when it's coming out in your stool, that means the body didn't have enough time to process it into the brown color that it should be."
8. ... poop is brown and a banana shape.
Good news: This is the ideal stool situation. Watson says you're in good shape when poop has about 75% water and 25% bacteria and fiber, and when it does, it generally exits as a rich brown color, is approximately one foot long, and has a toothpaste consistency. It also indicates that you're getting all the fiber you need, so things are running smoothly in the digestive department, he adds.
9. ... poop color is bright blue or purple.
You probably got a hold of a Burger King whopper, some intense food coloring, or you ate a bunch of beets recently. Despite the freaky look, there's nothing to worry about here.
10. ... poop is pencil-thin.
If your poop went from normal to pencil-thin, it might not be because of your diet. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the bowel (and its movements) gets really narrow with some types of colon cancer, so it's best to set up an appointment with your doctor to rule out anything severe.
11. ... poop is yellow.
Seeing yellow poop in the toilet isn't pleasant. It typically smells foul because it's made up of excess fat, possibly due to a malabsorption disorder like celiac disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. To find out if gluten is causing your bowel issues, contact your doctor for testing. Celiac affects 1 in 100 people worldwide, and it may require following a gluten-free diet.
12. ... poop floats.
When poop floats to the top of the bowl, it's usually due to a change in diet and you being more gassy, says the Cleveland Clinic. It could also mean your body isn't absorbing nutrients properly, or even be a sign of a gastrointestinal infection. If it doesn't return to normal after a few days, check with your doctor to make sure everything is in proper order.
*NOTE: These are possibilities, not diagnoses. The best course of action is always to talk with your doctor about any health concerns you may have.
Follow Redbook on Instagram.
('You Might Also Like',)