You may not regularly talk about your bowel habits, but pooping is a vital body function. Stool is what remains after your body has digested and absorbed all the nutrients and fluids from your foods and the beverages.
You may not spend too much time inspecting your poop before flushing the toilet, but your poop can say a lot about your health.
At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, our board-certified family medicine physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, specializes in diagnosing and treating anorectal disorders like hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Your bowel habits may play a role in causing these disorders and are part of our treatment plan. So, you can say we know a thing or two about poop. Here, we want to talk to you about your stool and what it might say about your health.
If your stool is small and hard and comes out in separate individual pieces, you’re constipated. Food waste from your small intestine enters your large intestine in liquid form. As the waste moves through the large intestine, it absorbs the water, creating a solid semi-soft mass.
When food waste moves too slowly through the large intestine, it absorbs more water, making the stool harder and lumpier. The harder the stool, the more difficult it is to pass.
Constipation may develop from many causes, including a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids, stress, and medical conditions. Though constipation is usually temporary, it’s a common cause of anorectal disorders like hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
A healthy stool is any shade of brown. Bile is responsible for the color of your stool. Bile is a green-colored substance made in your liver and stored in your gallbladder that helps digest fat in your small intestine.
If your stool is pale or gray-colored, there’s not enough bile, and you may have a problem with your gallbladder, bile ducts, or liver. Large doses of bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®) may also cause light-colored poop.
Red, tarry, or black stool usually indicates bleeding in the digestive tract. Bright red stool usually means bleeding is in the lower portion of your large intestine. Hemorrhoids are a common cause of this type of blood in stool.
Tarry or black-colored stool means the bleeding is occurring in the stomach or small intestine. Iron supplements may also cause black stools.
However, you should never ignore red, tarry, or back-colored stools. Bleeding in your digestive tract can develop from many causes, including colon cancer.
It’s normal for stool to have an unpleasant smell. The bad smell is from the bacteria in the large intestine that break down the food waste.
However, foul-smelling stool isn’t normal and may indicate you have a digestive condition that’s affecting absorption, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Your stool may also be yellow and greasy.
Before you flush, take a look at your stool to see what it says about your health. Healthy stool is brown, well-formed, and soft.
If you have concerns about the health of your stool, we can help. Call our office at 636-228-3136 to schedule an appointment today.