HAVE you ever glanced back over your shoulder wondering if the thing that is staring up at you from the toilet bowl is normal? So you ask yourself - what does normal look like? Most people don't like to talk about it and even fewer own up to the fact that they check out their poo. The reality is, if you don't have a peak it at, how will you know if it is good or bad? Touching and prodding it probably really isn't necessary, however you should always at least have a sneak peek.
Once food has been ingested it travels through the stomach into the small intestine where all the nutrients are absorbed. Anything that remains is assumed as waste and is moved along as a bolus to the large intestine, also known as the large bowel, where water is then removed. The stool is then temporarily stored in the rectum before being expelled from the body. The longer the transit time in the rectum, the more water is absorbed making the stool drier and harder to move along. Also, the more dehydrated you are, the more water your body absorbs! (And you thought you had an issue with recycled water! Argh! Note to self, drink more water and don't get dehydrated!)
A healthy stool should be a nice shade of mid-brown due the presence of a bile pigment known as stercobilin - a normal by-product of red blood cell breakdown. Changes in stool colour can often provide wonderful insight into what's really going on down there which is why it is so important to sneak a peek at your poo!
Light coloured faeces can indicate that bile salts are lacking as a result of digestive diseases affecting the pancreas, gall bladder or liver. Silver, white, grey or yellow stools are often seen in Hepatitis patients.
Maroon-coloured stools can often indicate bleeding from the bowel from conditions like diverticulitis, angiodysplasia (leaky blood vessels in the intestinal walls) or bowel cancer. Fresh red blood smears on your toilet paper can indicate that the bleeding is closer to the anus, and is common in conditions such as haemorrhoids or anal fissures. Bright red blood in the stool however, usually indicates internal bleeding and one of the causes could include bowel cancer. Black stools are commonly seen with patients taking iron supplements. Stools can also appear black as a result of bleeding higher up in the digestive tract in places like esophageus or from ulcers in the stomach.
Stools changing colour (no I don't mean techno-poo), is no laughing matter and you should seek medical attention immediately, as the cause may be an indication of something serious going on.
Another characteristic of healthy bowel motions is that your stools should be firm, moist and passed with ease. Hard and dry stools which are uncomfortable to pass can indicate you are constipated. There are many causes of constipation including a low-fibre diet as well as some medications. Because of the straining involved to pass hard, dry stools, long term constipation can lead to haemorrhoids. The opposite to hard stools are watery stools, commonly known as diarrhoea. Watery stools can be caused by a range of factors, including anxiety, food poisoning or gastroenteritis. Long term diarrhoea needs serious medical attention as often it is a symptom of more serious illnesses such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis or bowel cancer. Lactose intolerance can also be a cause diarrhoea, and is associated with bloating, cramping and wind. Parasitic infections in the digestive tract can cause thin and stringy bowel motions where as "Floaters" are usually an indication of poor fat metabolism.
So in getting to the bottom of it, if your poo isn't brown, moist and easy to pass, please seek advice from your medical practitioner.