Poo-poo Matters: What Your Stools Say About Your Health

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Just when I was about to press the first key to start this write up on the less pleasant poops matters, Fela Anikulapokuti song that says Africans shit inside big- big hole dropped on my mind. And I remembered that we rarely had opportunity to see our stools not to talk of scrutinizing it. The few times we saw our poops was when we did it in the open.

So, the advent of Water Closet (WC) where we sat comfortably rather than squatted to answer the call of nature became so fascinating and exciting to both young and old such that all kinds of reasons were given to stay longer on the shits.

Well, apart from offering convenience, the WC also offers the grace to see and scrutinize the stools. And this brings us to the subject matter of this piece- Your stools and Your Health.    

Your poops’ texture, shape, colour, odour, size, frequency, duration and appearance give insights to your state of health.

Poop /stool or fecal matter is the end part of the digestive process. It consists of waste products, including undigested food particles, bacteria, salts, and other substances that the body eliminates.

Experts say everyone is unique in the size, shape, and smell of their poop, adding that there are a few things that indicate a healthy (or unhealthy) poop. “Sometimes, poop can vary in color, texture, amount, and odor. These differences can be source of concerns, but usually, these changes are not significant and will resolve in a day or two. Other times, however, changes in poop indicate a more serious condition”.

Gastroenterologist, Anish Sheth, the co-author of the books What’s Your Poo Telling You? and What’s My Pee Telling Me? says it’s important to talk about bowel movement because your poop (stool) is an important clue to your overall digestion and health: Your poop can reveal serious signs of infections, digestive problems, and even early signs of cancer.

It’s Brown

What about your poops colour? Poops are normal when they come in any shade of brown colour. According to experts, the combination of bile and bilirubin during digestive process give poops the shades of brown colour.  Poops become abnormal when they come out in distinctively non brown colour.

White, Grey or Pale Stool: Some medications including antidiarrhea drugs can make poop white. But when you are not on medications and you expel poops in the aforementioned colors, consult physicians. Doctors say they may be a pointer to liver or gallbladder issues. Pale stool is also suggestive of lack of bile.

 Black stools:

Some iron supplements, black licorice, black stout and bismuth medications can make poop black. However black stool will become an issue when you are off these substances and you still expel black stool. Medical experts and journals say black stools especially if they have appearance of tar, suggest gastrointestinal bleeding. See your doctor immediately.

Green

 Green poop might sometimes be caused by your ingestion of green foods such as avocado, green tea, green leaf vegetables, green juices etc, but when green poops is persistent it may mean too much bile or too low bilirubin in your digestive process. Too much bile or too low bilirubin are issues of health concerns that require medical consultation.

Red

Eating beets or red berries or drinking beet or tomato juice can turn poop to red. Once these foods have passed through the digestive tract, poop should become brown again. Continuous red poop may indicate lower gastrointestinal bleeding and or haemorrhoids.

Orange

Consuming many orange-coloured foods, which are rich in a pigment called beta-carotene, causes orange stool.

Carrotssweet potatoes, and winter squash are among the many foods that contain this pigment.

However, blocked bile ducts or certain medications, including some antacids and the antibiotic  can cause orange poop.

Yellow

Greasy, stinky, yellow stool is typically a sign of too much fat. This, according to experts could also be a direct relation to a malabsorption disorder like celiac disease, where your body isn’t absorbing enough nutrients. it could also signify a condition called giardiasis, which is caused by an intestinal parasite contacted through contaminated water or exposure to a person with the condition.

Most people will experience variations in stool color at some stage. Most times this is due to diet or some other minor cause. However, anyone who experiences changes in poop color that last 2 or more weeks or has red or black stool should consult a doctor.

Floating

 Do your poops stay afloat the water after flushing? Do you need extra bucket of water to completely flush the floating poop(s), experts say this might be an indication of high fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption, a condition in which you can’t absorb enough fat and other nutrients from the food you’re ingesting. It may also be a symptom of celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis. Celiac disease is a chronic digestive and immune disorder that damages the small intestine. The disease is triggered by eating foods containing gluten. The disease can cause long-lasting digestive problems and keep your body from getting all the nutrients it needs.

Hey!  Do not press the panic button or get despair yet because floating poops might just mean there is too much gas in your intestine. If you swallow air or you eat a high fiber diet with a lot of vegetable and fruits. Experts say high fiber foods release more air and gas during digestion and that the gas and air may be trapped in the stool making it float in the bowl

Melinda Ratini, of WebMD says Floating stools don’t necessarily mean you have an underlying health condition. To determine if a health condition is causing your poops to float, you should be on the lookout for other indicators like smelly, sticky or bloody and consult your doctor immediately.

Appearance, Shapes, Size & Smell Matter Too

Dr Mehmet Oz, the host of The Dr. Oz Show, sometimes on the The Oprah Winfrey Show, said that the perfect poop is log-like and S-shaped, not broken up into pieces. Fiber rich foods according to the expert ensure poops are log-style shape and not pebbly-looking. This is because fibers keep the poop bulk and stuck together as they exit the body. Anish Sheth said Pencil-thin poops, on the other hand, can be a sign of rectal cancer, which narrows the opening through which stool passes.

Poop smell has never been a titillating aroma. However, experts say punchy, terrible-smelling stool may be a symptom of infection. Poops that smell very bad is a sign of stomach bug. It could also suggest a more serious digestive condition such as ulcerative colitisCrohn’s disease, or celiac disease.

Diarrhea and Constipation are other symptoms of faulty digestive process. Digestion, according to expert, can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, during which time the food eaten travels down the oesophagus to stomach, then to small intestine, large intestine, and out through the anus.

Diarrhea is the result of your poop passing too quickly through the large intestine, where most of the water content is absorbed. Constipation, on the other hand, is when it takes too long for stool to pass through. Loose stools can be due to many factors, including stomach viruses and food-borne illness. There’s no need to fret about these issues because they get resolved on their own.

Poop Frequency

Many health care providers agree that normal poop can be three time a day to three time a week. Stooling more than three times is considered diarrhea while fewer than three times a week is constipation.

It’s toilet Not Library

 No matter how beautiful or inviting the toilet setup can be, it’s not a place of rest or a place to read newspapers or get busy with smart phone. Staying too long in the toilets has negative consequences. Studies suggest that the more time you spend in the bathroom, specifically reading, the more likely you are to develop haemorrhoids, or swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. The longer you stay in the bathroom trying to poop, the more pressure and stress you put down there. Sitting for too long on the toilet can restrict blood flow around the anal area, which can make haemorrhoids worse.

Poop may travel with you from the toilet and this is why you must wash your hands properly after each visit to the toilet. In a study released in 2011, British researchers discovered that one in six cell phones may be contaminated with poop (stool) that can spread E. coli bacteria, after they collected nearly 400 samples in 12 different cities. These cellphones were not taken directly to the toilet but got contaminated because the users didn’t wash their hands after visiting the toilet. Imagine the level of bacteria that can get trapped in the cellphones when you browse with them right there in the toilet.

 Tips for Healthy Bowel

Do the following to ensure healthy bowel function and healthy poops:

Eat enough fiber: Aim to get the recommended minimum daily amount of fiber, which is 25 grams (g) for women and 38 g for men under 50 years old. Women over 50 should aim for 21 g while men over 50 should consume 30 g daily.

Drink plenty of water: A reasonable amount is about 8 glasses (64 ounces) per day. It is especially important to stay hydrated when consuming more fiber.

Take probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that helps restore balance in the gut. Although some yogurts and drinks can also provide probiotics, it can also come in capsule form.

-Take magnesium hydroxide. It is safe for most people, although doctors do not recommend it for people with renal insufficiency.

Lifestyle changes: This may include stopping smoking, exercise regularly and manage anxiety.

Medical experts and journals say a well-functioning digestive system is essential for health and well-being. It also suggests that a person is eating a balanced diet.

 Bristol stool chart

Devised by doctors in the Bristol Royal Infirmary, England, and based on the bowel movements of nearly 2,000 people, the Bristol stool chart characterizes the different types of poops as shown above.

Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation, types 3 and 4 are healthy stool, while types 5–7 suggest diarrhea and urgency.

 

Source: Dare Agbeluyi, Chief Publisher.

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