By Dr. Ye Li
Department of Family Practice
You may not want to discuss it at the dinner table, but your poop can tell you a lot about your health. Sometimes called stool or feces, your poop can be a vital information resource on how your body is working. There’s no doubt changes in bowel movements can signify important changes in your health. What is normal does depend on the individual person, but you can use the information below as a guideline to what’s going on in your digestive system and your overall health.
Keeping an eye on your poop’s color can tell you how well your body is processing the food that you eat.
Brown, yellow or greenish poop: These colors usually signify everything is fine. The variation in colors depends on what you eat and how much bile you produce during digestion.
Red or Black Poop: If you poop is consistently red or black it could signify internal bleeding from an ulcer or internal hemorrhoids. Red or black poop can also be a sign of E. coli infection and in some cases colon cancer. It can also indicate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), especially if you have red diarrhea. If you have eaten beets or licorice recently, that can explain the red or black poop, but if you haven’t, you should see a doctor.
How often you have a bowel movement can be important. Being on a fairly regular schedule, such as one or two times per day, is a sign that your digestion is strong. However, if you only have a bowel movement two or three times per week, that means you are constipated. If you are going “number two” three or more times during the day, you are probably going too often. That means you should consume more fiber, which slows the passage of food through your intestines. If you are eating lots of vegetables and still going three or more times a day you should see a doctor, it could signify you have an infection. Your primary care provider can also help with any constipation problems.
Floating or Not Floating?
Most of the time, your poop should sink to the bottom of the toilet. If your poop floats, it can be a reflection of your diet and an indication of certain health conditions. For instance, floating poop can be caused by poor absorption of nutrients, a gastrointestinal infection, too much gas, and pancreatitis. In most cases, occasional floating poop isn’t a cause for concern. However, if you are experiencing significant weight loss at the same time, you should talk to your doctor to learn more.
The odor of your poop can also be important. Although poop never smells nice, if it turns much more foul-smelling than normal it could be the sign of a problem. Unless you have made a major change to your diet, you may want to talk to your doctor if your poop suddenly has a big change in odor.
Don’t Ignore Warning Signs
Since your poop and bowel habits can be such an important indicator of your health, it’s a good idea to monitor them. If you notice something that could indicate a problem, be sure not to ignore it and talk to your doctor.
About Ye Li, MD
Before attending medical school, Dr. Ye Li became interested in holistic medicine and studied acupuncture. Wanting to bridge Eastern and Western medicine, she decided to become a physician. Her goal is to provide preventive and comprehensive care for patients of all ages. While she is trained in Eastern medicine, she currently does not practice acupuncture at Reliant Medical Group.
Dr. Li enjoys serving entire families as it not only...View profile View posts by this doctor
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Thanks for this info, I had always thought the exact opposite about “floaters”. I thought that floating meant you were absorbing more nutrients because the absorption of said nutrients would lead to less dense BM. Just goes to show how complicated and sometimes counterintuitive medicine & nutrition can be.