Okay, I hear you loud and clear, who really wants to check out their poop? Most folks just want to take care of business, flush the toilet and never look back at their dirty deeds. But have you ever considered that looking back at what you left floating in the porcelain throne may actually save your life? Let’s talk about six things your poop is trying to tell you.
#1). Bright red blood in the Stool:
You’ve probably already guessed this but there should never be visible blood in your stool. Bright red blood in the stool can be a sign of multiple conditions including:
- Hemorrhoids (internal or external): These are enlarged veins in the rectum and anus that tend to bleed, especially when you have a bowel movement. Hemorrhoids are often associated with pain (again, especially when you have a bowel movement) and itching.
- Anal fissures: An anal fissure is a small tear in the anus that is usually associated with severe pain and lighter bleeding.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: Also known as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms include abdominal pain, alternating between diarrhea and constipation, and blood in the stool.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases: These include Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis, both of which are chronic and frequently associated with abdominal pain in addition to bleeding.
- Cancer in the GI-tract (rectal or colon cancer): GI-tract cancer is almost always associated with blood in the stool although sometimes it is not visible to the naked eye. This is, of course, the worst case scenario when it comes to potential causes of blood in the stool.
#2). Black Stools:
The color of your stool is of course influenced by what you eat, but there are certain changes in stool color that can be indicative of a problem and black stools are one. We’ve all probably experienced the Oreo effect, and yes, there are certain things like Oreo’s and iron supplements that will make your stool black, but in these cases, the color change is only temporary. Generally, more serious causes of black stool are longer lasting and include:
- Bleeding in the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).
- Bleeding stomach ulcers.
- Stomach cancer.
#3). Fatty Stool:
Known as steatorrhea (you can use that one in a trivia game), fatty stools look very greasy and because they are so buoyant, they are difficult to flush. Steatorrhea can be a sign of:
- Cystic Fibrosis: CF is an inherited disorder that amongst other things prevents the body from absorbing fats.
- Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that helps us digest our food and helps to regular our blood sugar levels.
#4). Mucus in the Stool:
Mucus is always present in our stool but it is in such small amounts that the naked eye cannot usually see it. When mucus (usually either clear or yellow) is visible, it can a sign of:
- An infection in the GI-tract: A bacterial or parasitic infections would usually also be accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fevers.
- Inflammation in the GI-tract caused by Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or IBS (see above).
- Anal Fissures (see above).
#5). Light or Clay-colored stool:
Much like really dark or black stools, occasional light, clay-colored stools can be caused by your diet. Your stool gets it’s normal brown color from something called bile acids that your liver produces and if your stools are consistently clay-colored, this can be a sign that something is wrong with your biliary system (gallbladder, liver, and pancreas).
#6). Skinny stool:
Much like snowflakes, no two stools are quite the same (I know, you will never look at a snowflake the same way), but the general shape of your stool shouldn’t change that much. If you notice that your stool is consistently long and skinny, this can be a sign of a blockage in the intestines that needs to be evaluated as soon as possible.
So, what is the moral of the story?
- ALWAYS look at your stool before you flush the toilet.
- If you notice that the color, shape, or consistency has changed, or if there is blood or mucus, contact your medical provider ASAP! You can tell them that the twin docs sent you!!
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