What's your poop trying to tell you?
- Poop can be an embarrassing topic to talk about, but it's an important one.
- There are many different types of poop.
- Your poop may give you important information about your health.
- Sudden changes in colour or texture could indicate bigger health issues so always speak to your GP if you have any concerns.
- Be brave and have a look, don’t be shy and just flush it away.
Poop machine, poonami, poo-splosion. These might be funny situations when you’re talking about babies, not so funny if you’re worried about a poop problem of your own.
Your poop can tell you quite a bit about your health. So, if you’ve wondered ‘how many times a day should I
poop?”, or what your bowel movement means, here’s the lowdown.
What is a healthy bowel movement?
As a Registered Nutritionist, Sarah Gray talks about poop more than the average person.
“It might be a bit of a disgusting topic, but it’s important to know what’s going on so you know when something is wrong and you can discuss it with a professional,” she says.
A good poop should be relatively firm and easy to pass. How often you pass your poop will be individual to you. We all have our own normal.
“Someone might go once a week, someone else might go a few times a day. It's not about comparing, it's about knowing your normal,” Sarah advises.
Unicorn glitter poop please
If your poop suddenly changes colour, it could be a sign from your body that something’s up. Or should that be down?
Red or maroon
This red flag could be a sign there’s blood in your poop. This could be from a cut or a tear near the end of your poop tube or it could be something further up.
Think about what you have been eating lately. Food such as beetroot can also give your poop a reddish colour.
Either way, if it persists, take this flag seriously and book an appointment ASAP with your GP.
If things have turned a dark corner, it’s not your poop channelling its inner emo.
“If your stool is black, it could be due to iron supplements. If it's very black, the bleeding could be quite deep within you,” warns Sarah.
Not a risk to be taken, so off to the GP you go so they can find out why your poop is black.
Cream or light coloured
This is not the cream on top of a good situation. Mucousy light coloured poop could show that your gut isn’t absorbing things properly and that bile salts are missing.
Those salts are produced by the liver so if they’re missing, something may be amiss with your liver.
So, you guessed it, off to the doc to talk dirty. Poop related dirt that is.
Be your own bathroom superhero, Flush Gordon
It may not be your favourite viewing, but the best way to know if your poop is healthy is to have a glance before you flush it away.
Watery and loose
It’s a fine line between a loose bowel movement and diarrhoea. If it’s a one-off whoosh, it could be connected to some dodgy food or the dreaded gastro bug.
If your visits to the toilet are more watery than they are firm, it could possibly indicate chronic bowel issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Yep! Off to the GP you go.
Hard and dry
If you’re trying to poop and nothing happens, or it’s hard and dry, you could be looking at constipation. Don’t try too hard or you could be introducing haemorrhoids to a very delicate area.
Working out how to improve your gut health may help release this backed up situation. But you should be booking an appointment with your GP to check it out anyway.
Floating not sinking
If you’ve been brave and taken a peek inside the bowl, you might see the poop floating on top of the water rather than sinking. Floating could mean there’s too much fat.
Consider cutting down on those greasy foods and increasing your vegetable intake as they’re some of the best foods for gut health. If it happens a lot, it could indicate a problem with fat digestion. Once again, a trip to the GP is recommended.
What do a clown’s farts smell like? They smell funny
What you eat can make your farts smell funny. A distinctive smell could mean there is something else going on. Ask the question “Are my farts normal?” and the answers might blow you away!
The bottom line
Your poop can tell you a lot about your health. But it's a hard conversation to have – especially when you’re wondering how many times a day you should poop. It can feel strange to stick your head in the toilet and report to your GP about the colour, texture and smell of your poop.
But changes in your poop may mean something more serious is going on. So, pull on your grown-up pants and speak to your doctor if you notice any changes or think there’s a problem. Remember, doctors have seen and heard it all. No need to get your knickers in a knot.
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Sarah Gray is both a Registered Pharmacist and Registered Nutritionist with a particular interest in health education and helping people to take small steps to big change in their health journey. Sarah is the Head of Health and Nutrition on the healthylife Advisory Board.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board August 2021.