Woman in a blue dress sitting on a toilet with a roll of toilet paper on her lap
Woman in a blue dress sitting on a toilet with a roll of toilet paper on her lap
Woman in a blue dress sitting on a toilet with a roll of toilet paper on her lap

5 Things Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health

Having a bowel movement is a critical part of digesting the food we eat. Stool formed by the large intestine is the body's way of getting rid of waste.

While you should talk to your doctor about any concerns, changes in poop color and consistency could show what is happening inside your digestive system.

  1. Rocks and Pebbles

    Poop that is hard and shaped like tiny rocks or pebbles is likely just a sign of constipation. You can still be considered constipated even if you are able to pass a small amount of stool.

    The large intestine helps to concentrate waste by absorbing water. If muscle contractions in the large intestine are not working properly, waste left in the colon becomes even more concentrated, resulting in harder stool.

  2. Color Changes

    A change in stool color is one of the most common concerns patients ask about. The foods you eat and the kind of bacteria living in your colon can both cause such changes, and added food colorings are frequent culprits. This is one reason why patients preparing for a colonoscopy are instructed to avoid food and beverages with certain added colors the day before. Doctors note that when they perform a colonoscopy, they can actually tell what color the beverage was that the patient drank during their preparation for the procedure.

    Most changes in the color of stool are not cause for concern. The exception is poop that appears black or bloody, which could signal other problems with the digestive system.

  3. Black and Tarry

    The most common cause of black and tarry poop is taking iron supplements or a medication containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol. However, it could mean you're losing blood somewhere in your gastrointestinal tract, such as in the stomach or small intestine.

  4. Oily or Greasy Stools

    If you have poop that appears oily, has a greasy consistency and is difficult to flush, it could be a signal that your body is not able to properly digest fat. The consistency changes could be caused by an infection, nutrients not being digested due to celiac disease or a problem with the pancreas, such as pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.

  5. Pencil-Thin

    Stool that is only occasionally very thin is not a cause for concern. It is likely due to muscle contractions in the large intestine as it helps to concentrate waste.

    If there is a sudden and consistent change in your stool always being thin, it could mean there is a blockage in your colon, and you should see your doctor.

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