Poop As The Health Indicator
Now this is a topic people aren’t really comfortable with. Most of the people find it disgusting. And being disgusted is totally justified as well. After all, discussing one’s poop isn’t the most interesting topic. But it is a very important topic nevertheless. And a couple of weeks back, while discussing a case with a medico friend of mine, I told him about how it is a healthy habit to look at one’s poop. He thought I was joking, “….and you really look at your poop every time you go? Who does that? You are crazy!” And so, I came to know that most of the people do not look at their poop. And no matter how uncomfortable it makes people, I decided to write about its importance.
“So why should we look at our poop? It’s disgusting!”
But regularly checking your poop might give you hints about diseases very early in their course and might even save one’s life. What comes out of you is actually a summary of how well your digestive tract is functioning and gives hints about a variety of diseases. Another misconception about this practice is that if something is wrong, a person will feel it and then he will check, instead of checking every day. After all, one actually feels when one has diarrhoea or there is a lot of pain with hemorrhoids. If you feel alright, you are! But this is not completely true. Many diseases, especially in early stages do not present with symptoms that the patient can feel. But those changes can be seen for sure.
So what should one look for in one’s poop?
There are symptoms that are very easily felt, for example if ones goes to the toilet multiple times in a day, or if there is pain with defecation, or constipation. In these cases, the patient can easily know that something is wrong and consult a doctor. The problem arises if and when there are no symptoms. So what should a symptom free person check his stools for?
Some people go once daily and some go three times per day. Both are normal, as the frequency varies from person to person. So as long as you are comfortable, defecating even three times per day is normal. But what one needs to check out for is any change in the habits. When a person who poops once per day goes to the toilet 4 times is a matter of concern.
This is the easiest to watch out for. Stools are solid, and soft. They are soft enough to pass without any strain. On the other hand, they should be hard enough for you to exert control on their passage. So if you strain a lot while passing stools, with or without pain, you might be having constipation. And if your stools are fluidic, maybe watery, and they come out in a gush, you might have diarrhoea because of one of the many known infections.
This is something that you need to actually see because a change in colour will not produce any symptoms as such. The normal colour of stools is somewhere between yellow to brown, owing to the bile pigments passed on from the liver. A change in colour can be indicative of a lot of diseases.
This can happen when food moves too quickly through the intestine not giving ample time for breakdown of bile, for instance in diarrhoea. This can also happen due to dietary causes and needs to be looked into.
This happens when there is no/less bile in the stools. This indicates liver dysfunction, such as jaundice or an obstruction.
This might point towards serious conditions, as black colour might be due to bleeding in the upper GI tract, like stomach or duodenum. This might be due to an ulcer, or even cancer. Such stools are often foul smelling, and contrary to the popular belief, this bleeding is usually not associated with pain on defecation. This color might also be due to certain medications.
Red stools, or stools that are coated red indicate fresh bleeding in the lower Gi tract, such as rectum or large intestine. This again may or may not be associated with pain and a person who does not check his stools might end up bleeding for months resulting in anaemia. It is most commonly die to hemorrhoids, but a lot of other causes including polyps, infections and cancer can be indicative. Blood noticed in stools can be the earliest sign of life threatening diseases and if noted early can be life saving. A lot of food items are also indicated in giving a red hue to stools.
This is when fat is not/ incompletely absorbed from the intestine. Such stools are heavy, and one can feel the greasy nature during their passage. A lot of diseases that interfere with the absorption can lead to these stools. These stools can also happen after the intake of beer, or some breads.
Yes, you might even find worms in your stools. And you may or may not have any associated symptoms. If you find them, medications are definitely in line depending on the type of worms found.
If you find food that you ate unchanged in your stool, it might be indicative of digestive insufficiency. It might also point towards improper chewing.
A foul smelling poop is normal. It indicates a good bacterial growth, and these bacteria are good bacteria. So you need not go to the doctor just because your stool is foul smelling.
Healthy bowel habits:
- One should take ample amount of fibres in their diet, as this helps in maintaining the consistency. For a lot of people facing constipation and related issues, just increasing the fibre content might prove enough.
- Take at least 2-3 litres of fluids per day as this helps in proper hydration.
- Proper exercise also helps in proper bowel movements.
So keep checking your stools. You never know what you might find. And what you find might save your life one day.
What is your poop indicating about your health?
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