Manhattan Gastroenterology
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Pooping is normal, but if you experience a sudden change in your stools, it might have something to do with your gut health. Persistent black or green stools, a change in bowel habits, or unusually foul odors must be carefully monitored, as they can give valuable clues about your gastrointestinal system. Digestive health is necessary for all aspects of wellness, and you must consult an experienced and board-certified gastroenterologist at Manhattan Gastroenterology if you suspect any changes in the color, shape, and texture of your stool. The award-winning gastro doctors focus on your symptoms and bowel habits to determine what is going on with your gastrointestinal health and what may be causing the problem. They also suggest the best remedies, diet, lifestyle changes, and treatment options to help you get back to feeling yourself again.

When it comes to your health, poop is essential. What comes out of the body can tell a lot about what is happening inside. Green or watery stools once in a while can happen to any of us, but persistently erratic bowel habits and unusual symptoms may require monitoring and changes in your diet and lifestyle. Fluctuations in your stool can reflect changes in your diet, mood, and physical activity, and sometimes it can even be a warning sign of some serious medical condition.

The good thing is that your poop can help you learn about gut health, what is occurring inside the gastrointestinal tract, and if it is time to visit a specialist.

Understanding the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale is a practical guide for healthcare professionals, as well as patients to check the form of poop and determine if it is healthy. The scale focuses on the size, shape, and consistency of the stool to analyze your gastrointestinal health. The chart is named after the hospital where it was developed, The Bristol Royal Infirmary, a teaching hospital in England.

The Bristol Scale identifies 7 types of stools. They range from hard and difficult to pass to the liquid form of diarrhea. As our poop is made from waste products that are no longer needed by the body, it includes undigested food such as fiber, bacteria, and salts.

Bristol Stool Scale
Bristol Stool Scale
  • Type 1 – It consists of separate hard lumps. This type of stool is often difficult to pass and is sometimes described as resembling nuts in shape and size.
  • Type 2 – It is a lumpy sausage shape that can also be tough to pass.
  • Type 3 – It is sausage-shaped but with several cracks running across its surface.
  • Type 4 – It is a smooth, long snake-shaped poop that does not have any cracks or lumps.
  • Type 5 – It is a series of soft blobs with well-defined edges.
  • Type 6 – It has mushy consistency with ragged edges and looks more like a pile than clear separate stools.
  • Type 7 – It is in liquid form and does not contain any solid pieces.

Only knowing the Bristol Stool Scale is not enough. You should also know what this scale tells you about your gut health and what you can do to make it better.

Understanding Your Poop with the Bristol Stool Scale

Bristol Stool Scale is an effective indicator of gut health as it indicates if poop is normal or not. As it also focuses on the additional characteristics such as color, smell, and frequency, realizing when something is wrong becomes easy. Knowing if your stools are not normal can help you reach out for medical assistance sooner, understand the possible underlying causes of the issues behind them, and get timely treatment.

6 Things Your Poop May Be Trying to Tell You About Your Health

Signs of Health Digestion

If you have Bristol type 3 or 4, your poop is regular, which is a sign of healthy digestion. It means you are on the right track and taking insufficient quantities of water and fiber, and your stools are normal.

Indicator of Constipation

Bristol type 1 or 2 indicates you are suffering from constipation. If the poop is hard, and difficult to pass, it means your bowel movements are not usual. At times, these types of stools can be painful to move too. Short-term constipation is nothing to worry about and can be managed with an increased intake of fiber and water, but if you continue to experience it for weeks or months, call your gastroenterologist before it turns complicated.

Constipation can be a sign of the following:

  • Poor lifestyle choices – An inactive lifestyle combined with a diet lacking sufficient nutrition or not drinking water in the required quantity can cause constipation.
  • Diabetes – In some cases, poorly managed diabetes can damage the nerves supplying the digestive tract, which results in constipation.
  • Thyroid conditions – Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to chronic constipation if they are not managed timely.
  • Pregnancy – An increase in the hormone progesterone during pregnancy relaxes the muscles in the lining of the digestive tract. This can lead to slower movement of the bowels and constipation.
  • Bowel obstruction – A blockage in the side can prevent the waste matter from passing through the digestive tract. In some cases, constipation is the first sign of bowel obstruction accompanied by abdominal pain or cramping and a bloated stomach. It is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly, as it can turn fatal if not addressed timely.

Signs of Diarrhea

Bristol type 5 to 7 are consistent with diarrhea. Type 5 suggests that a lack of fiber is the main problem, while types 6 and 7 indicate inflammation in the digestive tract. When there is too much water but not enough fiber in your stool, it can make your poop soft. Normally the fiber in the poop soaks the water.

Inflammatory diarrhea occurs as a reaction to food poisoning, other severe infections, or as the outcome of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, including crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Stool Color

The color of your poop can also tell a lot about your gut and overall health.

Dark brown – Dark brown colored stool indicates health. This healthy color is determined by bilirubin, a pigment released by the breakdown of old red blood cells.

Black – Iron supplements and certain medications can lead to black-colored stools. If you notice black, sticky, tar-like stools, it may be due to gastrointestinal bleeding and should be analyzed by a medical practitioner.

White – If there are any issues with your gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, lack of bile production can result in pale grey or white stools.

Green – Intake of certain plant foods can make your poop green. In some cases, green poop can also be the effect of too much bile or too little bilirubin.

Red – Particular red foods can cause your poop to turn red, including artificial foods and dyes. Sometimes red-colored poop can also result from intestinal bleeding or hemorrhoids.

Orange – Foods rich in beta-carotene can result in orange-colored stools such as oranges and tangerines. Blocked bile ducts and certain medications can also change the color of your poop to orange.

Yellow – Yellow-colored stool may be a sign of too much fat. It could be due to malabsorption or a lack of certain enzymes, including bile.

Pooping Frequency

Pooping frequency varies from person to person. Research shows that most people poop anywhere between 3 times a day to 3 times a week. Everyone has their routine, and you may find yourself having a bowel movement at the same time every day. If there is no pattern to your pooping, there may be some gastrointestinal issue or lack of fiber in your diet.

Smell

Poop should smell bad as it is made up of all the waste your body needs to get rid of, including the bacteria that can give off strong, smelly gases. Truly foul-smelling stools may be a result of an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or celiac disease.

It is a good idea to keep an eye on the foods you eat and see if any change makes a difference to your bowel habits. Pay attention if you experience pain, bleeding, weight loss, and other symptoms that disturb your routine life.

Bowel Movements and Colon Cancer

Frequent and long-term unusual bowel movements can be a warning sign of something serious like colon cancer. Colon cancer is a form of cancer that is easier to treat if detected early.

Symptoms of color cancer include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Change in frequency – needing to poop more or less than usual
  • Change in consistency
  • Incomplete bowel movements – where you feel like your bowels are not completely empty

Schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist if you experience these symptoms to have your condition accurately diagnosed. These symptoms may not mean anything serious, but two or more variances in your bowel movement should be checked by a digestive health expert.

When to See Your Doctor About Your Digestive Health?

Your poop plays a significant role in your digestive as well as overall health. Most people prefer to wait before booking an appointment with their doctor due to the embarrassment they feel at discussing such issues. They also want to see if their symptoms go away on their own, but this is not the right move.

Pooping is a natural process, and everyone does it. If you sense something wrong with your poop, consult a gastro expert sooner than later to ensure it does not turn serious.

Call your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Blood in your stool or in the toilet bowl
  • A significant change in bowel movements – going from two daily bowel movements to only going every other day
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Very foul-smelling stools
  • Bowel incontinence

Based on your bowel habits and symptoms, the doctor will work with you to determine what is going on with you and come up with the best solutions to make you feel better.

How to Keep Your Poop Healthy

Several factors play a significant role in keeping you and your poop healthy. They include:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Overall health
  • Medications
  • Stress

Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can go a long way in producing perfect poop time after time and make sure you enjoy healthy bowel habits.

Here Are Some Tips on Keeping Your Poop Healthy

Eat Right

Choose foods that support good digestion, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating a rainbow of foods is very good for the colon and provides the body with the best selection of vitamins and minerals. Whole foods provide the fiber you need for regular bowel movements.

Increase Liquid Intake

Drink lots of water as it can break down food during digestion and help your body utilize the good nutrients. If you are dehydrated, the body does not have enough fluids to give your poop the right consistency, which can result in constipation. Make sure to drink plenty of water during the day, particularly, when you go outdoors or sweat profusely.

Eat on a Schedule

Eating on a schedule may keep your digestion on track. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up and lunch about 4 to 5 hours after breakfast. Avoid eating dinner within 3 hours of bedtime. It gives your body time to process the food between meals and keeps digestion moving.

Exercise Regularly

Keep your body active as it is the best way to keep the digestive system healthy too. It also decreases the time the food stays in the colon and helps with constipation. Even minimal physical activity can support good poop health, such as walking for about 10 to 15 minutes a day. Stretching and yoga are beneficial too.

Get Yourself Screened for Colorectal Cancer

Getting yourself screened for colorectal cancer gives you a chance to keep a track of your digestive health, particularly if you have any risk factors.

If you are concerned about a change in your stools or any other gastrointestinal symptoms, consult a gastroenterologist to understand the possible causes behind variations in your bowel movements. The board-certified and experienced specialists at Manhattan Gastroenterology are experts at preventing, diagnosing, and treating the diseases and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and determining what your poop is trying to tell you. The gastro doctors take a note of your symptoms, changes in poop color, and consistency and run some tests to know what is happening inside your digestive system and how they can help you. They work hard to provide relief from the problems you may be going through and ensure you enjoy lasting gut health.

Updated on Aug 27, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology