What Your Poo Says About You
The fascinating diversity of poop shapes, sizes, smells and colors and what they say about your health
Even when everything comes out OK, poop exhibits an engrossing variety of shapes, sizes, textures, aromas and colors. I mean, you don’t even want to know what’s in there. Dead bacteria. Expired red blood cells. Mucus and bile. Undigested corn. You name it.
But your business, along with its frequency, can hint at health issues, too, some that have easy fixes and others that are more serious. Here’s some no-nonsense toilet reading to take with on your next BM.
Shape and texture
While your excretions may never look exactly like any of these examples, the Bristol Stool Chart is commonly employed to sort through scatological morphology:
If you consistently produce hard lumps or those distasteful lumpy sausages (types 1 and 2) or if you find it painful to go, you might alleviate your constipation with more water or more fiber (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), says Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Other causes can include certain medications or lack of physical activity.
Mushy or runny poo (types 6 or 7) could signal a short-term digestive issue or even mental stress.
But if you’re regularly squirting out №6 or №7, it could be a sign of some underlying health problem, says Nitin Ahuja, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Penn Medicine. Perhaps just a short-term issue like a virus, bacteria, or reaction to medication. Or maybe a food intolerance — lactose intolerance is a common one. But it could reflect a disease somewhere along your digestive tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
Floaters, meanwhile, can be due to lots of gas (see fart facts). But if your poo often or always floats, it could be a sign of infection or disease. If your stools are pencil-thin now and then, no worries. But if they’re always super skinny, you could have a blockage in your colon that needs immediate…