Decoding Digestion: A Guide to Different Types of Poops and Their Meanings
For a lot of people, pooping can be a TMI subject. We all do it, but only a few like talking about it. But did you know the state of your poop can reveal a lot about your overall health and digestion?
In this article, let’s dive into a fascinating world of stools and explore the different types of poops and what each of them may mean.
What’s the ideal poop?
The gold standard of all poops should look like a well-formed sausage or banana. It’s a positive indication of a healthy digestive system and a balanced diet with enough fiber and water. Ideally, this type of stool should be easy to pass and leave minimal residue on the toilet bowl.
What are the other types of poops?
However, if your poop doesn’t look anything like the gold-standard sausage, here are the other types of stools you may need to be familiar with.
1. Hard, lumpy stools
When your stools are hard, dry, and come out in small lumps, it’s often a sign of constipation. This can result in a lack of fiber and water in your diet, low physical activity, and even stress. To fix this issue, you can increase your fiber intake, stay hydrated, and stay active.
2. Loose, watery stools
This type of stool is often associated with diarrhea that is caused by several factors. For example, food poisoning, infections, certain medications, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If this persists, remember to stay hydrated and consult a doctor.
3. Pencil-thin stools
If your stools consistently comes out thin like a pencil, it may be a sign of an intestinal obstruction. This could be due to various reasons as well, such as colon polyps or even colorectal cancer. Seek a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
4. Floaters vs Sinkers
Though you might not believe it, the weight of your stool is an indicator of your digestive health. If your poop sinks in the water, it’s a positive sign of good health and a well-balanced diet. On the other hand, floating stools may mean excess gas or your nutrients not being absorbed properly.
5. Foul odor
Undoubtedly, poop is smelly no matter what. But, if your poop is really smelly, it’s another sign of your nutrients being absorbed improperly, or that you’ve eaten sulfur-rich foods. For example, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, and peas.
6. Undigested food particles
If you see undigested food in your stools, it could mean a) poor digestion or b) quick bowel movements. Undigested food particles also mean that you’re not chewing properly, giving enzymes less time to break them down.
7. Mucus-covered stool
If there is mucus covering your stools, it’s an indicator of inflammation in the intestines. Conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease can lead to increased mucus production in the gut.
8. Different-colored stool
Yes, you’ve read that right. Poop can come in a different variety of colors. It’s generally influenced by the food that you eat and the amount of bile in your stool. Bile is a fluid that digests fats. As it travels through your gastrointestinal tract, the enzymes chemically alter them, thus changing your stool from green to brown.
All stool shades of brown and green are considered normal, but keep an eye out for these other colors:
Causes: Green, leafy vegetables, iron supplements, food with green food coloring
Meaning: Food is moving through the large intestine too quickly.
Light-colored stools (clay or white)
Causes: Certain medications and other anti-diarrhea drugs
Meaning: Lack of bile in the stool, a potential bile obstruction
Yellow stools with a foul smell and a greasy appearance
Causes: The protein gluten in bread and cereals
Meaning: Excess fat in the stool due to malabsorption disorder
Causes: Iron supplements, black licorice, medication with bismuth subsalicylate
Meaning: Bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract (e.g. stomach)
Bright red stools
Causes: Red food coloring, beets, cranberries, tomato soup/juices
Meaning: Bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract (e.g. large intestine and rectum), hemorrhoids
A quick wrap-up
Understanding the different types of poops and their meaning can provide valuable insights into your digestive health. Diet, hydration, physical activity, and stress management are significant factors in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
While occasional variations are normal, persistent changes in your poop should not be ignored. If you're ever concerned about your poop or any related symptoms, it's always a good idea to consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.