Your bodily emissions are an important health topic that deserves serious attention, regardless of how irritating it may be. In fact, if you ignore what you deposit in your toilet, you could be flushing your health down the drain.
The shape, size, color, and other fecal features can tell you a great deal about your overall health, how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning, and even give you clues about serious disease processes that could be occurring, like infections, digestive problems, and even cancer.
Hard and dry: If you are experiencing problems going (and have dry, hard-to-pass stool when you do finally go), it is worth reducing your dairy intake for a week or two to see if that helps. And being dehydrated can also lead to this problem because if the body is lacking in water, it will draw it and conserve it from wherever it can find it.
Little lumps: “An ideal stool looks like a torpedo—it should be large, soft, fluffy and easy to pass,” says Foxx-Orenstein. But when conditions are less than ideal, the stool may become more like little deer pellets. A lack of fiber in the diet may also to be to blame. And since fiber holds on to fluid, a lack of it will lead to harder, pellet-like poops that may be more difficult to pass.
Too liquid: Your body secretes about eight liters of fluid during the course of a day—from the stomach, salivary glands and pancreas—to help your food get broken down and make its way through the digestive system. Under normal, healthy conditions, the majority of that fluid is absorbed along the way, resulting in those sought-after soft, fluffy stools. But if food passes through too quickly, there isn’t enough time for all of that liquid to absorb, and the stool emerges in a too-soft state.
Pencil thin: Thin stools could be an indicator of colon cancer or its precursor, polyps in the colon. “Whenever you have mass in the colon that creates blockage, anything that needs to be pushed past that mass will become thinner,” Farber says. “If you are seeing thin stools on a consistent basis, that it something you should have looked at by your doctor.”
Looking pale or gray: Normal stool can come in a range of colors (influenced by what you eat and what medications you take, among other factors). But if your stool has an unhealthy hue, particularly if it’s pale or grayish in tone, you could have problems somewhere along your digestive tract.
Bright red: Your first instinct upon seeing red-colored stool in the toilet would probably be to panic. But before you speed-dial your doctor, think about what you ate several hours ago.But if it’s obviously a streak of red blood in the stool, in the toilet, or on the toilet paper, then it’s a given that you’re bleeding somewhere inside. Also, if you’ve never seen blood before it’s definitely worth having your doctor rule out more serious causes—like colon cancer.
Too dark: If your stool is suddenly black and looks sort of tar-like, the culprit could be lurking in your daily vitamin pill. Iron supplementation can have that effect on the stool. But if you haven’t recently started taking extra iron and you see this sort of change, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.