Poop happens — to everyone. Although it’s natural to flush and hit the sink without a second glance, taking a peek at what’s in the toilet bowl can benefit your health. And chances are, there’s a lot you never knew or thought to ask, about your number two.
What Is Poop? Here’s What’s Healthy, and What’s Not
Let’s talk about poop. Sure, it’s not exactly dinner-party fodder, but it’s important to learn all you can about bowel movements — what’s weird, what’s normal, what’s healthy, what’s not. That’s because your poop (stool) is an important clue to your overall digestion and health: Your poop can reveal serious signs of infections, digestive problems, and even early signs of cancer, according to the gastroenterologist.
First, even though we often take poop for granted most days, sometimes your poop (stool) is not normal at all. Here are some poop concerns many people have:
- Diarrhea happens when stool passes through the large intestine too quickly.
- Constipation occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly.
- Bowel incontinence is a problem controlling your bowel movements.
- Other abnormalities with poop may be signs of a digestive problem.
Most people have experienced diarrhea, whether from a GI virus, an allergic reaction to food in the diet or even as a result of stress or anxiety. Diarrhea is loose, watery poop. You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. This poop problem is common and usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own. Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem.
People who are constipated may experience any one or more of the following poop symptoms:
- Difficulty passing stools
- Feeling of incomplete emptying after defecation
- Hard poop (stool)
- Painful bowel movements
- Reduced poop (stool) frequency
- Straining with a bowel movement
The process of pooping is learned early in childhood and retains spontaneity throughout life in most people. However, some people may lose the spontaneity of pooping for a variety of reasons such as childbirth trauma, surgery, medications that slow bowel transit, or other reasons. Some common health conditions such as diabetes can weaken the nerves in the colon and result in severe constipation.
Normal poop (stools) are soft and formed (not hard or lumpy). They are passed without urgency or straining. A sudden change from a person’s normal bowel pattern should be reported to a doctor.
So, brush up on this poop (stool) trivia, and then pay attention to how often you go, how long it takes, and what the end result looks and, yes, smells like. Simply put, know your poop.
Poop: What’s Really in It
Water makes up about 75 percent of your stool. The rest is an often-stinky combination of fiber, dead and live bacteria, other cells, and mucus. Soluble fiber found in foods like beans and nuts is broken down during digestion and forms a gel-like substance that becomes part of your poop.
On the other hand, foods packed with insoluble fiber, such as corn, oat bran, and carrots, are more difficult for your body to digest, which explains why they may emerge in your poop (stool) looking relatively unchanged.
Color Matters When It Comes to Poop (Stool)
Poop and the color can vary — a lot — depending on what kinds of food you’ve ingested and other factors. Dr. Sheth has seen patients get full work-ups for a bright red stool that turned out to be nothing more than the passing of beets. Leafy vegetables can cause green stool, while certain medications can make your poop look white or clay-colored. Look out for jet-black stool. Though it could be from something as harmless as iron supplements or black licorice, the color could be a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Poop Shows and Shape Matters Too
Another advocate at looking at your poop before you flush is Mehmet Oz, MD, the host of The Dr. Oz Show, who explained during a now-famous appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show that the perfect poop is log-like and S-shaped, not broken up into pieces. Part of getting that log-style shape, compared with poop that comes out more pebbly-looking, comes from eating fiber, which lends bulk to stool and acts as a glue to keep the poop stuck together as it exits your body. Pencil-thin poops, on the other hand, can be a sign of rectal cancer, which narrows the opening through which stool passes.
Terrible-Smelling Stool May Be a Sign of Infection
It’s no news that poop never smells pleasant, but the particularly pungent stool is often a sign of infection, according to Sheth. Terrible-smelling poops are a signature side effect of one stomach bug caused by the parasite giardia, ingested most often by swimming in freshwater lakes. It could also suggest a more serious digestive condition such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease.
Just How Often Should You Poop?
Do you hit the bathroom at the same exact time every morning, or can you go days before you need to poop? It’s all normal, the important thing is that you’re consistent for your own routine. A big decrease in poop (stool) could be due to a diet change (fiber intake), which is why many people find they’re less regular on weekends or vacation — they may be eating less fiber or working out less often, both of which promote healthy digestion. Other factors affecting poop output — either a decrease or an increase — are gastrointestinal disorders, an overactive thyroid, or colon cancer.
Diarrhea Is Your Poop (Stool)
Digestion can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, during which time the food you’ve eaten travels down your esophagus to your stomach, then to your small intestine, your large intestine, and out through the anus.
Diarrhea is the result of your poop passing too quickly through the large intestine, where most of the water content is absorbed. (Constipation, on the other hand, is when it takes too long for stool to pass through.) Loose stools can be due to many factors, including stomach viruses and food-borne illnesses. They can also result from food allergies or intolerances, like lactose intolerance, or other digestive issues.
Healthy Poop (Stool) Should Sink in the Toilet
Listen to the sound of your poop (stool) as it hits the water in the toilet. Floating stools are often an indication of high-fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption, a condition in which you can’t absorb enough fat and other nutrients from the food you’re ingesting. When your poop (stool) floats, it is associated with celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis.
It’s Normal to Pass Gas 10 to 18 Times a Day
Incidents of flatulence are embarrassing, at least for some, but this result of harmless bacteria breaking down food in the large intestine is completely healthy. Your colon is filled with bacteria that release gas as a by-product of digesting the food you eat. Your body absorbs some of it into the bloodstream, which you breathe out through your lungs, and expels the rest out of your other end. It’s normal to pass gas anywhere from 10 to 18 times a day, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Poop (Stool) Transplants Are Proven to Work
Fecal microbiota transplants are real — and they work. A study just released at the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting found that such transplants — in which stool from a healthy person is placed in the colon of an infected person — helped treat bouts of recurrent diarrhea associated with a C. difficile bacterial infection. Such transplants have also effectively treated inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The trillions of good bacteria in a healthy person’s poop can help recolonize the digestive tract and treat infections that haven’t responded well to other treatments, including antibiotics and probiotics.
So how do you ask someone to be your poop donor? And more importantly ,asking someone whose healthy gut bacteria likely differs from yours; ideally, a friend or family member who lives in a different household.
Reading on the Toilet Isn’t So Healthy
Studies suggest that the more time you spend in the bathroom, specifically reading, the more likely you are to develop hemorrhoids or swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. It sounds like a strange correlation, but think about it: The longer you stay in the bathroom trying to poop, the more pressure and stress you put down there. Sitting for too long on the toilet can also restrict blood flow around the anal area, which can make hemorrhoids worse.
Most of the time, a diet devoid of fiber, which keeps your bowels regular and prevents constipation and hard poop (stool), is to blame. Most Americans eat 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day; doctors recommend 30 to 35 grams to prevent hemorrhoids, according to researchers from Los Angeles Medical Center.
Is Your Cell Phone Covered With Poop (Stool)?
Wash your hands well after using the bathroom, or poop may travel with you. In a study released in 2011, British researchers discovered that one in six cell phones may be contaminated with poop (stool) that can spread E. coli bacteria after they collected nearly 400 samples in 12 different cities.
Since phones tend to travel with everywhere — especially places where we eat, like kitchen counters, restaurant tables, and desks, to name a few — the E. coli bacteria detected on them may play a role in spreading illness.
Still Tired liveing with crohns
When my Crohn’s disease is active, my fatigue can be debilitating. Sometimes I’m forced to stop answering phone calls because I literally don’t have the energy to construct sentences. I don’t allow myself to drive because it doesn’t feel safe. I’m basically unable to do anything except the bare minimum, and when I come out on the other side I feel like I’ve been in the deepest fog.
How can I be so tired?
After experiencing fatigue like this on and off for quite a while, I began to wonder how I could possibly be SO tired. I was ‘sleeping’ ten to twelve hours a night and taking a nap during the day. What more could my body possibly want? I wasn’t working. I wasn’t moving much. In fact, I wasn’t using any more strength than necessary, and yet, it still felt like too much.
Anyone with IBD knows that when you’re sick, it often feels like more than just stool emptying from your bowels. It feels like life is emptying out too.
Fatigue and mental health
I found the fatigue contributed to my anxiety and depression, affecting my mental health too. It seemed like I was trapped in this awful cycle and all I could do is come up for air between episodes.
During that time, I took prescription sleep medication, I worked with a sleep doctor, and underwent multiple normal sleep studies. I even followed suggestions on reducing screen time, creating sleep hygiene and more, but no matter what, I felt exhausted all of the time.
Sleep versus rest
This was when I learned the difference between being asleep, and getting rest. Being in bed, tossing and turning, waking up during the night – they all impact our ability to achieve deep sleep cycles characterized by faster breathing, a faster pulse, and rapid eye movements, or REM. There were times that my body may have been unconscious, but it most certainly wasn’t at rest.
It became clear to me that I had to learn how to dedicate time to conscious rest when I was awake. To be honest, this felt awkward and like something I was embarrassed about. Have you ever sat down to do something like this?
Changes I made
There were three changes I made that over time have significantly impacted my levels of fatigue, and I’d really like to offer them as suggestions to anyone who is struggling.
- Scrolling through social media, even while laying in bed, doesn’t count as resting. When you brain is actively thinking about things you want, need, or are missing out on, it impacts your body’s ability to rest. Schedule in some breaks to put your phone down.
- Guided imagery and meditation are real things that relax your mind AND your body. I rely on the Calm app, but there are others out there as well which offer you these services right from your phone. Quieting your brain quiets your body in a real, lasting way.
- Aromatherapy – certain scents are tied to physical relaxation. Whether you purchase a linen spray, light a candle, burn incense or diffuse essential oils, or take a bath with bubbles or salts or bombs, aromatherapy draws upon the healing powers of the leaves, flowers, stems, bark, roots or petals of plants to stimulate the natural healing action of both your body and your mind.
Tips on Asking for Support During Crohn’s or UC Flares
If you’re living with inflammatory bowel disease, you know that your life, health, abilities, and capabilities can change dramatically in a short period of time. From my experience, no matter how much I plan for the next flare, there are always things I wish I had done, I need but don’t have, or I would really benefit from help.
Asking for help during a Crohn’s or UC flare
I’ve thought a lot about this and about how it feels hard to ask for help. I don’t usually know what to ask for directly so I often keep quiet, and I never know who exactly I should reach out to in the event that I need (or want!) physical things or tangible assistance.
I wanted to share with you some thoughts I’ve put together after a lot of trial and error. To be honest, it’s SO MUCH better for my mental health and my stress levels as my symptoms increase to know that I know how to best ask for support and that I’m not alone in my trials, especially when this disease can feel so isolating.
Things that are helpful when dealing with a flare
In no particular order, here are some things that have worked for me:
- Keep a list in your phone of a few people who are local that you trust, and that might be able to do you a favor when you don’t feel well. Depending on your needs, this might mean stopping at the store, dropping off a cooked meal, picking up a prescription, taking you to a doctors appointment, sitting with you in the ER or visiting you at home or in the hospital.
- Then, add to the bottom of that list, a few people who might not necessarily be nearby, but who understand your heart. People you can call or facetime or text when you want to cry or vent or be distracted. One important note here: don’t leave out your other friends with IBD! I’ve often avoided telling them that I was doing poorly because I knew they had struggles of their own, and in retrospect, they wished they’d been able to be there for me. They understood my plight directly and agreed they’d tell me if whatever I was telling them or asking them in terms of support felt like too much at any given time.
- Think about your necessities during a flare: what foods or meal replacements you can tolerate, what clothes and basic household items that you both need and that would make you more comfortable, and anything that might cheer you up.
- If you have a roommate, live with family, have a spouse, children or pets, think about if they can help and/or have needs of their own while you are down and out.
- In the event that a friend or family member reaches out and asks what they can do for you, or what they can bring you or send to you, I’ve found politely declining over and over is a loss for both myself and the other person. They genuinely want to help, and I honestly could use it. I have found it to be easiest to have direct and tangible items I can ask for – such as groceries, prepared meals (or meal delivery), conversation to take my mind off of things or company when I don’t have the energy to talk.
Living with inflammatory bowel disease is hard enough, there’s absolutely no reason to decline help or support simply because you don’t know how to ask, or don’t want to inconvenience someone who has already offered.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a group of chronic lifelong conditions affecting the digestive tract. It includes both Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD) which are similar but affect different parts of the intestine. UC affects the inner lining of the large intestine while CD can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. You can read further information on IBD in this patient information leaflet.
Clinical features of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The main features of IBD are bloody diarrhoea associated with frequency, urgency and abdominal cramps. In severe attacks patients may suffer weight loss and anorexia.
In addition patients may have symptoms from outside the digestive tract including:
• Arthritis (large joints)
• ankylosing spondylitis
• erythema nodosum
• pyoderma gangrenosum
• iritis and episcleritis (inflammation of the eyeball)
• primary sclerosing cholangitis (75% pts have IBD, Geonzon –Gonzales 2006)
How common is IBD?
• 15,000 people in Ireland have IBD
• Incidence in Ireland – 6,000 UC
– 3,000 CD
What causes IBD?
The cause of IBD is unknown but is thought to include: Genetic susceptibility
A familial tendency
Environmental factors -smokingstress
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
history of appendectomy
history of infection with mycobacteria
activation of the immune system
possibly diet but not proven
• Infective agents
• Seasonal changes
• Stress – implicated in aetiology of disease (Mawdsley & Rampton 2005)
Treatment of IBD
Treatment for IBD is often simple and includes both local and oral medications, often the condition can be managed in the community by the patient’s General Practitioner after consultation with a Specialist. Regular review by a specialist is recommended for complex therapies and disease. Surgery may be required in difficult cases.
Mary Kennedy is the IBD Clinical Nurse Specialist at TUH. The IBD nurse is often your first point of contact if you require any advice regarding your disease. She provides a rapid point of access for IBD patients, in particular she can provide support, advice and information on your inflammatory bowel condition. Also, she will play an active role in disease and drug education and management. Treatments such as Infliximab (Remicade) and Adalimumab (Humira) are administered by the IBD Nurse.
An advice line is run by the IBD Nurse and the contact number is 01 414 3855.
TUH Gut Therapy Programme for IBS
The chronic diarrhoea pathway aims to provide patients with diarrhoea symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with fast access to the most appropriate investigations and management of their condition. Patients aged over 45 with chronic diarrhoea of more than one month duration will be automatically be triaged for a colonoscopy. If this and blood tests are normal they subsequently attend the dietitian led gut therapy clinic.
Patients aged under 45 with chronic diarrhoea of more than one month duration with red flag symptoms such as bleeding, weight loss, anaemia and family history of bowel cancer or IBD will also be automatically be triaged for a colonoscopy. If this and blood tests are normal they subsequently attend the dietitian led gut therapy clinic.
Patients under 45 who do not have red flag features will have blood and stool tests done. If these are normal they attend the dietitian led gut therapy clinic, if an abnormality is detected they have a colonoscopy and are managed as appropriate after that.
Its most notable attribute is its effect on wound management and healing. Manuka honey also has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat numerous ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, periodontal disease and upper respiratory infections.
Honey is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities, which may be useful for the prevention of chronic inflammatory process like atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. The antibacterial, anti- inflammatory and antioxidant properties of honey
What is the fastest way to get rid of inflammation in the body?Follow these six tips for reducing inflammation in your body:
- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods. …
- Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods. …
- Control blood sugar. …
- Make time to exercise. …
- Lose weight. …
- Manage stress.
Does b12 reduce inflammation?Vitamin B6, folate (B9), and B12 can lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that’s linked to a greater risk for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. But we can’t say for sure that lowering homocysteine will also lower your risk for disease. The same is true for C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation.
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