Poo, also referred to as stool or faeces, is a combination of substances that come from your stomach and intestines, forming a waste product filled with proteins, bacteria, undigested food and salt. While unpleasant, your poop is a critical indicator of your gut health.
Therefore, it’s essential that from time to time, we take note of our bowel habits and inspect our poop to ensure that our gut is in working condition! To help you understand your stool, we’ll define what healthy bowel movement is, and explain the different types of poop that could be of concern.
Checking the toilet bowl is an easy and important way to conduct self-examinations on your gut health. There are various elements to look out for when checking your stool.
After you pass stool, be sure to examine it with the following guidelines in mind.
Ideally, a healthy bowel movement will require you to be pooping a minimum of 3 times a week to a maximum of 3 times a day.
In instances where you are visiting the bathroom less than 3 times a week, you could be suffering from constipation. Meanwhile, if you’re pooping more than 3 times a day, you may have mild diarrhoea.
Normal poop should have a smooth surface with a soft to semi-firm texture. This consistency of your stool makes it easier to pass, causing you to strain less and spend less time on the toilet.
For a visual indication of healthy poop, you can refer to the Bristol stool scale. The Bristol stool scale is a clinical assessment of your stool, providing 7 different images of poop to indicate their type.
According to the Bristol stool chart, these include
Types 3 and 4 are the best shapes of poop that you should aim to pass, as they demonstrate optimal bowel movements, healthy gut bacteria levels and sound intestinal wellbeing.
Typically, healthy poop colour should range from light to dark brown. The brownish colour results from broken-down red blood cells and stomach bile mixing, indicating that your digestive system is functioning correctly.
However, you may notice that your poop colour is not always brown and instead comes in various shades. Each colour can signal an underlying health condition that may impact your gut or digestive process. This next section will discuss some of the different types of poop you may encounter, their meaning, and some effective treatment options to help promote healthy bowel movements.
If you have noticed that your poop is orange, there is no need to worry. An orange coloured stool is often benign and temporary, simply caused by consuming foods that change the pigmentation of your bowel movements.
However, there may be some other underlying causes.
Your orange poop colour may be a result of:
If you’re frequently passing orange stool, we suggest replacing foods rich in beta-carotene with other healthy alternatives. In the following days, be sure to examine your stool colour to see if it changes to a healthy brown. Alternatively, if you believe that medication may be affecting the colour of your stool, speak to your doctor and discuss alternative options that avoid aluminium hydroxide.
In the instance that your stool maintains its orange colour, you should consult a gastroenterologist for an examination. Your gastroenterologist may suggest a colonoscopy or endoscopy to investigate a potential bile obstruction and start treatment if necessary.
Regularly passing bright yellow stool that is watery in texture may be a point of concern, as it could indicate that you have giardiasis. It’s important to note the colour intensity of yellow in your stool, as more pale diarrhoea is linked to other issues related to your liver, gallbladder or pancreas.
Some common causes for your bright yellow diarrhoea are:
If you believe that your yellow stool is diet-related, try eliminating fatty foods from your diet. Furthermore, if you’re passing yellow diarrhoea, avoid consuming any dairy products for 2 to 5 days while maintaining a regular intake of hydrating fluids. During this time, attempt to minimise stress and anxiety to help your gut recuperate.
In the instance where your yellow watery stool persists, you should consider consulting a doctor for further examination. While giardiasis is a serious intestinal infection, there are treatments widely available that will help your body eliminate the parasite.
Pale stool, also considered a lighter yellow, is abnormal poop that could indicate problems with your pancreas, liver, or gallbladder.
Where bright yellow stool is linked to a specific intestinal infection, slightly paler poop colours typically suggest issues with bile production. However, other gut diseases are known to cause pale yellow stool.
In instances where your stool is more of a pale yellow colour, you may have issues such as:
If you have noticed that your poop is a pale yellow to white colour, assess the current medications or supplements you’re taking, as this could influence your stool form. You should consult your doctor to assess alternative treatment options if you believe that certain medications or supplements impact your stool colour.
However, if you’re experiencing other symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue or fainting, in that case, you should consult a doctor immediately. These symptoms are commonly linked to liver, pancreas, and gallbladder issues. Consequently, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Following this, your gastroenterologist will recommend treatment according to your specific diagnosed condition.
White spots or specks in your poop indicate several gastrointestinal disorders. For this reason, it’s important to think if you’ve experienced any other abnormal health symptoms over the past week, as white specks flag multiple health issues.
However, in most instances, white spots in your stool can simply be corrected through a few small diet changes.
Some common causes of white spots in your poop include:
When finding white spots or specks in your stool, there are two questions that you should ask yourself:
If this is your first time passing white specked-stool, try assessing your diet and eliminating any foods that could be impacting the colour. Meanwhile, if you have taken capsule medication, consult your doctor for alternative forms of the drug and assess your stool over the following week.
Consider consulting a doctor if you’re experiencing other symptoms such as functional constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Depending on your symptoms, you may be required to undergo a blood test, upper endoscopy or ultrasound.
Most commonly, black spots in your stool depend on the type of food you consume. These black spots can vary in size; at times, they are similar to the appearance of coffee grounds, while in other instances, they can be dark patches on the surface of your poop.
However, if you consistently find black spots in your stool over an extended period, it could be more serious, as this typically indicates gastrointestinal bleeding.
Your black stool could be caused from:
When examining your black-specked stool, try to recall your diet since your last bowel movement and note any black or dark food substances you may have consumed. If you can think of multiple foods, it is likely that the black spots in your poop are diet-related and therefore require no immediate treatment.
However, if you are finding that you have regular black spots in your stool, you should seek medical assistance. You may need to undergo a colonoscopy or a blood count test to examine the possibility of internal bleeding.
In the instance where a gastroenterologist finds evidence of upper gastrointestinal bleeding, you will need to have it burnt shut to minimise blood flow.
If you have red poop (including bright red specks) or noticed spotting when wiping, you should consult a doctor as you may be experiencing bleeding in your digestive tract.
Where dark spots indicate bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract, bright red stools flag bleeding in your lower intestines and could flag a range of health issues.
Some issues linked to blood in your stool include:
The first step for treating blood in your stool is to consult medical assistance as soon as possible. Depending on your symptoms, you will need to undergo a range of investigative procedures, including a rectal examination, colonoscopy, bowel cancer screening or gastroscopy.
Your treatment will vary depending on your diagnosis. Conditions such as haemorrhoids or anal fissures can repair by themselves over time. However, other diseases such as polyps will require surgery to correct the cause of bleeding.
Meanwhile, if you have been diagnosed with IBD, you will need ongoing support from a qualified gastroenterologist to manage the chronic disease.
Foamy poop, also described as frothy and oily in texture, is a bubbly stool that could be a warning flag for severe health conditions. However, you can often correct foamy stool through small diet changes that eliminate excess fat consumption.
Some causes of your foamy poop could include:
If you have noticed that your stool is foamy, you should examine your bowel movements and monitor for any other symptoms. If your stool hasn’t returned to the consistency of healthy poops, you should consider a doctor. Your doctor may suggest making a few small diet changes to reduce your fat consumption to minimise the frothiness in your poop.
In some instances, you should seek medical attention immediately. This includes if you find blood or mucus in your stool, as this is a standard indicator of IBS. Or, if you have chronic and acute stomach pain, you may have pancreatitis.
Sloppy poops, also described as loose stools, are bowel movements with a mushy consistency and a strong foul smell. Commonly, you may experience sloppy poops after consuming foods that may upset your stomach.
However, chronic loose stools could indicate a range of gastrointestinal disorders that will require medical attention.
Your poo may be sloppy and mushy due to:
If you are experiencing sloppy bowel movements, you should consult your doctor. They may recommend a range of diet changes and diarrhoea medications to help increase your fibre intake.
In instances where your loose stool is chronic, you may need to consult a gastroenterologist for further examination. If you have been diagnosed with digestive disorders such as celiac’s disease, IBS, or lactose intolerance, you will need to make several diet changes to cater for your gut.
While it can be embarrassing to speak about our bowel movements, being proactive about our gut health is the best way to protect our digestive system.
If you have noticed that your stool is abnormal, the best action point is to contact your local general practitioner for an appointment. Following this, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist for further examination. Our team at The Centre for Gastrointestinal Health are experts in various digestive disorders, helping with diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management to guarantee your optimal gut health.