Your stool offers useful information about the health of your digestive system. Here’s how to “read” it.
Healthy poop varies from person to person. The most important thing to look for is any change in the color and texture of your stool that lasts several days. Use this guide to help you identify the change and clearly describe it to your doctor.
Color: Earth Tones are Healthy
Brown: Poop’s naturally brown color comes from bile, a digestive aid produced in your liver. Brown poop indicates a healthy digestive system.
Green: Hints of green are normal when you eat lots of green leafy vegetables. However, if it’s full-on green, it could mean poop is passing through your system too fast for bile to complete the digestive process.
Yellow: Greasy, stinky, yellow poop indicates excess fat in your stool. It may mean you have an infection or a condition where your body isn’t absorbing enough nutrients, like celiac disease.
Black. Licorice, iron supplements and bismuth subsalicylate, an ingredient in some antidiarrheal medicines, can make poop black temporarily. But blood from your stomach and small intestines actually turns poop black, not red as you might expect. In that case, black stool could be a sign of an ulcer or cancer.
Pale, White or Clay. While pale poop could be a side effect of certain medicines, it could mean your liver is not producing enough bile.
Bloody or Red. Don’t be alarmed if you’ve eaten red foods like beets, cranberries or tomato juice and notice a red stool. But red can also mean bleeding, either from your lower intestines or from hemorrhoids.
Texture: There’s no Ideal Poop Shape
Separate hard lumps, like nuts. This is a sign of constipation, possibly caused by eating too little fiber (grains, fruits and vegetables) and not drinking enough water. For optimum health, constipation shouldn’t last more than a couple weeks.
Sausage-shaped but lumpy. You’re slightly constipated. Consider helping your digestive system by loading up on healthy fibrous foods (bran flakes anybody?) and drink more fluids. An apple a day may truly keep the doctor away.
Sausage-shaped with cracks in the surface. This shape falls into the range of normal. Flush it away, wash your hands and keep up the good work.
Sausage-shaped, smooth and soft. A shape and texture that shows you’re eating a healthy diet and your digestive system is functioning nicely.
Soft blobs with clear-cut edges. A message from your poop that your diet is lacking in fiber. Your entire body could use a little help from you in the form of healthier eating (more water, grains, fruits and vegetables).
Mushy pieces with ragged edges. Very close to becoming diarrhea, if this shape and texture is new for you, it could indicate inflammation or an infection.
Watery, no solid pieces, all liquid. Sometimes athletes poop like this after a long run. But if you’re not a runner, it’s probably diarrhea caused by inflammation or infection. Prevent dehydration by drinking extra amounts of fluid until you recover.
Soft and clings to the side of the toilet bowl. Poop becomes sticky when there’s fat in your stool that’s not supposed to be there. Acids and enzymes in your digestive system may not be doing their job, which can be a sign of a pancreatic, liver or intestinal disorder.
When to See Your Doctor
“Normal” is not the same for everybody, even when it comes to poop shape and texture.
- Don’t obsess over a supposed ideal appearance for your poo.
- Do pay attention to any major changes from what’s normal for you so you can ask your doctor about it.
- If you notice blood in your stool or an ongoing change in poop appearance and bowel habits, see your doctor. Need a Doctor? Call 402-CARE or schedule an appointment online now.