Without special tests and equipment, it can be hard to know what is going on inside your body. However, there is one way you can get some clues – your poo. It might not sound pleasant, but paying attention to what is leaving your body might help you understand what is going on inside it.
What should your poo look like?
There is an ideal type of poo! You want a poo that comes out easily in one go, is smooth and soft and a shade of brown. It shouldn’t smell too bad, and ideally would sink. Once you’ve finished, your bowels should feel properly emptied. It’s normal for people to poo from three times a day to once every three days. Go with what’s normal for you – if you go from needing to empty your bowels once every three days to suddenly heading to the toilet three times a day, it could potentially signal a change in your diet or your body.
Obviously, your faeces is related to what you eat and how you’re feeling. If your poo varies a bit for a day or two and goes back to normal, it probably isn’t anything to be concerned about. If you have an issue that lasts for a number of days or weeks, you might want to talk to your GP. You might notice a change in frequency, if you have constipation or diarrhoea, or if the colour of your stool changes. It’s also important to note if there are any accompanying symptoms like abdominal discomfort, nausea, change in appetite, or weight loss.
Black and red can signal that there is blood in your poo – black stools have had the blood in them for a longer time, causing them to change from red to black. The colour could signal problems in the upper digestive system like a stomach ulcer, but sometimes can be related to a food or medication. Bright red blood in your stool is most likely a haemorrhoid or small tear, but it’s best to get this checked out. Any potential blood in your stool is a symptom you will need to talk to your doctor about.
Stools can be yellowish, tan, clay-coloured or grey, which would probably indicate digestive problems with the liver, gall bladder, or issues like celiac disease. Green stool can be related to an infection in the digestive tract. Sometimes the colour of your poo can be simply related to what you’ve eaten – a dark red stool might be alarming, but if you ate a lot of beetroot that might explain the colour. If you have any concerns, make sure you ask your GP.
Hard poo can mean you are constipated, which is usually caused by inadequate fibre intake or not drinking enough water. Loose stools can indicate a digestive problem such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Diarrhoea is often related to a bacterial infection in the digestive tract, lactose intolerance, food poisoning or medicine intake. Pay very careful attention to keeping hydrated, and if diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days, see your GP.
There are many different explanations for why your poo might be unusual, so it’s worth checking and considering what is normal for you. It’s important for everyone to have a good fibre intake, drink lots of water, exercise and avoid stress as much as possible. If you’ve done these things and notice any significant changes, you should have a chat with your GP. It’s smart, not embarrassing – poo is your best clue to what’s happening inside you.