Many people feel uncomfortable discussing their bowel movements, but monitoring your stool's size, smell, colour, and texture can provide valuable information about your overall health.
Recent research suggests that the well-being of your gut, which houses trillions of bacteria, can significantly impact your physical and mental health, such as your immune system.
Normalising conversations about bowel movements is crucial because irregularities can indicate digestive problems. Detecting these issues early is especially important if they are serious. It's essential to understand what constitutes healthy stool, recognise warning signs, and seek medical advice when necessary.
The definition of a healthy poo is brown in colour, well-formed, and easy to pass.
If your stool is hard or pellet-like, it may indicate constipation. Constipation may occur if you have not had a bowel movement at least three times per week and experience discomfort or strain during elimination. Additional symptoms may include bloating, nausea, or abdominal pain. Common culprits for constipation include insufficient fibre intake, dehydration, sedentary activity, medication, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Staying hydrated and consuming an adequate amount of fibre is crucial. Gentle exercise and movement can also aid in keeping your bowels functioning properly.
Loose bowel movements or diarrhoea can have various causes, such as gut infections, food intolerances, certain medications, an overactive thyroid, or intestinal diseases like Crohn's disease. Certain foods like alcohol, caffeine, and oily or spicy foods can also be culprits. Stress and anxiety can also be factors, as there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain.
Loose stools are a common irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptom, affecting 10-15% of people worldwide. Many people with IBS experience worsening symptoms during periods of significant stress.
The treatment of loose bowel movements depends on the specific trigger, but staying hydrated, consuming plenty of fibre, and avoiding foods that irritate your digestive system are generally recommended.
Discovering bright red blood in your stool may be concerning, but it's a relatively common occurrence. This can result from anal fissures, haemorrhoids, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or diverticulitis, which affects the large intestine.
However, it could also serve as a warning sign for bowel cancer. Indicators of potential IBD or bowel cancer include:
When treating iron deficiency with tablets or consuming black liquorice, it is common to experience darker poo. However, it can also indicate a more serious underlying issue, such as stomach cancer or a bleeding ulcer.
If you notice black and tarry stools, it may suggest bleeding in your digestive tract. Consulting with a doctor and undergoing further tests is crucial in this case.
If you have noticed that your stool has an oily texture, floats, and is difficult to flush, it could be a sign of malabsorption or ineffective digestion due to insufficient bile or enzymes. Malabsorption can cause other symptoms, such as bloating, excessive gas, stomach cramps, indigestion, and weight loss.
Several factors can contribute to this condition. If you experience these symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a general practitioner to determine the underlying cause.
Mucus can be present in stool due to an infection or an underlying condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Mucus production may also increase due to anal fissures, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or food allergies.
If you observe mucus in your stool and experience changes in your bowel habits, abdominal pain, or blood in your stool, it is advisable to consult a physician.
The colour of stools can vary from brown to purple. It's worth noting that some foods can alter the colour of your faeces. For example, consuming beetroot can lead to a reddish-pink hue, which may initially cause concern.
Additionally, having a diet high in spinach and leafy greens can result in a more greenish appearance.
The liver produces bile, which gives faeces its brown hue. If your wastes are light in colour, it may indicate insufficient bile production or blockage in the flow. If you notice this, it would be wise to consult a doctor, as further investigation may be necessary.
A more pungent odour in your bowel movements could suggest a variety of conditions, such as constipation, infection, or food intolerance. Additionally, it may be linked to recent dietary changes.
If you have a concern or the smelly bowel movements are accompanied by other symptoms like lower abdominal pain, fever, or blood in your stool, it may be wise to discuss this with a medical professional.
The frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person. While some individuals have a daily bowel movement, others may go every two days or even twice a day. What's important is to understand your regular pattern. If you experience a sudden change in your bowel habits, such as increased constipation or more frequent stools than your usual pattern, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
If you feel uncomfortable discussing your bowel movements with a doctor, you can utilise the Bristol Stool Chart, which helps describe your stool's consistency and any changes. A healthcare professional may conduct a blood test or rectal examination and request a small stool sample, a routine procedure. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. If you have concerns about your bowel movements, consulting a doctor can assist in identifying the underlying cause and determining appropriate treatment.
You can seek guidance from Mobi Doctor for your healthcare concerns, offering accessible consultations to address your needs.