Home Health news 10 things your poo can tell you about your health – colour, smell and when to see a doctor

10 things your poo can tell you about your health – colour, smell and when to see a doctor

by Editor

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It might seem embarrassing to talk about your poo but it can give you important information about your health. A doctor has revealed how stools of certain colour and consistency could indicate anything from stress to an infection to bowel cancer.

Most people poo on average anywhere between three times a day to three times a week. It is a necessary bodily function to help expel any undigested food and other waste products.

A change in your usual bathroom habits can be caused by something relatively harmless such as your diet, not exercising enough or medication. But other influences are more concerning, according to Doctor Rhianna McClymont, lead GP at Livi.

She explained: “It’s important to normalise talking about poo, because issues with it can indicate a problem in the digestive tract. If it’s something serious, it’s crucial to catch it early.”

With this in mind she shared 10 types of poo to be aware of and any crucial warning signs that should spark further investigation.

Man going to the toilet

Your poo can tell you a lot about your health (Image: Getty Images)

Brown, well-formed and easy-to-pass poo

This is considered healthy. If it is brown in colour, well-formed and easy to pass you have nothing to worry about, Dr McClymont said.

Hard poo (pellet-like)

According to Dr McClymont, hard poo or pellet-like poo can indicate constipation.

It is classified as constipation if you haven’t had a poo at least three times in the past week and you’re in pain or straining when you go to the toilet.

This can also cause you to feel bloated, sick and have a stomach ache.

Causes of constipation include lack of fibre, dehydration, inactivity, medication, stress, anxiety or depression.

To combat constipation, drink plenty of water, eat enough fibre and take part in gentle exercise.

Loose or watery poo

Dr McClymont said: “Loose poo or diarrhoea may be caused by a gut infection, food intolerances, certain medications, an overactive thyroid, or a disease of the intestine like Crohn’s disease.

Senior woman sitting on the sofa in the house is sick and has a stomach ache.

Constipation can leave you bloated and in pain (Image: Getty)

“Certain foods can be culprits too, like alcohol, caffeine and spicy or oily foods.”

Stress and anxiety can also play a role. However, diarrhoea is also a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10 to 15 percent of people worldwide.

Bright-red blood in poo

While alarming, blood in your poo might be more common than you would think.

It can be the result of anal fissures, haemorrhoids, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or diverticulitis (a digestive condition that affects the large intestine).

But worryingly, it can be a sign of bowel cancer. Dr McClymont, shared the red-flag indicators of IBD or bowel cancer:

  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Bleeding from the back passage – particularly if this blood is mixed with the poo
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A new change to your normal bowel pattern
  • A mass in your abdomen or rectum.

Black poo (tar-like)

Again black poo might be alarming to look at but it could be caused by iron tablets or your diet.

However, it can also be a symptom of a bleeding ulcer or stomach cancer.

Senior Medical Check-Up

If you notice any concerning signs in your poo you should speak to your doctor (Image: Getty)

Dr McClymont continued: “Black and tarry stools can indicate a problem like bleeding in the digestive tract.

“It’s important to speak to a doctor if you notice this in your poo as you may need further tests.”

Oily poo

If your stool is oily, floats and is difficult to flush, this could be a sign that you’re not properly absorbing nutrients from your food or making bile or enzymes to digest food effectively.

Other common symptoms of malabsorption include excess gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, weight loss and indigestion.

“There are a number of reasons for this,” Dr McClymont said. “If this happens with your poo, it’s best to chat with a GP.”

Mucus in poo

Spotting mucus in your poo should trigger a doctor’s appointment.

“Having mucus in poo can be a sign of an infection or underlying disorder like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which are both forms of inflammatory bowel disease,” Dr McClymont said.

Mucus in the poo could also be caused by a tear or open sore near the anus (anal fissure), ulcers, IBS and food allergies.

She added: “If you notice mucus in poo and you have a change in your bowel pattern, abdominal pain or blood in the stool, bring this up with a doctor.”

Colourful poo

Poo can appear as any shade from brown to purple. Dr McClymont said: “Certain foods can change the colour of your poo.

“Beetroot, for instance, can cause a red-pink tinge, which might be quite concerning at first glance. A diet very rich in spinach and leafy greens may also result in greener coloured poo.”

Clay-coloured or light-coloured poo

You should speak to your GP if your poo looks clay or light-coloured.

If your poo is pale it could be a sign that the liver isn’t producing enough bile or the flow could be blocked.

Noticeably smellier poo

If your poo smells worse than usual, it could signal a range of issues from constipation to an infection or food intolerance. Or it could just be caused by a recent change to your diet.

Dr McClymont added: “If you’re worried or the smelly poo is accompanied by other things like lower abdominal pain, fever or blood in your poo, bring it up with a doctor.”

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