Okay, we admit this isn’t the most pleasant topic, but what comes out of you can say a lot about your overall health. In fact, Prevention.com says that even against your instincts, you may want to give your poop a glance before you flush it down. “It’s actually one of the best clues you have to your health,” it explains.
That being said, these identifiers found in bowel movements can show you need to change your diet, or can point to possible health problems that warrant a closer inspection by your doctor. Here are seven strange signs from your stool that there might by an underlying health problem…
1. None Shall Pass
Prevention.com says that if you poop appears hard in places, or you really had to strain to get it out, you’re probably constipated. That’s probably obvious. But why? The primary reason is a lack of proper fiber intake, which should be 25-grams per day for women and 38-grams for men (most people only consume 15-grams a day, says the source).
An easy way to keep track is by reading labels or by keeping a food journal for a week to see how your fiber intake adds up, it suggests. If you’re looking for quick sources of fiber, turn to fruits, whole grains, nuts or seeds.
2. Black Flags
If you notice your stool is very dark or black, and is “coffee ground-like in appearance,” it could be a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, warns Healthline.com. “The blood is older and therefore travels down the intestinal tract,” it explains.
However, it’s not just blood that can turn your poop black. The source says that iron supplements, bismuth medications (to treat upset stomach and heartburn), and even black licorice can have a similar effect.
3. Mellow Yellow
MedicineNet.com explains that “pale yellow” and greasy stool that’s foul-smelling (we don’t know of too many types that aren’t) can be a sign of poor absorption of fat due to a possible problem with your pancreas.
The site warns that this could be due to pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer or cystic fibrosis. But don’t jump to any dire conclusions right away: it might also be a sign of celiac disease, which is quite common and can be managed by cutting gluten from your diet.
4. Clay Formations
If your poop comes out looking like something that can be molded into a bowl and thrown into a kiln, then you may have problems with your biliary system, explains MedicinePlus.gov. This is a drainage system of the gallbladder, liver and pancreas, it adds.
Bile is the substance that gives stool its characteristic brown color. However, if you have a liver infection, your bile production might be compromised, explains the source. The flow of bile may also be blocked. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) often accompanies clay-colored stools, due to the buildup of bile in the system, it adds. If so, see your doctor.
5. Water Slides
If you’re experiencing the dreaded diarrhea, then you know it can be unpleasant and can have you running to the bathroom in a hurry. The Huffington Post explains that this can be caused by mild food poisoning or consuming too many artificial sugars.
Other diarrhea triggers include certain food intolerances, adds the source. While it may seem counterintuitive, the source recommends consume a lot of fluids if you have diarrhea (presumably to avoid becoming dehydrated), and even check with a dietician or doctor if it’s a regular problem.
6. Screen for Green
Green poop can be alarming, especially when it comes out of your toddler. However, the cause can be something as innocent as consuming artificial food coloring found in icing on a cupcake or birthday cake, explains MedicalNewsToday.com.
Other possible reasons for green poop include bile in the stool, indicating that food is moving too quickly through your intestine (such as in the case of having diarrhea). However, green stool can also point to parasites or bacteria including salmonella, Giardia, or norovirus, it explains. “These unwelcome guests can cause the guts to work faster than normal, impacting stool color,” it adds.
7. Don’t (Always) Dread the Red
Well, not always. While red or maroon stool can be an indication of a condition called hematochezia (the professional way to say bloody stool), it can be from artificial food coloring, tomato juice/soup, or beets, explains VeryWell.com.
If it’s actually blood in the stool, still no reason to panic right away – it could be caused by hemorrhoids or anal fissures (a tear in the lining of the anal canal), notes the source. It could also be inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis. A medical professional will have to use tests to determine the exact source of the bleeding to reach a proper diagnosis.