Stools Can Reveal A Lot About Your Health
Paying attention to your stools may be just as useful in
diagnosing your health as taking your temperature or blood
pressure. From your stool you may be able to get clues about
your diet, your gastrointestinal health, and even whether your
stress, anger, or anxiety levels are too high.
HOW FOOD BECOMES STOOL
From the moment food enters your mouth, your body embarks on
a campaign to turn it into a soupy mush called chyme. Chewing,
saliva, peristalsis (the involuntary contractions of
gastrointestinal muscles), bacteria, hydrochloric acid,
digestive enzymes, bile, and other secretions all work to give
each meal the consistency of split pea soup.
While your digestive cells are absorbing sugars, starches,
fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, waste products
continue traveling down the line. In the colon, all the
leftovers are combined, packed together, and partially
dehydrated. What remains - our feces - consist of water,
indigestible fiber, undigested food (such as corn and small
seeds), sloughed-off dead cells, living and dead bacteria,
intestinal secretions, and bile. (The worn-out red blood cells
in bile give excrement its distinctive brown color.)
If all goes as it should, you'll end up with a healthy bowel
movement. Although digestive idiosyncrasies, variations in
intestinal bacteria, and other variables can produce different
standards for a healthy stool, in general it should be brown to
light brown; formed but not hard; cylindrical, not flattened;
fairly bulky and full-bodied, not compacted; somewhat textured
but not too messy; and very easy to pass. And it shouldn't smell
- much. You're passing methane and bacterial, degraded
foodstuffs, so there's always going to be an odor, but it
shouldn't be a very strong, pungent odor.
Experts disagree on two other stool characteristics:
The number of pieces and their buoyancy.
WHOLE OR PIECES?
a) Each bowel movement preferably should be in one
piece, about the shape and size of a banana and tapered at the
b) Stools don't have to be well-formed logs. They can
disperse in the toilet water; they can break down.
FLOATING versus SINKING?
Opinion a) Stools should float because buoyancy is a sign
that the body has absorbed the minerals in the food and that
these nutrients are not contained in the waste.
Opinion b) Stools should sink because of their bulk and fiber
Loftiness is not impressed with either argument: most stools
will sink. Whether it floats or sinks really doesn't seem to
make any difference.
An occasional deviation from this total picture is usually
considered okay; chronic deviations (or any featuring blood) are
not, and should be checked with a doctor.
If Your Stool Looks BLACK, TARRY, AND STICKY It Could
Bleeding in your upper digestive tract. The black color comes
from digested blood cells.
If Your Stool Looks VERY DARK BROWN It Could Mean:
You drank red wine last night or have too much salt or not
enough vegetables in your diet.
If Your Stool Looks GLOWING RED OR MAGENTA It Could
You've eaten a lot of reddish foods such as beets.
If Your Stool Looks LIGHT GREEN It Could Mean:
You're consuming too much sugar, or too many fruits and
vegetables with not enough grains or
If Your Stool Looks PALE OR CLAY-COLORED It Could
Minimal amounts of bile are being excreted, perhaps because of
problems with the
gallbladder or liver.
If Your Stool Looks BLOODY OR MUCUS-COVERED It Could
Hemorrhoids, an overgrowth of certain bacteria in your
gastrointestinal tract, colitis (inflammation of the colon),
Crohn's disease (also known as inflammatory bowel disease), or
colon cancer. Red blood usually means the ailment is located
near the end of your digestive tract, whereas black blood
signals partially digested blood coming from an ailment higher
up the tract. Seek medical advice promptly.
If Your Stool Looks PENCIL-THIN AND RIBBON-LIKE It
A polyp or growth in your colon that narrows the passage for
stool. Or spastic colon. It can also be from a prolapse at
either side of the transverse colon constricting the colon and
lack of fiber.
If Your Stool Looks LARGE AND FLOATING, WITH GREASY FILM
ON TOILET WATER It Could Mean:
Malabsorption -- your digestive system isn't getting full
nutritional use of food.
If Your Stool Looks LOOSE AND WATERY, SOMETIMES DIARRHEA
WITH UNDIGESTED FOODSTUFFS It Could Mean:
Possible causes are food poisoning, lactose intolerance,
antibiotics, antacids, dietary intolerance, dietary changes,
travel, anxiety, stress, inflammatory bowel disease, or
irritable bowel syndrome.
If Your Stool Looks SMALL, HARD, ROUND PELLETS It
Constipation-even if you're defecating frequently. Possible
causes are eating too much dry food, including protein, and not
enough vegetables and raw foods; laxative abuse; worries; or
irritable bowel syndrome.
If Your Stool (Has) ALTERNATING BOUTS OF DIARRHEA &
CONSTIPATION It Could Mean:
Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can be
aggravated by red meat, spices, sugar, alcohol, LACK of fiber,
allergy-causing foods, irregular hours, and chaotic
If Your Stool (Is) REALLY BAD SMELLING It Could Mean:
An imbalance of intestinal bacteria or eating too much animal
protein, which can putrefy in your digestive tract.
If your stool-watching isn't winning any awards, you might
want to try a Colon
Cleanse before joining the ISWA (International
Stool-Watchers Association :-)
By Martiga Lohn (Natural Health magazine article)