Many people consider going to the toilet as a way of just answering the call of nature, but unbeknownst to them, the color, the smell, and the texture of their stool may be an indication of an ongoing disease in theirbodies. So, there is no gainsaying the fact that our stools aptly, mirror our health.
Stool, also called excreta, feces or “poop”, is the waste products eliminated from the body as part of the digestive process. It is an admixture of undigested food, bacteria, salts and other substances.
A normal stool is medium to dark brown in color. It may sometimes be greenish-brown. It is strong smelling, soft to firm in texture, not painful when being passed and usually passed once or twice daily. It is however, not abnormal when passed three times a day or even once a day, or once every other day or when passed three times in a week
The presence of a pigment called bilirubin gives our stool its characteristic color. The nauseating odor of the stool is as a result of foul smelling gas emitting bacteria in it. Stools are usually long and sausage like in shape taking the shape of our intestines. A stool from a healthy intestine is usually passed in one single piece or a few smaller pieces.
The digestive cause of abnormal stools may be due to irritable bowel syndrome manifesting as either diarrhea or constipation. It may also be as a result of dehydration when we don’t drink enough water or other fluids or when we consume too much of caffeine or alcohol. This eventually results in constipation.
Bowel problems may also come from a low fiber diet like as in consuming more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses. This is because fibers act as binding substances that give stool its form. They also ease movement of stool through the digestive tract.
However, a healthy stool differs from person to person. Many a time, variations in the color of our stool may be a normal experience but at some other times, it is an indication of a bigger health problem. So, changes in the frequency, color, firmness and smell of our stool may indicate a health problem.
A stool appearing as black as coffee usually indicates an upper gastrointestinal bleeding. However, iron supplements, black stout, bismuth or black licorice can also make stool black.
Red stools are usually due to lower gastrointestinal bleeding. The presence of small amount of blood in the stool may be due to hemorrhoids. However, some food items like red berries, beets or tomato juice can also make stools red.
Pale, white or grey stools may indicate a disease of the gall bladder or the liver. These suggestan absence of bile in the stool. But this is not to say that some anti-diarrheas don’t make stools appear white.
Too much bile and less bilirubin make stools green. But some vegetables and other greens can also cause stools to appear green.
A blocked bile ducts make stools orange. But some medications like antacid, rifampicin as well as many foods rich in beta-carotene such as carrots and sweet potatoes can make stools to have an orange coloration.
A greasy or yellowish stool may be due to too much fats in the stool, as a result of absorption issues or problems with enzymes or bile production.
For a healthy bowel function, we should eat enough fiber. The minimum daily amount is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men under 50 years old. Women and men over 50 years old should consume 21 grams and 30 grams respectively.
We should form it a habit to drink about 2 liters of water per day to stay well-hydrated, especially when we eat fiber rich foods. We should also take probiotics. This is in yogurts and some drinks and made into capsules, torelieve constipation and to combat infectious bacteria.
Staying physically fit by exercising promote good bowel function and relieve constipation and stress.
As a take away, when we notice changes such as increase or reduce frequency of our stooling; increase straining when stooling; a red, white, pale, black, green or yellow stool; a greasy or bloody stool; bleeding or pain when stooling; watery, dry, very hard or difficulty in passing stools, that fail to resolve within two weeks, then it is necessary to consult a doctor. But also remember that some others like rice water colored stools caused by cholera or diarrhea stools in children need urgent medical attention.
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