Poop is not the most glamorous subject, but your bowel movements can be an importan indicator of your health. If you're too afraid to talk about it, you might be left feeling worried and concerned. Luckily, we've got the answers to all the poop questions you've been to embarrassed to ask, so you no longer have to feel like your bathroom habits are weird or alarming. And if you do find that something is off when it comes to going to the bathroom, you can get the proper treatment you mean to get things flowing properly.
"Bowel health is a reflection of overall health," says gastroenterologist Jonathan Rosenberg, MD over email. "Your mood, your energy level, your productiveness are all tied to bowel health. It is the foundation for the rest of your body's function. The road to health is paved with good intestines."
It can feel embarrassing to bring up questions to your doctor, but just know that they have heard it all and won't judge you. If it's something you're worried about, go ahead and speak with your doctor. But in the meantime, I've talked to a few gastroenterologists to get the answers to all the poop questions you've been too afraid to ask.
1"How Frequently Should I Be Pooping?"
"Though the majority of people move their bowels once a day, this varies considerably depending on your diet, activity, illness, and many other factors," says gastroenterologist Rudolph Bedford, MD over email. "Once a day is a general rule-of-thumb, although some 'normal' people may have a bowel movement only once in 2 or even 3 days. Sometimes people can have more than one bowel movement a day.
2"Is It Normal To Bleed A Little?"
Blood in the toilet bowl can definitely be worrisome, but there several possible reasons why it's there, the most common being hemorrhoids. However, rectal bleeding can also sometimes indicate rectal cancer. "If that's happening, you need a sigmoidoscopy (a colon exam by a flexible tube) to make sure that there's nothing significant going on and that it's just hemorrhoids," says Bedford.
3"Are Colonics Healthy?"
"Colonics have not been proven to be beneficial," says Edward M. Brettholz MD, FACP, AGAF over email. "In fact, it can cause damage to the colon including perforations and colitis." There is also good bacteria in the colon which are beneficial to our health, so you don't want to mess with that balance.
4"Why Does It Smell So Much?"
Just because your poop smells strongly every time you go to the bathroom doesn't mean something is wrong with you. It might be unpleasant, but it's nothing to stress about. "This is normal," says Brettholtz. "The normal colonic bacteria produce various gases with unique odors."
5"Is It Okay If I Can Still See Food In My Stool?"
Don't be alarmed if you see some recognizable, undigested food in the toilet. "It is common to see vegetable matter in stool because vegetables such as corn are made of cellulose, which is not able to be digested by our bodies," says Brettholtz.
6"Is Something Wrong With Me If I Have A Little Accident?"
If you've ever had an accident, it's not because you've reverted to childhood. Instead, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. "This embarrassing event will often bring the patient to the office and I will find out that they have been suffering for years with IBS without speaking to even a friend or family member," says Rosenberg. Talking to a doctor about options for treating IBS can open the door to improvement in bowel health — and help prevent any further accidents.
7"Is Constipation Something I Should Worry About?"
Luckily, you can breathe a sigh of relief: Being a little backed up is generally not something to worry about. "Constipation can be caused by a variety of different things, including medications, poor exercise habits, unhealthy diet, and lack of fluid intake," says Bedford. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, drinking lots of fluids and not ignoring your urge to poop can help remedy constipation. However, chronic constipation can sometimes be a sign of much more a serious health condition, so if this happens to you all the time, it's worth getting checked out.
8"What Does It Mean If My Poop Is Black?"
Black poop can indicate possible bleeding from stomach or duodenum," says Brettholtz. However, iron pills or Pepto Bismol can also cause black stools as well, so if you've taken any medication, that might be why.
9"Why Is My Poop Always Loose — Or Hard?"
Loosely, poorly-formed stools are consistent with several different common gastrointestinal diseases, including Celiac disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, infection, IBS, and more, says Brettholtz. On the flip side, hard, pellet-like stools indicate constipation and might require more dietary fiber and water intake.