For as long as mankind has been hangin’ around, pooping has been a thing. A natural thing we should do regularly to be as healthy as possible. Check below for some interesting facts about poop:
Everyone does it. Everyone has to do it. Yet, for some reason, so many of us are uncomfy talking any and all things poop — so much so that we might even claim we “barely ever go #2.” (Hey junior high, how’s it goin’?) And let’s not forget the horror of having to use your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s `loo when nature calls. Seriously…how long does one have to wait before this is OK? 3 months…6 months…never?
That being said, it’s actually really important that we make friends with our poop (OK, not literally, Mr. Hanky…) because it’s a messenger for us, delivering crucial news about what’s going on inside our bodies.
Today we’ll just focus on the color of poop and what to look for. This list doesn’t cover baby poop, as we know that’s a whole other matter!
Poop color can be determined by many things: what we eat, how our bodies digest our food, medications we’re on, and so on. If any of you enjoy eating beets, you will know this first-hand. (For those of you who haven’t eaten beets, see the section on ‘Bright Red’ later in this article).
One thing we should note is that everyone is unique, meaning our bodies process waste differently. Therefore, this list should not be used as a diagnostic tool. Your doctor is always the best reference if you’re in doubt or have questions — and he or she will be super proud that you’re poop-friendly and can provide this helpful information!
So, with this newfound knowledge, let’s have a look-see into the porcelain throne and start getting familiar with what our poop might be saying.
Color: Medium to Dark Brown
This is probably what most of us are used to on a day-to-day basis. The brown color comes from the bile produced by our livers, mixing with what we have eaten. Bile is needed to digest the fats that are in our food and is naturally dark green in color.
Color: Grey, White or Very Light Brown (Almost Like Clay)
This might mean that the body isn’t producing bile the way it’s supposed to, and/or there’s a blockage somewhere along the bile production line. In some cases, this can happen when the health and functioning of the liver is compromised by disease. Hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and even jaundice can bring on light-colored poops due to the alteration in bile production. This is a perfect example of why we want to talk to our physicians if we notice things in the toilet are different over an extended period of time.
Of course, there are other reasons why your poop might be grey, white, or light brown.
Color: Grey, White or Very Light Brown (Continued)
Sometimes light-colored stools could also be caused by a medication we’re taking. The biggest culprit for this color is large doses of bismuth subsalicylate, which is found in products used to treat diarrhea. Also, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) will affect your liver and its ability to produce bile in a regular fashion. Usually, things will go back to normal once stopping the meds, especially if you haven’t been taking them for an extended period of time.
To continue on the pill-poppin’ theme, very dark (almost black) stools can be attributed to iron supplements, or even the consumption of large amounts of black licorice! Oddly, our friend bismuth subsalicylate could also be the culprit.
However, it’s possible the culprit could be something more sinister…
Color: Black (Continued)
Very dark stools could also be cause for worry, as it might mean there is blood in our stool that’s originating from somewhere in the upper part of the digestive tract (like the stomach or esophagus). It’s likely best to talk to your doctor pronto if you see super dark poops, even if you’ve been taking any of the aforementioned meds. Better to be safe than sorry.
Color: Bright Red
If beets are in your meal plan on the reg, as mentioned above, your poop will reflect this and be bright red (red food dye can also have this effect). So, newbies, consider yourself warned! That being said, due to our body’s inability to digest the beet pigment, beets can be used to test your body’s “transit time” i.e. how long it takes to digest your food from start to finish. Should you care to know this info, that is…
There are other reasons your poop could be bright red. We’ll look at those next.
Color: Bright Red (Continued)
If you haven’t eaten anything red lately, and you still notice that your poop is this color, this might be another sign of gastrointestinal bleeding. In this case, the bleeding is occurring further down the GI tract — likely in the colon — and could mean hemorrhoids, anal fissures or possibly even cancer. Another reason why it’s so important to check in on your poop to see how your body is doing!
Color: Yellow (and the Odor Is Really Off)
Sorry if you’re eating — this one isn’t too pleasant. If your poop happens to have a yellow tinge and be almost greasy looking, it could mean that your body is struggling to digest and absorb fats from your food. Yellow poops could also indicate a parasitic infection called giardiasis, which would be accompanied by a fever, cramps and could even lead to weight loss. Very unpleasant indeed…
Currently, you may be feeling more discouraged than inspired to look at your poop due to the gross nature of these last few…but let’s press on. Green poops might indicate that your food is passing through your body too quickly and bile is showing up in your stool. Or, if you eat a lot of green leafy things or sea veggies (e.g. spirulina or chlorella supplements) your poop will reflect this as well.
It’s also fairly common for undigested food particles to show up in your poop and make it look speckled in appearance. Things like raw almonds and beans/legumes are hard for our body to fully break down and end up just getting excreted. That being said, if you commonly see a lot of food coming out pretty much the same way it came in, talk to your doctor pronto.
Lauren Brown MSc. WWHP, is a certified Health & Wellness Coach who loves teaching about all facets of health and wellbeing. Much of her time is spent in workplaces, helping empower employees to get healthy through the wellness programming initiatives and educational sessions she delivers. Please see www.inspiringhealth.ca for more information.