7 Things Your Poop Says About Your Health
2. If your poop is…Black or bright red
It may mean: Something in your G.I. tract is bleeding. “Most of the time blood in the stool is due to something as benign as hemorrhoids,” Sheth says. Since it could also be due to an ulcer in the stomach or colon cancer, it’s crucial to alert your doctor any time you notice blood in the toilet bowl. Certain over-the-counter medications, such as Pepto-Bismol, can turn your stool black. It occurs when sulfur in your digestive tract combines with bismuth, the drug’s active ingredient, and forms bismuth sulfide, a black-colored substance. The discoloration is temporary and harmless and may linger several days after you stop popping Pepto.
3. If your poop is…Very loose, but not diarrhea
It may mean: You have celiac disease. Although it only affects about 1% of the population, it’s estimated that 83% of Americans who have celiac disease don’t know they have it, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Signs in your stool may be one of the major—and possibly the only—indications you have it. With celiac disease, your body is unable to tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Eating gluten destroys villi (the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining your small intestines) and you’re unable to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. This contributes to the loose stools you could experience several times a day. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened for celiac disease. Switching to a gluten-free diet can aid absorption, firm up your stools, and address any other related symptoms such as fatigue, pain, bloating, depression, or rashes.
4. If your poop…Floats instead of sinks
It may mean: You have excess gas in your digestive tract. “If you’ve been eating lots of beans, sprouts, cabbage, or very large meals, it’s perfectly normal for stool to float because of gas, and it’s not a cause for concern,” Sheth says. However, if floaters become more common for you or you spot an oil-slick appearance, it could mean something is preventing your body’s ability to absorb fats from food. For instance, inflammation or an infection in your pancreas could prevent you from producing enough digestive enzymes. A food allergy or infection could be damaging the lining of your intestines that’s affecting absorption, too. Ask your doctor for a stool sample test to see if there’s fat that shouldn’t be there. Sheth says additional workups may be necessary to get to the bottom of the problem.
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