What Your Poop Says About Your Health

The body has WISDOM. LEARN to see the signs your body sends. THIS eye opening clip will surely have you thinking. READ and share your thoughts. MIND UP!

By JULIE STEWART

golden-toilet

Next to sex, few bodily functions are as private as pooping. For example, you’ve no doubt driven past a guy who pulled over to take a leak, but we’re betting the only guy you’ve seen squatting on the shoulder was changing his tire.

No, defecation is best executed with stealth. Enter bathroom (or stall), lock door, keep sounds to a minimum, and then employ toilet paper and air freshener to eliminate any trace of what transpired. It’s almost as if you’ve committed a crime. Actually, you have: destruction of evidence.

In your rush to flush, you lose a unique opportunity to assess your health. From color to consistency, logs on the bottom of the bowl are like tea leaves waiting to be read, potentially predicting such conditions as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, or a bowel obstruction. If this all sounds (and looks) like a load of crap, it’s time you were schooled in stool.

Lesson 1: Regularity Is a Virtue

You might wonder whether your bathroom habits are normal. Well, here’s what science has to say: Japanese researchers have concluded that the average healthy guy takes a seat about once a day. But the key here is “average.” The truth is, when it comes to frequency, there is no such thing as an ideal number for number two. Everyone’s colon moves at a slightly different pace, and that means it’s normal and healthy to go anywhere from three times a day to three times a week, says gastroenterologist Richard J. Saad, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. The time to worry is when your colonic clock suddenly switches from a decades-long schedule of three times a week to three times a day, says Dr. Saad. “Don’t ignore any sudden change in bowel movements, in terms of their frequency or their form.”

Ah yes, the shape of your scat. Dr. Saad’s research suggests that the healthiest logs resemble smooth sausage links. “Sometimes it can be a little bit on the firmer side—where it’s shaped like a sausage and has a few cracks on the surface—all the way to soft, semiformed blobs,” he says. But anything harder or softer than that can be a sign that something’s wrong. While deviations in form (or frequency) could be a symptom of something as simple as constipation, they could also indicate a more serious problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, a bowel obstruction, or maybe even colon or stomach cancer, says T. Lee Baumann, M.D., a medical consultant based in Birmingham, Alabama, and the author of Clearing the Air: Art of the Bowel Movement.

Improve Your Grade
Peer into the porcelain. Is what you see on the firmer side? Has it been days between trips when it used to be hours? Then consider drinking an extra glass of water with every meal. According to new research in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, fluid intake is the biggest predictor of constipation. People who consume less water are more likely to suffer constipation than those who drink more. Adding more insoluble fiber to your diet helps too, says Dr. Baumann. Your body can’t digest this type of roughage, so it passes through your gut and softens your stool. In fact, a U.K. study found that adding at least 3.5 grams of wheat bran, a type of insoluble fiber, to your daily diet can improve constipation and other aspects of digestion in just two weeks. Try Kellogg’s All-Bran Bran Buds, which has 4.5 grams of insoluble fiber in half a serving.

Now, if you have the opposite problem—you’re producing blobs instead of bratwurst or going more often than ever—swallow some Metamucil or Benefiber. In a recent American Pharmacists Association survey, these were the most recommended fiber supplement brands. “Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes gel-like as it travels through your system,” says Dr. Baumann. The result: firmer and less frequent feces.

And if these dietary adjustments don’t make a difference? Make an appointment with your GP, ASAP. This is especially true if what you see in the toilet looks like thin ribbons or pencil-sized strands—a possible sign of a bowel obstruction or even colon cancer.

Lesson 2: Lots of Things Can Give You the Runs

Anything from food to pharmaceuticals can trigger hormonal responses and nerve reflexes that activate your bowels. And making a beeline to the bathroom after consuming a particular food may be a sign of an allergy or sensitivity.

“The food goes into your gut and causes an allergic response and inflammation,” says Michael B. Stierstorfer, M.D., a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. “The inflammation disrupts motility in your gut, and when your gut’s not passing things through like it should, you experience symptoms.” Acute stress can also trigger repeated trips to the toilet.

Improve Your Grade
Uncover undiagnosed food allergies: In a study, Dr. Stierstorfer found that applying patch tests of foods and food ingredients to people’s skin helped them detect hidden food allergies that were causing bowel problems. Try the same thing at home—if your fingers get red and itchy after handling a food for a prolonged period of time, avoid eating it for a week to see if you feel better, says Dr. Stierstorfer.

Of the drugs that may stimulate your system, the biggest culprits are antibiotics, NSAID pain relievers, magnesium-containing antacids, and proton pump inhibitors for heartburn. If you suspect one of these is leading you to the loo, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose or medication. If untamed tension is to blame, take a class in mindfulness-based stress reduction. (Find a local program at w3.umassmed.edu/MBSR.)