Frequency, size, shape, color: Get answers to all the questions you were too embarrassed to ask…

the-truth-about-poopYour poop should always be an S-shape. False
Despite what you might have heard on the morning talk shows, healthy stool comes in all sorts of shapes: curvy, sausage, snake-like, and more. How it looks depends on how much fiber and water you have all day, as well as how fast things move along in your colon. See your doctor if your stool looks thin and narrow like a pencil for several weeks. This can be a sign of a GI (gastrointestinal) problem.
If you don’t poop every day, dangerous toxins can build up in your body. False
This myth is so widespread that some people are obsessed with regularity — over-relying on laxatives or using risky colonic machines. But your colon is pretty good at fighting bacteria. After all, its job is to get rid of toxins. Besides, you’re probably more regular than you think. Three or fewer BMs in a week is a sign of constipation. So don’t be concerned unless you go less than every other day, have pain, trouble going to the bathroom, or there’s a change in how often you go.
A BM can make you giddy. True
Ever feel energised or elated after a BM? There’s a reason. Passing a large stool can stimulate the vagus nerve in the brain. That triggers a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure. This whole bathroom event can cause you to feel a tad lightheaded and giddy.
How long does it usually take for something you ate to come out in your poop? 1 to 3 days
Digestion is a poky process. It usually takes about a day before a meal starts showing up in the toilet. And it can take up to 3 days before it’s fully digested. Of course, food rushes through much faster when you have diarrhea. Your body may not be able to absorb much fluid or many nutrients. That’s why people with ongoing diarrhea are at risk of dehydration and malnutrition.
What makes stool float? Gas
Food that’s digested in the lower intestine creates excess gas in the form of hydrogen or methane. This gas makes stool less dense and more likely to float. Floaters are pretty common and generally nothing to worry about. See your doctor if you have floating stools for more than 2 weeks. You may have trouble absorbing nutrients because of celiac disease or another GI problem.
Brown-colored poop is a sign of good health. False
Healthy stools come in a variety of colors, including yellow, tan, and green. The most common causes of an unusual stool color are medications or foods. Tomatoes and fruit punch can turn stools red; spinach and leafy vegetables can make them green; and grape juice can darken things to black. Color changes can signal a problem such as bleeding (red or black), liver problems (white or gray), or diarrhea (green).
Always get tarry, black stool checked out by a doctor. True
Tarry, sticky, black poop can be a sign of bleeding or an injury in the stomach or parts of the intestine. The blood isn’t red anymore because it’s partially digested. Always get this checked out by a doctor. Keep in mind that black poop also can be a sign of less interesting things, like eating beets or taking some medications.
How often does the average person pass gas? 14 times a day
Hold your nose. Most of us burp or fart about 14 times a day. Gassiness is typically caused by air that gets swallowed while eating or drinking or undigested carbs in the digestive tract. See your doctor if you regularly clear rooms or if you have gassiness along with bloating. You may be lactose intolerant or have another gastrointestinal disorder.
As long as you eat a healthy diet, your poop shouldn’t smell bad. False
Of course, poop should be stinky! It contains all sorts of nasty things: undigested foods (similar to rotten vegetables), gas, bacteria, water, and salts. Most of the bacteria in there are good — they help digestion. But viruses and some harmful bacteria also can be passed in stool. The bad smell naturally warns us to stay away.
Do prunes really help constipation? Yes
Like many high-fiber fruits and vegetables, prunes (which are really dried plums) encourage regular bowel movements. Prunes are also high in sorbitol, a natural sugar that acts as a laxative. Studies suggest that prunes may help more with constipation than using fiber supplements.
Streaks of blood on your stool or toilet paper are most likely caused by:
• Hemorrhoids
• Cancer
The correct answer is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum or around the anus, which often bleed when you strain to push out a BM. Red-streaked TP also can be caused by tiny tears in the lining of the anus called fissures. Both of these usually go away on their own. Still, you should always get rectal bleeding — minor or not — checked out. One often overlooked cause of blood on toilet paper? Wiping too hard. Try a lighter touch and softer TP.
Doctors can transplant stool from one person to another to help with unhealthy bowels. True
During a fecal transplant, donated stool is injected into a person’s colon. More than 90 per cent of the time, healthy bacteria from the donor stool start to grow in the patient’s colon. These good bacteria get rid of an overgrowth of bad bacteria called Clostridium difficile or C. diff.
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Preventing constipation

Although constipation is common, you can take several steps to prevent it, including making diet and lifestyle changes.


Making sure you have enough fibre in your diet can significantly reduce your chances of developing constipation. Most adults do not eat enough fibre. You should aim to have at least 18g of fibre a day. You can increase your fibre intake by eating more:

  •  fruit
  •  vegetables
  •  wholegrain rice
  •  wholewheat pasta
  •  wholemeal bread
  •  seeds
  •  nuts
  •  oats

Eating more fibre will keep your bowel movements regular because it helps food pass through your digestive system more easily. Foods high in fibre also make you feel fuller for longer. If you are increasing your fibre intake, it is important to increase it gradually. A sudden increase may make you feel bloated. You may also produce more flatulence (wind) and have stomach cramps.

Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and steadily increase your intake when you are exercising or when it is hot. Try to cut back on the amount of caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks you consume.

Toilet habits
Never ignore the urge to go to the toilet. Ignoring the urge can significantly increase your chances of having constipation. When you use the toilet, try to make sure you have enough time and privacy to pass stools comfortably.

Keeping mobile and active will greatly reduce your risk of getting constipation. Ideally, do at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Not only will regular exercise reduce your risk of becoming constipated, but it will also leave you feeling healthier and improve your mood, energy levels and general fitness.


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