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Get the Scoop on Poop

Statesman Journal Living Well October 2014

Your body is always communicating with you.  It gives clues about your state of health on a daily basis. 
One of those clues is—you guessed it—your poop.

As awkward as it can be to think about, the consistency and color of your excrement can help you determine
if you are drinking enough water, eating the right foods, or even if you are ill.


Separate, Hard Lumps
This means you need to drink more water, and eat more foods that contain fiber, like fruits and vegetables. This could also be a sign of constipation, which can be caused by dehydration, lack of exercise, certain medical conditions, and other factors.

Sausage-shaped, but Lumpy
You’re a little better off than the hard lumps, but you could still stand to increase your intake of water and fiber—experts recommend 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 per day for men.

Sausage-shaped, with Cracks on Surface
Your poop is closer to normal, but the cracks indicate you could still use more water.

Sausage-shaped, Smooth and Soft
This is poop’s normal consistency. This is what you’re aiming for!

Soft Blobs with Clear Edges
This can be normal if you tend to poop multiple times per day.

Fluffy Pieces with Ragged Edges
This can mean you are on the way to diarrhea.

Watery with No Solid Pieces
Also known as diarrhea, this is usually caused by infection. Diarrhea helps your body to clear out the infection. Make sure to drink lots of water to regain the liquids you’re losing.

Soft and Sticky
This reflects the presence of too much oil, and could mean that your body is not absorbing fats correctly. Certain diseases such as chronic pancreatitis can cause this. It would be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor, especially if you notice spots of oil in the toilet water after you go.


This is normal. Poop is naturally brown due to bile from your liver.

This is an indication that food is moving too quickly through your large intestine, or that you have eaten a lot of green vegetables lately. In general, it is not a cause for concern.

If your poop is this color, greasy, and more foul-smelling than usual, it indicates excess fat, which can be due to a malabsorption disorder like celiac disease. Make an appointment with your doctor.

This can mean that you have eaten something with bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol, or it could also indicate bleeding in your small intestine or your stomach. It may be a good idea to set up a visit with your doctor, especially if the poop is sticky.

Light-colored, White, or Clay-colored
If this is out of the norm for you, it could mean an obstruction in your bile duct. Some medicines could also cause this, but a call to your doctor would be prudent.

Blood-stained or Red
Blood in your stool is almost always cause for concern. If the poop is bright red, you may be bleeding from your large
intestine or from your rectum. It can be a symptom of cancer or other serious conditions. See your doctor right away.

Common Misconceptions:

Daily Pooping
Many people believe that pooping once a day is the norm. However, doctors advise that you should pay more attention to how consistent your pooping schedule is, rather than how frequent it is. Normal schedules range from three times per day to three times per week. None of these is cause for concern if it is normal for you, unless the schedule suddenly changes, either in favor of more frequent or less frequent pooping.

Sinker or Floater
Some sources will insist that poop should sink and that floating stools are an indication of malapsorption.  However, whether it sinks or floats usually depends on how much gas it contains, and is not typically a cause for concern.

Passing Gas
Worried that you often feel the need to pass gas?  Actually, this is very normal. While sometimes embarrassing, it is a natural function of the body, which occurs as food is being digested in your large intestine.

Immediate Consequences
Many people believe that eating certain food items will cause immediate problems with their stool.  For example, “Oh, I can’t eat pickles – they give me diarrhea within an hour!”  In actuality, food takes 3 days to digest and make its way into your toilet, so the culprit is more likely to be something you ate days ago.

As you can see, a quick peek in the toilet after you go can give you some helpful insight into your health. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and visit your doctor if you have any concerns. Remember, your colon should also be scoped out by a specialist or a general surgeon when you reach age 50–even earlier if your family members have a history of colon cancer or polyps.  An ounce of prevention in this case is worth more than a pound of the cure.

Clark Yoder, RN
Director of Surgical Services
Santiam Hospital

About Santiam Hospital

Santiam Hospital & Clinics is a not-for-profit, 40 bed acute-care hospital located in Stayton, Oregon, which is a short 12-mile drive east of Salem, and serves more than 30,000 people annually from the communities of Stayton, Sublimity, Aumsville, Mill City, Jefferson, and the surrounding areas.

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  1401 North 10th Ave.
Stayton, OR 97383

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