- Poop Little Balls? How to Fix It.
- Here’s to happy pooping!
- Ah Yes, You Need Oils & Fats, Sweetie!
- The lack of satisfaction is due to lack of proper fats.
- Recommendations If You Poop Little Balls
- 1. You have regular, healthy bowel movements. Yes, I’m going to talk about the Bristol Stool Chart.
- 2. You’re bleeding. You should unquestionably talk to a health professional about red or black stools.
- 3. Change in stool caliber (pencil-thin stools)—There’s a narrowing somewhere in your colon.
- 4. Floaters: You are gassy.
- 5. You ate a lot of veggies- Green/Yellow/Orange Poop
- 6. You are constipated- small pebble-like stools.
- 7. Diarrhea—it kind of speaks for itself.
- What’s the Bottom line?
- The No. 1 Reason to Check Your No. 2
- Stool Shape
- Bowel Odor
- Undigested Pills in Stool Mimicking Parasitic Infection
- How To Hack Your Own Poop
- Why Is My Poop Stringy?
- What Your Poop Looks Like Can Reveal a Lot About Your Health
- How should your stools look?
- Why does water matter to stool?
- What about diet and stool?
- 5 Things Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health
- Rocks and Pebbles
- Color Changes
- Black and Tarry
- Oily or Greasy Stools
- What causes white specks in my poop?
- Poop 101: A beginner’s guide to reading your own poop
- How to Treat Mucus Stool in Dogs
Poop Little Balls? How to Fix It.
I get a lot of requests to talk about constipation, from people who poop little balls, and have other vata digestion issues.
I’ve always been pretty candid (pitta), and there’s no turning back now, so I’ll just keep going.
A question from my friend about her poop:
She said she could only poop little balls. That made me sad for her.
Thus, I put together some Ayurveda ideas so that her poop gets back on track.
Please see below and excuse (or enjoy?) the candor of the email below.
Here’s to happy pooping!
I’m not sure you want to hear about this, but I only poop little balls lately. From what I research, it’s a lack of hydration in the colon, but I drink freakin’ water all day long!! It could also be sugar, processed food and alcohol (just wine in my case). I love my wine, but I’ve cut back a lot. I’ve never been a big processed food eater, but it could be the sugar. The candy has been a-flowin’ into my mouth as of late. I think I need to do a little detox. Also, from your article I gleaned that it’s a vata thing and I need to eat more oils/fats. I’m not really sure how much tho? I’m already dealing with a hefty 5lb increase because of those damn candies, so I don’t want to increase this too much.
Ah Yes, You Need Oils & Fats, Sweetie!
I you poop little balls it is dehydration, but water isn’t heavy or warm or unctuous (oily) enough to pull out the poops.
Water is helpful for hydration…
…but you need oleation (ghee!).
I know you may have gained 5lbs on candies, but you you still need oils.
Oils for vata does NOT make you fat! Does not, repeat, DOES NOT.
What it actually does is helps you feel satisfied so that you are not inclined to eat all the candies – instead, maybe just one or two and you’re done.
It could definitely be the sugar and the wine.
The root cure is actually to stop the candies and incorporate oils instead.
The munch munch munchie is typical vata eating, but it’s largely because they are rarely full and never satisfied.
The lack of satisfaction is due to lack of proper fats.
- Settle the nervous system
- Feed the brain
- Help the poops
- Nourish all tissues (so we aren’t walking around like dried out sticks)
Dried out sticks break.
Dried out sticks have NO immunity so they get sick easy – their ojas (life essence, vitality, immunity) gets depleted.
Instead, we want to be a malleable palm tree that easily bends and sways with the wind.
Recommendations If You Poop Little Balls
- Pour a little oil in a container (almond or whatever you have in the house – even olive would work) and keep it in the shower. At the end of your shower, put the oil on like lotion with firm strokes toward the heart. Let the water sort of rinse it off but don’t rub it off. This will help your skin and tell your body *ding ding* that it has nice oils.
- Get in the habit of drizzling your veggies with olive oil. Italians live a hell of a long time and it’s because their bodies are kept youthful by all that olive oil! When we dry out we look and feel older.
- Drizzle a little olive oil on your hummus (that’s the way they eat it!) in a circle (looks pretty) and have with some olives or olive tapenade and pine nuts. Serve with warm naan (not toasted).
- Dust your bread with some olive oil and then toast it – sprinkle w/ salt and pepper.
- Consume foods that are abundant in happy, satisfying fats:
- Grounding foods:
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet potato (Vata super food)
- Beets (warm)
- Hearty soups
- Thai/Indian meals
- Goopy foods with lots of moisture.
- Put some raisins (best to soak over night in water and use the water to make the oatmeal) in your oatmeal. Dates are also great. These increase rasa (plasma) tissue which will increase ojas and elasticity in the tissues. When the tissues are elastic, your poop will be too.
- Shoot, even FRIED foods right now would help! French fries – you have my permission.
- Prunes? Sorry, dried plums? Eat 3-5 prunes in the morning, on an empty stomach and drink some warm herbal tea or warm water with them. You should go in about 4 hours.
- Normally I’d be pushing the ghee because it’s freakin’ magical for this kind of thing. Plus it rev’s metabolism, so unless you are super kapha with some ama (toxins), it’s highly unlikely you will gain weight from ghee. But, I respect your non-dairy approach so I’m trying to give other options.
Does this help?
Let me know if this makes sense or if you have more questions. I hope this resonates.
Cheers to Happy Poops! XOXOXO
What the hell is that? Seriously, did that just come out of you or did it crawl up the pipe? If you’ve just exorcised a poo that looks nothing like what you’ve eaten recently, it could be a sign of a serious illness. It could also just be that curry from last Wednesday, so it’s good to know what to look for.
What Goes Into Your Dookie
Human feces goes by many names but is a universal byproduct of the human digestive tract. Yes even your girlfriend poops, even if you’ve never actually seen her do it. Stool is the body’s semi-solid waste product and is comprised of everything that the body could not absorb or otherwise had to expel. Which is to say “crap.”
This includes not just food waste, but also more heinous sounding stuff like dead blood cells, bile, and gastrointestinal bacteria, all covered in a mucus sheath that helps it slide out. Anytime you’ve strained and struggled to pass something that feels not only uncomfortable but actually impossible, you’ve experienced the discomfort of your body not producing enough mucus. It generally means you are dehydrated, so drink some water.
Divining Your Digestive System
When it comes to pooping, everybody is different. “There is no normal when it comes to frequency of bowel movements, only averages” Bernard Aserkoff, MD, a doctor in the GI Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told WebMD. For some, going once or twice a day is normal, for others it may only be once or twice a week. This doesn’t automatically mean there’s something’s afoul in your gut. The same can be said in terms of your poop’s color, size, and shape.
Your stool, for example, can span a rainbow of brown, maroon, and green tints and still be considered within healthy bounds. Much of its coloring depends on the concentrations of bile in your system. Produced by the liver and excreted into the small intestines, bile contains cholesterol, bile salts to help digest fats, and waste products such as bilirubin. As the bile pigments are broken down by stomach enzymes, they tend to change from yellow-green to brown. However, certain colors may also indicate a serious intestinal conditions—and potentially even some forms of cancer:
- Green: Overtly green stool can be caused by a number of factors. It may indicate that food is passing through your system too quickly (read: fast-food induced diarrhea), preventing the bile pigments from being sufficiently broken down. It could also be caused by consuming large amounts of leafy green vegetables, excessive amounts of artificial food coloring, or even licorice candy produced with anise oil rather than actual licorice herb. Some people have a sensitivity to Anise oil and may develop loose green stool after consuming it. Or, if you are on an iron supplement regimen (often used to treat Crohn’s disease and as a supplemental other ADHD treatments), bright green poops are a potential side effect, as are constipation and diarrhea, so let your doctor know if any occur.
- White: Stool that is clay-colored or white is caused by a lack of bile in your stool, potentially caused by a bile duct obstruction. If your biliary system is blocked—by, say a gallstone, enlarged lymph nodes in the porta hepatis, or inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts—bile will back up into the liver, causing not only white stool but abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skins and eyes) as well.
- Yellow: Yellow stool that is also consistently greasy and smells of sour eggs (due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide) may be caused by high levels of fat in the stool that have not been broken down by the bile. This is one symptom of Celiac disease, so if you see this floating in the toilet, definitely talk to your your doctor.
- Black: Black stool is a surprisingly common side effect and can be caused from anything from a night of binging on black licorice and Guinness, to your iron supplement regimen, to ingesting large amounts of bismuth subsalicylate aka Pepto-Bismol. This happens when the bismuth subsalicylate combines with trace amounts of sulphur in your saliva to form bismuth sulfide, a highly insoluble black salt that can stain the tongue and stool jet black. Luckily, it is a temporary condition. However, black stool may also be an indicator of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, caused potentially by an ulcer or tumor. This bloody stool will often take on a tar-like appearance and smell horrible, so if you suddenly poop a poop that’s black and sticky and smells like something crawled up there to die but haven’t spent the last 16 hours at the pub, see your doctor.
- Bright Red: Another symptom that could be deadly or could be nothing is bright red stool. Red stool is fairly common, often instigated by natural and artificial food colorings found in beets, cranberries, tomato juice, red gelatin, and drink mixes (ie Kool-Aid). But stool with bright red spotting or free floating bands of fresh blood are a sign of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract brought about by a case of hemorrhoids.
- Blue: If your poo is blue, there’s a good chance you’ll already know why. This is an extremely rare side effect of consuming ferric ferrocyanide—better known as Prussian blue, an insoluble bright blue pigment used in the treatment of heavy metal (radiation, cesium, and thallium) poisoning. Blue poo can also be caused by guzzling large quantities of blue curaçao and grape soda.
- Silver: Silver poop is both very possible and a very bad indicator of your intestinal health. If your stool has the same color as a tarnished candlestick, it could indicate that you are suffering from both a biliary system blockage and upper intestinal bleeding, Basically white stool caused by a lack of bile mixes with gastrointestinal blood, which stains it the same color as aluminum spray paint. So if your poo looks like something the Tinman would pass, hustle yourself down the yellow brick road to the Wizard of ER.
- Purple: Congratulations, you have porphyria.
- Gold: You’re rich!
The Texture of Your Poop Could Tell You A Lot
It’s not just the color that matters. Texture can say a lot too. And you don’t have to get in there and feel it to get the gist.
In the late 1990s, a team of researchers led by Dr. Ken Heaton at the University of Bristol began examining stool as a means of measuring colon health. Excess water is reabsorbed from stool as it passes through the large intestines (better known as the colon) before compacting at the rectum for easy passing. Normally it takes about 16 hours, on average, for digested material to pass through the length of the colon and be discharged. However, should the material pass through too quickly or too slowly, the resulting fecal matter can range in texture from soupy to hyper-compacted rabbit pellets.
The Bristol stool scale, as it is known, was first published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 1997. And while some in the gastrointestinal research community have questioned the scale’s overall accuracy, the system remains in use as a means of ball-parking the effectiveness of various bowel disease treatments.
According to the chart, your seven types of stool are:
Type 1: Separate hard lumps that look like deer or rabbit poop. These are typically the most difficult to pass and are widely considered a sign of constipation.
Type 2: A unified, sausage-shaped log consisting of a mass of Type 1 poops all glomped together. Not as difficult to pass as a type 1, but still requiring a lot of straining, this also may indicate a slightly less severe bout of constipation
Type 3: This is actually what you want your poop to look like, albeit a bit on the dry side. Still so long as you aren’t blowing gaskets trying to push this out, this is a perfectly healthy poopie.
Type 4: The Venus de Milo of craps, this is the “ideal” texture of poop. It should be sausage-shaped, with a smooth, velvety surface and encased in mucus. Lovely.
Type 5: This is a bit on the soft side, not quite diarrhea but definitely not an ideal normal bowel movement. These soft blobs with clear-cut edges are passed easily.
Type 6: Also known as mudbutt, Type 6 stools are indicative of moderate diarrhea. These fluffy pieces with ragged edges splatter out as a mushy pile of stool with no resemblance to the sausage-shaped stools we hope for.
Type 7: When Mount Poosuvius is getting ready to blow and you suddenly find yourself sprinting for the bathroom, get ready for a Type 7 stool—if you can even really call this oily brown splatter in your shorts “stool”.
So while you shouldn’t try to diagnose any medical condition based solely on the divinations of your poop and a guide you found on the Internet, keeping an eye on the color, quantity, consistency, and quality of your crap can help alert you to subtle changes in your health while acting as a barometer for your overall butt health.
As a gastroenterologist, I talk sh*t for a living. There’s no exaggeration or hyperbole here. I go to work every day and talk to people about poop. Sounds crass? It shouldn’t—please forgive me. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help people deal with serious issues. Talking about stools is often the first step in identifying a problem with your intestines. From my perspective, it’s odd the that old English word for defecation is a curse word. It’s like we’ve been conditioned to avoid talking about a normal bodily function. Ironically, our society is becoming more open about what goes down in the bedroom—what goes down or doesn’t go down in the bathroom remains off limits.
In my humble efforts to help people with with their bowels, I have to ask people what their stools look like. I realize that this isn’t a question people hear every day. I haven’t even heard the topic of stool pop up in a barbershop—you know they talk about everything in barbershops.
Before becoming a gastroenterologist, I didn’t realize how many people never look at their stools or toilet paper after wiping. It’s almost like some people close their eyes, wipe, flush, and run.
This practice is dangerous since your stool’s appearance can signal a health problem. A 2003 study including 1611 people found that only 27% of people looked at their poop or used toilet paper with every bowel movement. In the same survey, an astonishing 6% of people never looked at their poop. The study also revealed that people who never looked at their stool were less successful in reporting bloody stools.
Most people don’t have open conversations about their poop. Since my blog is a safe space, I want to share 7 things that your poop says about your health.
1. You have regular, healthy bowel movements. Yes, I’m going to talk about the Bristol Stool Chart.
Before you grab a magnifying glass or send me poop pics in my DMs—don’t freak out. Most variations in poop are normal. Let’s break it down.
Normal stool size and shape
Gastroenterologists rely on the Bristol Stool chart to show people how normal stools look. A healthy stool typically has the shape of sausage or a snake (Type 3 and 4).
Normal Stool Frequency
Don’t worry if you don’t have bowel movements every day. Your frequency may be reasonable as long as you are not having hard, painful stools. A recent study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed the average rate of bowel movements ranges from 3 times per day to 3 times per week. You probably don’t need to see me in clinic if you fall in this range, aren’t having pain, and your stool has a normal color.
Normal Stool Color
Any shade of brown is normal. Stool can come in a lot of colors, but red or black stools are typically the most concerning hues for adults. I’ll break down abnormal stool colors in a second.
Stools with mucus are usually normal.
The intestines naturally produce mucus. As a result, mucus in the stool is relatively normal.
If you have diarrhea, abdominal pain, and mucus in your stool, the mucus could be a sign of inflammation or an infection.
2. You’re bleeding. You should unquestionably talk to a health professional about red or black stools.
Black Stool (melena)
Black stool is concerning for bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract (i.e., esophagus, stomach, and the first portion of the small bowel). Blood turns black when it’s exposed to digestive enzymes and the bacteria of the intestines. It only takes about 3 tablespoons of swallowed blood to turn stool black. Thus, even a severe nose-bleed can cause melena, the medical term for black stool due to bleeding. Melena typically has a liquid, non-solid appearance. It also smells distinctively different from a regular stool.
Bleeding isn’t the only cause of black stools. Certain medications and foods can also give your poop a black appearance. Pepto-Bismol, iron tablets, beets, and black licorice are also common culprits. Black stools from these causes are usually solid and do not have the unique smell of melena.
If you have black liquid stools, you should definitely contact a medical professional or go to the emergency room—you may be experiencing an upper gastrointestinal bleed.
When it comes to stool, red is not the color of love. Obviously, red colored stools are concerning for bleeding. Hemorrhoids and anal fissures are typically the most common causes of bloody stools. Since colon cancer is also a cause of bloody stools, red stools or blood on toilet tissue warrant a conversation with a physician. After finding colon cancers in younger people (under the age of 40), a colonoscopy should be a part of that conversation in my opinion. Similarly, inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can also have bloody stools as a symptom.
As a weird aside, people with color blindness may have a difficult time appreciating the redness in bloody stools. For those who are colorblind, what you do with this information is out of my hands—I’m just the messenger.
3. Change in stool caliber (pencil-thin stools)—There’s a narrowing somewhere in your colon.
Stool changes size and shape all the time. Most of these changes aren’t even worth mentioning. However, recurrently having extremely thin stools is somewhat concerning for a narrowing in the colon. A narrowing could be due to diverticular disease, a stricture from inflammation, or a large polyp/ cancer. Nonetheless, this change in your stool deserves further attention.
4. Floaters: You are gassy.
Floating stool isn’t really a big deal. The gas trapped within stool is typically the underlying cause of floating stool. Bacteria that live in the gut produce gas by fermenting poorly digested food into a variety of gases. These gases give poop a degree of buoyancy.
As long as the floating stool isn’t oily and greasy, it’s nothing to cause worry. Check out my article about gas and bloating.
5. You ate a lot of veggies- Green/Yellow/Orange Poop
Overall green stools are usually normal. Eating green colored foods can give stools a greenish appearance. This typically is the result of eating a lot of spinach and other green veggies. In some cases, if stool passes through you too quickly, unabsorbed bile salts can also give poop a greenish look.
Again, these colors are typically due to the foods you are eating. Eating massive amounts of carrots make your poop orange-ish.
Not absorbing fat is a possibility if the stools look greasy.
6. You are constipated- small pebble-like stools.
Constipation is the reason God created gastroenterologists. It’s the most common issue I see. If your stools are small and pebble-like (refer to the Bristol Stool Chart- type 1 and 2) you may have a problem with constipation. Hard, ball-like stools are due to the colon grinding and dehydrating stool over time. Hence, studies show that the Bristol Stool Chart correlates with intestinal transit time. If you have pebble-like stools every day, there’s a chance that you have an issue with constipation.
7. Diarrhea—it kind of speaks for itself.
That skit from the Chappelle show was funny, but there’s nothing funny about life with recurrent diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea could indicate many different issues depending on the circumstances and other symptoms accompanying diarrhea. Food intolerances are a common cause of diarrhea. Intolerances to lactose, fructose, sucrose, and gluten are relatively common. Diarrhea associated with severe abdominal pain is concerning an underlying infection, irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea predominance, or inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease). This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diarrhea. Needless to say, if you are always experiencing diarrhea, seek the opinion of a health professional.
What’s the Bottom line?
- Look at your stool.
- Don’t over obsess since most variations of stool are normal
- Black or red stool can indicate bleeding. Seek medical attention if you are experiencing these.
- Don’t send me poop in my DMs (seriously, no poop pics).
The No. 1 Reason to Check Your No. 2
The idea of looking inside the porcelain throne after using it may gross you out, but your waste is hardly a waste when it comes to identifying potential health concerns. How often you go No. 2 and the shape, color, and even odor of your bowel movements (BM) can be warning signs that something’s amiss.
The next time you hit the bathroom, sneak a peek to see how things are coming out so you can get some sense of what may be going on inside your body, good and bad.
RELATED: While you’re at it, you might at well learn six things your pee is trying to tell you.
What’s normal: A sausage or snake shape, either with cracks in the surface (type 3) or smooth and soft (type 4)
According to the Bristol Stool Form Scale, there are seven types of tool.Type 1 (hard lumps resembling nuts) and type 2 (sausage-shaped and lumpy) may mean that you are not drinking enough water and are constipated. Constipation is uncomfortable at the least, but if waste is not being eliminated, it can lead to pain, lack of appetite, straining that results in hemorrhoids, or more serious issues like colon cancer.
Type 5 (soft blobs with clear-cut edges), type 6 (mushy, fluffy pieces with ragged edges), and type 7 (watery; no solid pieces) are hard to stomach and not a pretty sight to see. Loose stools, or diarrhea, indicates that too much fluid is getting into the gut, which can lead to loss of fluid and electrolytes.
Suffering from constipation, diarrhea, or both consistently is a sign that your inside plumbing needs attention. Speak to your doctor, as these could be symptoms of bacterial or viral infections, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Chron’s disease, parasites, celiac disease, or any bowel disorder.
And although it’s not on the scale, a narrow or thin BM could mean that something-such as scar tissue, impacted stool, or even a tumor-is be getting in the way of passing feces, and it might be obstructing the intestine. It may also be a sign of a GI issue such as Crohn’s disease, so you should speak to your doctor if you spy this too.
What’s normal: 1 or 2 bowel movements daily without pain or a burning sensation
For infrequent bowel movements, eat more healthy fats and fiber, drink more water and/or tea, and consider taking a probiotic. All of these natural laxatives can help you go more often. These will also help remedy any pain or burning, which is a sign of constipation.
If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and seem to always be running to the loo, track what you eat and figure out how this affects your bathroom routine. You may discover that you have an intolerance for certain foods or medications. If your food journal doesn’t give you any insights, see your doctor, who can test for a digestive problem or infection.
What’s normal: Tan to dark brown
Eating a variety of vegetables such as carrots, spinach, or beets may change the color of your bowel movement, and that also goes for certain medications such as iron supplements, antacids, and Pepto-Bismol. However, repeatedly seeing some shades is reason to see your physician: Bright red may mean blood in the lower intestine, black could be a sign of bleeding in the stomach, grey may signal insufficient bile, yellow could be malabsorption, and green might hint that your waste is moving too quickly (also called “decreased bowel transit time”).
What’s normal: Scented but not unusually striking
Anything that is stuck inside your body and not being eliminated for a few days is not going to smell like roses. But infection, certain medications, yeast overgrowth, overgrowth of your body’s natural bacteria, malabsorption, and poor digestion can all lead to bathroom trips that seem like a stink bomb went off. Keep track of what you eat, and speak to your doctor if the odor occurs for two or three days and you can’t link it to a dietary change.
- By Valerie Berkowitz, R.D.
Parasites found in the intestines can be categorized into Protozoa, which are single-celled organisms and Helminths, including nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes, which are multicellular organisms whose size varies from some millimeters to several meters. Protozoan cysts and trophozoites and helminth eggs can be detected only by microscopic examination of stool preparations since they have a size in the micrometer scale. Macroscopically, intact worms or proglottids may occasionally be seen in stools in some helminthic enteric parasitoses ; however, the observed spherical particles seen in our patient do not resemble their shape and morphology. Being assured after endoscopy about the ingested nature of the observed stool eggs we recalled information regarding ingestion of egg-like objects. We finally found the solution for this enigma in the patient’s orally taken medication. The capsule of venlafaxine 150 mg proved to be the “phantom parasite” producing patient’s stool ova . Thereafter, the patient reported that treatment with venlafaxine was started about 2 weeks before the observation of stool ova.
The opened capsule of venlafaxine 150 mg containing a lot of spherical white particles
Given the fact that most parasitic infections are definitively diagnosed on the basis of microscopic stool examination, much attention has been given concerning diagnostic pitfalls in microscopic examination of stool for ova and parasites; however, very little has been written pertaining to macroscopic mimics of parasites in stool samples. Familiarity with the gross appearance of enteric parasites as well as their common mimics is a necessity for clinicians to quickly alleviate the concerns of their patients and prevent unnecessary expenditure on further workup.
Undigested Pills in Stool Mimicking Parasitic Infection
Background. Orally ingested medications now come in both immediate release and controlled release preparations. Controlled release preparations were developed by pharmaceutical companies to improve compliance and decrease frequency of pill ingestion. Case Report. A 67-year-old obese male patient presented to our clinic with focal abdominal pain that had been present 3 inches below umbilicus for the last three years. This pain was not associated with any trauma or recent heavy lifting. Upon presentation, the patient reported that for the last two months he started to notice pearly oval structures in his stool accompanying his chronic abdominal pain. This had coincided with initiation of his nifedipine pills for his hypertension. He reported seeing these undigested pills daily in his stool. Conclusion. The undigested pills may pose a cause of concern for both patients and physicians alike, as demonstrated in this case report, because they can mimic a parasitic infection. This can result in unnecessary extensive work-up. It is important to review the medication list for extended release formulations and note that the outer shell can be excreted whole in the stool.
Orally ingested medications have undergone a transformation over the years. In order to improve compliance by decreasing frequency, the pharmaceutical industry developed controlled release formulations. Immediate release medications usually need to be dosed frequently to maintain blood levels or usually can cause gastrointestinal irritation. As controlled release pill formulations are released slowly, the outer capsule shell may be seen undigested in the stool. This may be a source of considerable anxiety for both the physician and the patient. Herein we present a case of a male patient who was passing “pearly oval structures” that resembled a parasitic ovum. This caused a lot of alarm for the patient which resulted in him receiving unnecessary investigations.
2. Case Report
A 67-year-old obese male patient presented to our clinic with focal abdominal pain that had been present 3 inches below umbilicus for the last three years. This pain was not associated with any trauma or recent heavy lifting. Upon presentation, the patient reported that for the last two months he started to notice pearly oval structures in his stool accompanying his chronic abdominal pain. The patient reported no history of recent travel inside or outside the country, no well water ingestion, or any camping trips. He denied smoking, alcohol, or substance abuse. He reported no family history of inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. He denied that he had ingested any foreign body. His laboratory work-up including a complete blood count, complete metabolic panel, and a computed tomography scan was unrevealing for pathology. He continued to report passage of these “pearly oval structures” in his stools on a daily basis. Our differential included ingestion and passage of foreign body, parasitic infection, or undigested pills. Stool studies were conducted on three separate visits looking for ova and parasites but were negative. He previously had a colonoscopy by a community gastroenterologist which was noted to be normal with no sight of these “pearly oval structures.” The patient was then asked to bring these “pearly structures” to the clinic upon his next visit (Figure 1). The medication history was revisited, but this time it was done in liaison with a pharmacist. The pharmacist noted that the “pearly oval structures” were his nifedipine extended release pills (Figure 2) that were passing undigested through his alimentary tract.
Figure 1 Pearly structures in the stool. The arrow shows a central hole.
Figure 2 An original nifedipine pill with a hole for sustained release effect.
With the advent of extended release formulations, there have been times where these extended release capsules are excreted in stool. There has been a case of fecal impaction with ingestion of enteric coated pills . A study of Taiwanese HIV patients excreting remnants of nevirapine extended release tablets did not report any decrease in efficacy of the medicine despite the presence of parts of undigested tablets in patients’ stool .
Nifedipine is a calcium channel blocker given for treatment of hypertension and chronic angina, with frequent dosing in the past . An extended release formulation of nifedipine was developed to achieve once-daily dosing using the gastrointestinal therapeutic system (GITS) . Nifedipine using GITS has an internal component and external component. The internal component contains the drug surrounded by a hydrophilic polymer with a single hole that is semipermeable. This semipermeable hole enables water to enter the drug layer, causing the pill to swell and pushing the nifedipine powder out a little at a time. This system controls the release of nifedipine at a constant rate over 24 hours until there is no powder left to be extruded. The outer membrane of the tablet, which is made of a hydrophilic polymer, is resistant to digestion, remains intact throughout the alimentary tract, and is excreted in the stool .
The undigested pills may pose a cause of concern for both patients and physicians alike, as demonstrated in this case report, because they can mimic a parasitic infection. This can result in unnecessary extensive work-up. It is important to review the medication list for extended release formulations and note that the outer shell can be excreted whole in the stool.
This case report as an article for submission to a journal was approved by our university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).
The authors declare that there are no competing interests regarding the publication of this paper.
How To Hack Your Own Poop
Poop isn’t brown because all the gloriously colored foods you’ve eaten have mixed together to create a single shade; it’s brown because of bile. Bile is a liquid, produced by our livers and stored in our gallbladders, that mostly serves to break down fats and remove them from digested foods so that our small intestines can snag the fats and process them. “Bile is green,” says Sheth, “but as it goes through the GI tract it’s actually metabolized by bacteria in the small intestine.” That interaction of bile with the intestine’s bacteria also results in a byproduct we don’t need, called stercobilin, which is disposed of with the poop. And stercobilin, surprise surprise, is brown.
Ultimately, if your poop is brown, you know that all kinds of gross mushy guts are working properly — your liver, intestine, gallbladder, everything has worked together to come up with that lovely brown color.
CHALKY GRAY OR WHITE
Poop that comes out kind of chalky gray or white-colored is a classic sign that something has gone wrong way back in your system. Pale poop could mean you have a gallstone that’s blocking the gallbladder from injecting its bile, but it could also be caused by pancreatic cancer. Pale poop: very bad.
Similarly, beware of notably gross yellow poops. You’ll know that something’s wrong here; they’ll smell terrible, for one thing, and feel greasy and disgusting. They’re the result of fat finding its way into your poop — remember, your bile was supposed to take care of fat. The problem could be a parasite like giardia, it could be a result of taking an over-the-counter weight loss drug like Alli, it could be evidence of celiac disease. Who knows? See a doctor.
Black poop is also very bad. It’s called melena, and it means you’ve got something bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract. “This could be caused by something like an ulcer in the stomach,” says Sheth. “The blood is red in the stomach, but by the time it goes down through the system, it gets digested and turns thick and tarry and black.”
Green poop can be caused by totally innocuous things, which we’ll get to later. But it can also be caused by what’s called “rapid transit,” meaning the bile doesn’t spend enough time (it usually needs a few hours) in the intestine, getting broken down and churning out brown stercobilin. Green poop caused by rapid transit is usually pretty loose or straight-up diarrhea, and can be the result of some kind of intestinal bug.
Red poops can be bad, sometimes; blood in the lower gastrointestinal tract that hasn’t had time to turn black could turn your poops red. That’s bad! But red poops are easily caused by dyes, so don’t panic. Speaking of dyes…
How to hack your poo if you actually want it to turn other colors:
After my recent panic in the bathroom, Google helped me come up with the answer: the fancy purple carrots I’d eaten the day before.
See, your digestive tract doesn’t bother removing certain kinds of dyes, both natural and artificial, from foods. They’re of no particular use or harm, so the body just lets them ride all the way from your mouth to your butt. “Fruits and vegetables that have certain natural colors, that color will be transmitted to your stool and will change the way things look,” says Sheth. He specifically named beets (red), blueberries (bluish), and carrots (orange) as common color bandits.
TURN IT RED!
Artificial dyes like Red #40 can have the same effect. A landmark study in 1972, which was, swear to god, subtitled “The Franken Berry Stool,” discovered that the red dye in then-new Franken Berry cereal, when consumed in enough quantity, would turn poop red. Red #40 is the most commonly used red food dye in the U.S., though it’s been banned in lots of other countries and is on its way to being banned in others. You can find it in Kool-Aid, red candy (Starburst, Jolly Ranchers, cinnamon-flavored gum), cereal like Froot Loops and Trix, Jell-O, Doritos, strawberry ice cream… pretty much everything that’s red and comes in a package has Red #40 in it. Want to color your poop red? Drink a bunch of cherry Kool-Aid.
TURN IT GREEN!
Let’s go back to our old friend, the green poop. Green poop can show up if you eat an excess of chlorophyll, found especially in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. The body doesn’t break down the colors in chlorophyll, so they head right out the butt. You can achieve this same effect by taking chlorophyll supplements, if you don’t want to eat your greens. But, the primary reason leafy greens turn your poop green is because of their high insoluble fiber content. If you want a truly hacked green poop, you’re better off going artificial — something with Green #3 dye.
Green #3 isn’t as common as Red #40, but you can still find it in canned vegetables and green desserts like popsicles. It’s probably worth noting that Green #3 is banned outright in the European Union and has been found to cause tumors. We do not recommend eating enough popsicles to turn your poop lime green, but it will, if you do.
Here’s something weird: You can also turn your poop bright green by eating foods with Blue #1, an artificial dye (also, again, banned by several countries for possible deleterious health effects) found commonly in blue- and purple-colored foods. Anything grape- or blue-raspberry-flavored could have Blue #1 in it, and many informal tests have indicated that, instead of turning your poop blue, Blue #1 will turn your poop bright green. That’s a fun game! Drink tons of grape Gatorade or eat blue raspberry slushies and watch your poop turn, against all odds, green.
TURN IT ORANGE!
It’s also easy, and healthier, to go for orange poops. Foods rich in the vibrant natural pigment beta carotene, like orange carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, have the potential to turn your poops orange.
Why Is My Poop Stringy?
There are several reasons your stool may be thin.
Constipation may be caused by a low-fiber diet and lack of fluids. Fiber adds bulk to stool, increasing its size. If you don’t eat enough fiber or drink enough fluids, stool loses its bulk and may become thin and stringy.
Increasing your fiber intake may be as simple as making a few changes to your diet.
- Whole grains, like bran, whole wheat, or oats, are an easy way to increase your fiber. When buying groceries, look for a whole grain bread, pasta, or cereal.
- Getting your recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables can also help you to increase your fiber intake. Look for fruits and vegetables with five or more grams of fiber.
- Beans are another great source of fiber. Throw beans in a salad or add them to whole grain rice for a fiber-rich meal.
Many people panic when they see stringy stool because they’ve read or been told it’s a sign of colorectal cancer. The theory is that as one or more tumors grow, the space inside the colon narrows, resulting in thinner stools. A 2009 review of medical literature came to a different conclusion.
The review found that stringy or “low-caliber” stools occur whenever people have loose stools. It concluded that if low-caliber stool occurs without other symptoms, the cancer risk is low. Other symptoms may include:
- rectal bleeding
- changes in bowel habits
- the persistent urge to have a bowel movement
- left-sided abdominal pain
The review also suggests that referring people for a colonoscopy only because they have low-caliber stools unnecessarily puts them at risk and strains the healthcare system. Despite these results, thin stools are still considered a red flag for colorectal cancer by many in the medical community.
These other conditions may cause narrowing in the colon and lead to stringy stools:
- fecal impaction
- colon polyps
- trapped abdominal hernias
- anorectal strictures, or a narrowing between the rectum and anus
- distended, or stretched, colon
- twisted bowel, or volvulus
Some intestinal parasites, such as giardia, may cause loose, thin stools. If you have a parasite, you may have other symptoms such as:
- weight loss
Conditions that cause inflammation in the colon, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, may cause loose, thin stools and diarrhea.
Irritable bowel syndrome may cause changes in bowel habits leading to thin stools. It may also cause mucous in your stools, which can gives stool a stringy appearance.
Some intestinal infections such as salmonella, gastroenteritis, and shigella may cause loose stools or diarrhea.
Stringy stool may also occur for no obvious reason.
What Your Poop Looks Like Can Reveal a Lot About Your Health
Number twos are a tricky subject. We all do them. Indeed, excreting waste is critical to life. But polite society and its rules of etiquette ensure we’re rarely brave enough to speak about them.
The feces—or stools—we produce can provide a valuable real-time window into the health of your large bowel (or colon) and gastrointestinal tract. So let’s put those rules aside.
Scientists research many odd topics, and stool form is no exception. In 1998, Stephen Lewis and Ken Heaten from the University of Bristol developed a seven-point stool form scale, ranging from constipation (type 1) to diarrhea (type 7).
Today, the Bristol Stool Chart allows people with gastrointestinal symptoms to clearly describe to their doctor what they are seeing in the toilet without having to provide samples.
The Conversation, CC BY-ND
For most of us, the form of stool we excrete can vary widely depending, in part, on what we’ve been doing. A period of dehydration, perhaps associated with a day of sustained exercise, or the delaying of a bowel movement, may be followed by a drier stool form than normal.
Conversely, an unusually spicy meal might be followed by a bowel movement with a looser stool.
How should your stools look?
Ideally, stools should be easy to pass without straining and without any intense sense of urgency.
On the Bristol Stool Chart, these are types 3, 4 and 5: sausage-like with some cracks in the surface, up to 2 to 3 cm in diameter; longer sausage or snake-like with a smooth consistency, similar to that of toothpaste with a typical diameter of 1 to 2 cm; or soft blobs with clear cut edges.
While arguably easier to clean up, the drier stool forms (types 1 and 2) tend to compact into large stool that can apply long term pressure to and abrade the lining of the large bowel. During a bowel movement, dry stools may distend the anal canal beyond its normal aperture. This may require straining—and pain—to pass.
More from VICE:
Straining to pass dry stools increases the risk of laceration of the anus, hemorrhoids, prolapse, and the condition diverticulosis. This is when pouches form on the wall of the large bowel due to over-distension. These can become sites for infection or inflammation.
Watery stool forms may be associated with gut infections, for example with a gut parasite like Giardia, or an inflammatory disorder such as Crohn’s disease. As a rule, softer but not watery stool forms are best. Any change of bowel habit that leads to the sustained production of drier stools and a sense of incomplete emptying—or watery stools and a feeling of urgency—should be discussed with your doctor.
Why does water matter to stool?
Even to the casual toilet bowl observers among us, the most obvious differentiating factor between stool forms is their water content.
The large bowel is an amazing recycling and repurposing centre for the body. Water recycling is one of its key functions. Every day, our bodies invest around 9 liters of fluids into the digestion of food, including around 1.5 liters of saliva, 2.5 liters of stomach secretions and 0.8 liters of bile. But clearly we don’t defecate anywhere near this volume.
The longer it takes for digested food to pass through the large bowel, the more water gets reclaimed and the drier the stool becomes. So factors affecting the transit rate of food through our gastrointestinal tract will have significant influence on stool form.
Affluence and lifestyle impact on transit time. Antibiotics, pain killers (particularly opiate-containing drugs such as Endone but also more common pain-killers containing codeine) as well as physical inactivity all reduce how well the gut contracts. This slows the passage of food through the large bowel, which can lead to constipation.
What about diet and stool?
Our diets also play a significant part in driving stool form and health.
Observational studies performed in south and eastern Africa in the 1970s and ’80s compared the gastrointestinal health of Caucasians eating a Western-style diet and native Africans living a traditional lifestyle. The researchers found drier stool forms and constipation were more common in people consuming Western-style diets.
This was associated with increased incidence of bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases as well as other chronic diseases of rising incidence in Western societies. The results were attributed to differing levels of fiber in the diets of these two populations and these conclusions have been clearly confirmed for bowel cancer in numerous studies.
Fiber impacts on transit time, stool form, and health in two ways. First, when a healthy, well-hydrated person eats fibrous foods such as wheat bran with lots of roughage, the food takes up water and swells. This increases the volume of the stool, softening it, stimulating more rapid transit. At the same time, it dilutes and more rapidly clears any toxins that may have been ingested with the food.
More potent components of dietary fiber also exist: fermentable carbohydrates such resistant starch (a form of starch that is not digested in the small intestine), beta glucans and fructo-oligosaccharides, which are commonly found in whole grains, legumes, pulses, fruit and vegetables. These are a key nutritional source for the trillions of bacteria that inhabit the large bowel (the gut microbiota).
Key waste products of this bacterial feast, short-chain fatty acids, are like gold to our bodies. One of these short-chain fatty acids, butyrate (which is also the food acid that gives parmesan cheese its haunting aroma), reduces transit time by strengthening contraction of muscles lining the large bowel.
On the way, these short-chain fatty acids strengthen, grow, and repair the cell layers that line the large bowel. They destroy cancerous cells, reduce inflammation and pain in the gut, and enhance satiety. Worth feeding, you might say.
But one gastronomic casualty of the Westernization of our diets has been fiber. A typical Westerner may consume as little as 12-15 grams of fiber per day. While no upper limit for daily fiber intake has been defined, healthy Australians are recommended to consume at least 30 grams of dietary fiber per day, with around 15-20 grams of that comprising resistant starch.
So clearly we have some distance to go. There is a caveat here, however. If you have gastrointestinal symptoms—such as an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea—fiber may not always help. You may need to carefully consider the type of fiber you consume with the help of your doctor.
The roughage component of some fibre sources may exacerbate symptoms for people with diverticular disease, for instance. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may be exacerbated by fiber sources rich in fermentable fructose oligo, di or mono saccharides and polyols (FODMAP). This includes onion, garlic, apples, pears, milk, legumes, some breads and pasta, and cashews.
For most of us, though, more fiber in our diets should reduce food transit times, soften stools, make bowel movements more comfortable, and improve bowel health.
Trevor Lockett is the group leader for personalized health at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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5 Things Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health
Rocks and Pebbles
Poop that is hard and shaped like tiny rocks or pebbles is likely just a sign of constipation . You can still be considered constipated even if you are able to pass a small amount of stool.
The large intestine helps to concentrate waste by absorbing water. If muscle contractions in the large intestine are not working properly, waste left in the colon becomes even more concentrated, resulting in harder stool.
“One of the most common concerns I hear from patients is worry about the change of poop color,” says Dr. Linda Lee . The color of stool is impacted by the foods you eat and the kind of bacteria living in your colon.
“There are a lot of food colorings added to what we eat and drink, so of course the color of your stool is then going to change,” says Lee. “When I perform a colonoscopy, I can actually tell what color the beverage was they used to take the prep.”
A change in the color of stool is usually not cause for concern, unless it appears to be black or bloody, which could signal other problems with the digestive system.
Black and Tarry
The most common cause of black and tarry poop is from taking iron supplements or a medication containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol. However, it could mean you’re losing blood somewhere in your gastrointestinal tract, such as in the stomach or small intestine.
Oily or Greasy Stools
If you have poop that appears oily, has a greasy consistency and is difficult to flush, it could be a signal that your body is not able to properly digest fat. The consistency changes could be caused by an infection, nutrients not being digested due to celiac disease or a problem with the pancreas, such as pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
Stool that is only occasionally very thin is not a cause for concern. It is likely due to muscle contractions in the large intestine as it helps to concentrate waste.
If there is a sudden and consistent change in your stool always being thin, it could mean there is a blockage in your colon, and you should see your doctor.
What causes white specks in my poop?
Certain types of food, medication, or parasites can cause white specks in stool.
Share on PinterestCorn may be a cause of white specks in the stool.
Some foods are not digested as thoroughly as others. Corn, for example, may pass all the way through the digestive tract and still be visible in stool.
Sesame seeds and some nuts, such as almonds, are white. Small pieces of these foods may show up in stool as white specks.
This is more likely to happen if a person has recently eaten food containing whole seeds, such as a bagel with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
Seeds have a hard outer layer that protects the contents inside, and they may pass through the digestive system whole.
White specks in stool that occur soon after a person has eaten seeds are usually no cause for concern.
Some pills have hard outer casings. The body may absorb the medication but not this casing, which can appear in stools.
Empty cases are sometimes called ghost pills. Medications that may cause ghost pills to appear in stool are:
- extended-release metformin, which is used to treat diabetes
- oxycontin, a pain medication
- venlafaxine, an antidepressant
Some people may be concerned when a drug casing appears in their stool because they think that the medication has not worked.
If a person is worried, their doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication. For example, some medicines are available as liquids rather than pills.
Tapeworms and pinworms can appear as white specks in stools. Tapeworm infection is uncommon, but these specks are a key symptom.
White or yellow specks may be pieces of tapeworm. These pieces are usually flat, square-shaped, and about the size of a grain of rice.
Some people may not have additional symptoms. Others may experience a stomachache or diarrhea.
People typically get a tapeworm infection by eating meat that is raw or has been undercooked.
A pinworm infection is more common, particularly in children. A pinworm is small, white, and about the size of a staple. They usually look like white threads and are also called threadworms.
Pinworms typically live in the lower part of the gut and lay eggs on the skin around the anus. This can cause discomfort and itching.
The infection usually starts with a person getting pinworm eggs in their mouth, often from infected stool. Practicing proper hand hygiene is the best way to avoid contamination.
Poop 101: A beginner’s guide to reading your own poop
The next time you ponder your poop before you flush, one thing to keep in mind is that your feces passed through a lot of important organs on their way out. (And if you don’t take a peek, well, congratulations on your moral superiority, I guess?) So it might be possible that your stool can tell you when there’s something wrong with the squishy internal Rube Goldberg machine that converts food into feces.
Ponder your poop before you flush
I have a lot of questions about what this external nugget of evidence says about the inner workings of my body: is that the shape it’s supposed to be? When did I eat that corn? Why is it blue? (That only happened once.)
The quick and dirty version of the digestion process starts as soon as we take a bite. Little molecular wrenches called enzymes start dismantling our food in the mouth, then the stomach. In the small intestine, enzymes do even finer work — breaking down fats, proteins, and starches into molecules small enough to pass through the intestine’s walls and into the bloodstream. That’s how you absorb the food’s nutrients. Muscle contractions called peristalsis push the food — now a soupy, messy slop — along to the large intestine, where water is sucked back into the body. What you’re left with is, usually, is a somewhat solid mélange of indigestible food leftovers, microbes, dead cells, and all sorts of waste products our bodies need to expel. The stool hangs out in the rectum before squeezing out through the anus.
Once the poop is in the toilet, what can it tell you about your body? Since the porcelain bowl isn’t a magic mirror, I quizzed gastroenterologist Justin Sewell from the University of California, San Francisco while he grabbed a quick lunch on the other end of the phone.
Earth tones are healthy — but so are lots of other colors
Poop can come in a rainbow of colors depending on what you eat. But earth tones like brown, yellow, and green are the most common, Sewell says. These muddy hues are the result of mixing digested food with broken down bits of dead red blood cells that get dumped into the small intestine along with bile, an enzyme produced by the liver to digest fats.
There’s a huge range of normal
If your poop falls outside this range of shades (like, say, blue), it’s not necessarily unhealthy. But if your poop is gray, black, red, or maroon, those colors could be signs of a health problem. Pale or gray could mean that something is preventing bile and its accompanying red blood cell waste from reaching the small intestine. That could be from a problem anywhere in the liver, the gallbladder (which stores bile), and the connecting ductwork. Often, people with gray poops show other signs of liver problems, like jaundice.
Flickr/Justin Dolske (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Black, red, or maroon-hued poop can all be from bleeding. Tarry and sticky stools usually suggest bleeding from the stomach or upper small intestine — like from an ulcer, for example. Dark red or maroon poops could mean bleeding in the upper colon or lower small intestine. Red diarrhea could be due to an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — or it could mean that your colon is infected with bacteria like certain strains of E. coli. And bright red blood on the toilet paper could be due to hemorrhoids — itchy, swollen veins in the rectum or anus that bleed. That’s the much more common, and much less scary option: because it could also be from polyps or colon cancer.
Poop can come in a rainbow of colors
But remember, poop is food waste so you might just be seeing the results of something you ate. Iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol can also make your poop black, and beets can make your poop red. (It also turns your pee red. I thought I was dying the first time this happened.)
There’s no ideal poop shape
When I create a perfect, uninterrupted log I feel victorious — like I peeled an apple without breaking the spiral of skin. But Sewell tells me that my quest for the perfect poop is misguided: There’s no such thing.
“I’ve had people bring me pictures of their poop and say ‘This is not right, it’s supposed to be a perfect, smooth log shape.’ And yes, for some people that’s normal but for other people, that’s just not the way their body works,” he says. “There’s no ideal poop.”
“There’s no ideal poop.”
Poop types and shapes can grouped into seven categories in the Bristol Stool Scale, which describes the range of imaginable stools — from hard little rabbit pellets (type one — a sign of constipation) to watery diarrhea (type seven — which could be due to anything from an infection to having just gone for a run). As long as your poop falls into types two through six on the Scale, you’re probably doing just fine.
Wikimedia Commons/Cabot Health (CC BY-SA 3.0)
“Anywhere from formed logs to soft and falling apart is fine — and that just depends on individual people’s bodies and their diet,” Sewell says. If it’s hard or sticky, however, you might want to add fiber and water to the menu. If it’s mushy or watery, drink more water to rehydrate.
Food bits are fine, but lots of them is weird
Sighting food in poop isn’t unusual, Sewell says. But pay attention to how the food looks. It’s totally normal to find pieces of corn kernels, for example, which have indigestible bits made of a plant fiber called cellulose. “If you eat a bunch of greens, you’re going to see pieces of partially digested plant material come out,” Sewell says. And the chunks can be bigger or smaller depending on how well you chew.
But if your poop is almost entirely composed of recognizable food bits, it could be signs of a digestion problem. Your gut might be squeezing food through too quickly to get properly digested. Anything from parasites, to certain types of gastrointestinal infections, to even irritable bowel syndrome and severe celiac disease can get peristalsis moving faster than it should. So if what comes out strongly resembles what went in, maybe you should see a doctor.
Mucus and fat aren’t okay
If you see mucus on your poop, that can be a sign of an autoimmune disease or an infection. But what does mucus even look like when it’s coming out of an orifice other than your nose? It’s white, semi-solid, and stringy, Sewell says. Like egg drop soup, he adds.
Seeing that in the toilet bowl suggests inflammation, most likely in the lower gut. The inflammation could be from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease — or from some kind of parasitic, viral, or bacterial infection.
Be on lookout for fat in poop as well. A fatty stool usually floats and can leave an oil slick on the surface of the water. After you flush, there might be orange ring of what looks like pizza grease that lingers around the bowl. Like when you’re cooking something oily, Sewell says, “and you pour out the water, and there’s a rim of fat that sticks to the edge of the container.”
Fatty poop can come from a number of things — including diet pills like Alli that can make fat leak out your butt. It can also be a sign of pancreatic or liver disease, because it means the enzymes they produce that should be breaking down fat aren’t doing their jobs. Intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease can cause this, as well.
So what does your poop say about you?
The main thing to keep in mind is that there’s a huge range of normal. That also includes the frequency with which you poop — generally, anything less than three times per week is constipation, and anything more than three times a day is too frequent. Most people poop one to two times a day, or once every other day, Sewell says. Variation in urgency is common, too — having to go right now isn’t unusual, but if that’s a constant sensation, you may want to check in with a doctor.
“Pay attention — but don’t obsess.”
“I think it’s healthy for people to look at what they produce, note any major changes, and ask their doctor about it,” Sewell says. “People do obsess over having, they want the perfect shape poop, they want it harder, they want it softer. It’s not really much under your control besides eating more or less fiber, or consuming more or less water. So pay attention — but don’t obsess.”
How to Treat Mucus Stool in Dogs
By Jennifer Coates, DVM
Dog stool normally contains some mucus, but excessive amount of mucus in the stool may indicate a medical condition and will need medical attention.
If your dog has mucus in the stool, this is what you can expect to happen next:
Medication: A small amount of mucus in the stool of a dog who is otherwise feeling fine (eating well, happy, active, no diarrhea, etc.) does not require treatment with medications, but a probiotic supplement may help. More severe cases will require medical therapy that varies with the underlying cause.
Diet: Sometimes switching to a highly digestible diet or adding additional fiber to the diet will help dogs with mucus in the stool. Boiled white meat chicken (no skin or bones), white rice, and a teaspoon to a tablespoon (depending on the size of the dog) of canned pumpkin is a good, homemade option that can be safely fed for a few days.
What to Expect at the Vet’s Office
When abnormal amounts of mucus appear in a dog’s stool over an extended period of time, your veterinarian will need to look for an underlying cause. He or she will collect a complete health history, perform a physical exam, and then may want to run some combination of the following tests:
- Fecal examinations
- Blood chemistry panel
- Complete blood cell count
- A urinalysis
- Abdominal x-rays
- Biopsy of the intestinal tract
What to Expect at Home
Appropriate treatment will depend on the results of these tests and your dog’s eventual diagnosis. Some of the more common disorders that cause mucus in the stool of dogs are:
Intestinal Infections – Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can all infect the canine gastrointestinal (GI) system. Most dogs will also develop diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or other symptoms in addition to mucus in the school with GI infections. Supportive care and medications that address the infection will be necessary.
Parasites – Whipworms, tapeworms, and other intestinal parasites can cause mucus in the stool. A fecal exam can identify the type of parasite present, and an appropriate dewormer should take care of the problem.
Dietary Indiscretion – When a dog eats something unusual it can disrupt the GI tract and cause mucus in the stool. Mild cases resolve over time. More severe cases that are accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea may require supportive care, antibiotics, fluid therapy, and sometimes surgery to remove foreign material.
Change in Diet/Adverse Food Reaction – An abrupt change in diet can lead to mucus in the stool of dogs. Returning to the original food and then slowly mixing increasing amounts of the new food into the old will usually resolve the problem. If the dog’s symptoms persist, a food allergy/intolerance may be to blame. In these cases, switching to a veterinarian-prescribed hypoallergenic diet may be necessary.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Stress is thought to be a major factor in flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome. Treatment involves stress relief, dietary changes, and medications (e.g., sulfasalazine) that lessen the severity of a dog’s symptoms.
Cancer – Cancer of the GI tract can cause mucus in the stool. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or palliative therapy.
Inflammatory Disorders – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause mucus in the stool that is usually accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. Treatment with immunosuppressive medications and diet changes will often reduce a dog’s symptoms.
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) – When a dog’s stool contains a lot of blood and mucus (often described as being raspberry jam-like), HGE may be to blame. Treatment includes supportive care, anti-nausea drugs, fluid therapy, and antibiotics.
Questions to Ask Your Vet
Ask your veterinarian what the possible side effects are of the medications your dog is taking. Find out when he or she next wants to see your dog for a progress check and whom you should call if an emergency arises outside of your veterinarian’s normal business hours.
Possible Complications to Watch For
Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s condition, particularly if your dog:
- Becomes lethargic or depressed
- Has a poor appetite
- Develops vomiting or diarrhea (especially if it is dark/tarry or contains fresh blood)
- Is in pain
- Is very young, very old, or has a preexisting health condition
Featured Image: iStock.com/yulkapopkova
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