Pooping is one of the most unspoken commonalities on the planet. Why? Because, well -- it honestly stinks. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly your poop means, we’re here to talk shit and we’ve recruited Dr. Greg Scott of the Center for Natural Healthcare & Nutrition to help. Read below for seven things you didn’t know about your poop.
1. You should be pooping about twice a day
Whether you have a set shit schedule everyday (literally) or feel like you just go whenever you gotta go, frequency is actually important when it comes to your gastrointestinal health. According to Dr. Scott, pooping about twice a day is considered normal and healthy.
If you find that you are over or under the daily norm, don't worry! You are not alone and there are a few explanations. "If your average is once a day or less, this is likely a sign of constipation," Dr. Scott says. "Some people are chronically constipated." Common causes of constipation are a lack of fiber, poor digestive processes, excessive consumption of antacids, congenital megacolon, eating disorders and irritable bowel syndrome.
Dr. Scott adds that other exceptions to the daily norm may be considered if an individual is not eating enough food or is on some type of liquid diet.
2. Any shade of brown is a good thing
This probably goes without saying, but if your poop is any color but brown, something might be wrong. “Your poop should be brown, well-formed and not too hard,” Dr. Scott says. If your sh*t falls into these categories, congratulations! Your bowels are normal.
So, what does it mean when your poop is discolored? A variety of things, Dr. Scott notes. Black or red poop can be caused by anything from an upper gastrointestinal bleed, to lead poisoning, to eating too many blueberries or tomatoes. Similarly, green poop is usually the result of eating too many leafy greens, but may also be the sign of an increase in bile output.
Dr. Scott warns of two discolorations to watch out for: gray and yellow. “Gray is always abnormal-- a sign of liver, gallbladder or pancreas problems,” he says. “Yellow is almost always abnormal and causes include an increase in bilirubin or parasitic infections.” Yikes! Make sure to consult with a doctor if you ever come across these colors.
3. Healthy poop starts with a healthy diet
Like many other signs of good health, the sign of good poop begins with your diet. Refined foods like flour and sugar (a.k.a. junk food) do not promote gastrointestinal health, Dr. Scott notes.
If you are struggling on the toilet, a fiber-rich diet is your best bet. “If you just can’t get enough fiber on a daily basis, it is worthwhile to consider a fiber supplement,” Dr. Scott says. “A daily probiotic or eating probiotic-rich foods will also help keep you health.” Pickles and yogurt are two great options for this.
4. The bacteria in our intestines dictates our bowel movement
Here’s some news for you, collegiettes. Between 25,000 to 40,000 different species of bacteria live in our intestines! And, according to Dr. Scott, there is growing evidence that these bacteria largely dictate our health patterns, including the way we poop.
This is why it is so important to keep a balanced diet. “Overgrowths of certain types of bacteria are more likely to be found in people with diseases like depression, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune diseases and maybe even colon cancer,” Dr. Scott says. “So really, our goal should be to keep our intestinal bacteria happy.” It’s important to remember that the food you eat fuels your organs.
5. Diarrhea could be the result of too much fiber
Since you were young, you were probably taught that constipation is caused by a lack of fiber ––and this is absolutely true! “Fiber will help add bulk to the stools, while also making them semi-soft,” Dr. Scott says. “This creates a stool that is easy to pass through the intestines.” Dr. Scott recommends 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
But, what is the result of having too much fiber? Possibly an upset stomach. “If you take too much fiber beyond [the daily amount], you may actually experience diarrhea,” Dr. Scott says.
6. There are seven standard poop shapes
The Meyer's Scale is the general guide that doctors use when it comes to talking about the shape of stool. According to Dr. Scott, sausage-shaped poop is ideal and can be cracked on the surface or smooth and soft. Sausage-shaped stool that appears lumpy, or stool that comes out as soft blobs are also acceptable.
Dr. Scott says that your poop should easily pass through your body. "If it is pencil thin or ribbon like, this should be considered a sign of intestinal inflammation (which may have several causes)," he says. "There really shouldn't be any abdominal pain or even excessive farting. To take it one step further, a healthy gastrointestinal system will help keep your feces to not smell terribly bad." Gross, but informative.
If your poop is hard to pass and comes out as separate, hard lumps, you are most likely constipated, Dr. Scott adds. Alternatively, mushy or watery poop are two sure signs of diarrhea. Look out for any consistent abnormalities and reach out to a medical professional if you are concerned.
7. Coffee really does make you poop
Many people champion the pooping-power of coffee, but is there any truth behind the common belief that a cup of coffee makes you poop? Actually, yes!
According to Dr. Scott, the caffeine in coffee is a neurological stimulant. "The intestines have their own nervous system called the enteric nervous system," he says. "Caffeine stimulates the ENS to cause intestinal muscle contractions and thus the need to defecate." Finally, we have some reasoning behind our daily coffee-induced poop.
While many people shy away from shit talk, we encourage it! Knowing about your bodily function is always a good thing, collegiettes. Next time your poop is a little bit irregular, rest assured that you may have some clarity as to why.