We've all heard the saying we are what we eat. It turns out our health is also what we poop. Many of us are quick to flush when our business is done, but a periodic examination of our stool can give clues about our bodies.
When it comes to cancer and other health issues, Dr. Trevan Fischer would be the first to say early detection is best. Through his work as a complex general surgical oncologist at his private practice in Santa Monica, California, and on clinical trials at the Saint John's Cancer Institute, he performs a variety of surgical procedures on everything from gallbladders and hernias to skin cancer and more.
Sometimes, our bathroom habits can alert us to a problem before more serious symptoms appear, resulting in an earlier diagnosis and potentially easier treatment.
Stool is formed in the large intestine and is the way the body rids itself of the waste left over from the food we eat. Everything from its size and texture to its color and consistency offers insight into our health.
Size and texture
One of the best ways to quantify your stool's size and texture is to use the Bristol Stool Scale. This visual classification tool breaks poop down into seven types, from type 1, which is separate hard lumps, to type 7, which is entirely liquid. Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation, while numbers 5, 6, and 7 point toward diarrhea and possible bowel issues. Types 3 and 4 are sausage-shaped with or without cracks on the surface and are ideal.
It's important to note that if stool suddenly becomes thin and stays that way consistently, it could be a sign of a colon blockage.
The ideal color of poop is brown. Its hue is due to a combination of food, bile that breaks down fats during the digestive process, and the bilirubin that occurs as red blood cells reach the end of their natural life cycle and leave the body.
Off-color stool can occur for various reasons, from the harmless, such as eating certain vegetables, fruits, or food dyes, to something more significant.
A bacterial or viral infection, parasite, some medications, and irritable bowel syndrome can all give poop a greenish hue.
Reddish stool can indicate bleeding. This could be from hemorrhoids or anal fissures or signs of ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, or colorectal cancer.
Blood from ulcers in the upper digestive tract can give poop a blackish tinge, as can taking iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol.
Yellowish or grayish
Liver, pancreas, and gallbladder problems can turn stool yellow or gray.
Oily or greasy stool can be a sign of your body not digesting fat properly. That could be due to an infection, celiac disease, or an issue with the pancreas.
Many changes in stool consistency, color, and more are temporary and resolve within a few days. However, if you notice a prolonged difference, get it checked out by a health professional. If you receive a diagnosis requiring surgery, Dr. Trevan Fischer can help. Click to book an appointment or call the office today at 310-807-2688.