What Your Bowel Movements Say About Your Health
Nobody likes to talk about their bathroom habits. But it’s hard not to wonder if your bowel movements are “normal” or not. The good news is that if it feels comfortable, then you’re probably in good shape.
“Normal bowel movements are relatively soft but dense,” says Gabriel Neal, MD., a family medicine doctor and clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “They should be any shade of brown or green.”
The reason for these different colors has to due with the amount of time it takes your food to digest. When it has a greenish tint, it means the food probably took a shorter time to digest.
Neal notes that there are also pathogens in the digestive tract that can affect color. Some of them are viral, others are bacterial.
“If an infection is in the lower intestines or colon, then the blood in your stool is going to be red,” Neal said. “If you find black blood, then the blood has oxidized and is from higher up in your digestive tract, such as the stomach or upper intestines.”
He adds that people suffering from gallbladder disease can sometimes have white stools.
Any of these symptoms are signs that you should contact your health care provider.
What about frequency?
If you go three times a week or less, you may be constipated. On the other hand, if you’re going more than six times a day, that’s too much.
Neal notes that if you experience either of these problems, the solution may be as simple as a glass of water or some added fiber.
Eating fiber-rich vegetables like broccoli, peas or Brussels sprouts can improve digestive health. Additionally, insoluble fibers—such as those found in vegetables, beans and legumes—pass through your system and soften your stool.
When you add plenty of water, it can help your bowel movements even further. “Fiber absorbs water from the lining of your colon and makes your stool easier to pass,” says Neal.
In the meantime, Neal warns that you shouldn’t ignore a significant change in bowel movement patterns. “If bowel movements hurt, are frequently strained or just look or feel different, then these problems should be addressed.”
SOURCE: Bowel Movements: What they Say about Your Health. News Article. Texas A&M College of Medicine. Sept 2016.