Let’s talk about poop.
Sure, it’s not exactly a conversation to have around the dinner table, but it’s important to learn everything you can about bowel movements — what’s unusual, what’s healthy, and what’s not. Why? Because your poo is a vital clue to your overall health and digestion.
Your stool can reveal severe signs of infection, digestive issues, and even early signs of cancer. From the color and consistency to the odor and texture, the details of your poo can tell you quite a bit about what’s going on in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract — and whether you should consider seeing a GI doctor.
You may already know that green poop is usually a result of eating greens, but what exactly is the gut trying to say when there’s blood in our poop? Does bloody stool warrant a trip to the ER? What’s considered normal?
You have questions, and we have answers. Read on to get the scoop on bloody poop.
But First, What Exactly Is Poop Made From?
Simply put, feces are the remains of food that bacteria (aka, your gut bugs) have fermented and that the small intestine could not digest or absorb. So, as a result, they are flushed out from the body via the excretory system. The final output of your digestive system represents a combo of what you’ve eaten, your hydration levels, and your general health.
In short, normal, healthy poop is typically made up of:
- Water — about 75 percent
- Undigested food — mostly fiber
- Waste products produced by the body — including broken-down red blood cells
- Microbes — gut bacteria and other microorganisms
- Dead epithelial cells — shed from the gut lining
- Mucus — slimy
Your poop also contains small traces of metabolic waste products. For instance, it contains bilirubin, which is the breakdown product of red blood cells and bile (called stercobilin), giving your poo its iconic brown color.
What Should Healthy Stool Look Like?
Think of the poop emoji; your poo should be that color — brown. Of course, healthy stool can be as varied and as unique as the individuals who make it, but more often than not, any shade of brown is indicative of a healthy gut.
In addition to it being brown in color, there are a few other general rules to follow if you want to assess the “artistry” of your poo for optimal health:
- A just right texture. Poop that is not too hard and not too soft is what you want in the toilet bowl after doing your… thang. Doctors often use a handy tool called the Bristol Stool Scale to help patients discover if their poop is the correct consistency. When comparing your business to the scale, type 3 and type 4 are considered “normal.”
Earthy tones are generally best. As mentioned, poop should be brown — any shade of brown. If your diet is rich in leafy greens, you may notice a greenish tint to your poo.
Although it may be alarming, leprechaun stool is usually nothing to worry about. However, if your bowel movements look extra light or dark, it could be a sign of trouble, and you should consider making an appointment with your doc to get checked out.
- Steady paced. According to research, the time it takes for your food to make it into your poop is linked to the diversity of your gut microbiome. You see, healthy transit times should be between 12 to 48 hours, so if you’re experiencing variations, it could be indicative of an unbalanced gut.
What’s the Deal on Bloody Stool?
Now that you know what’s considered healthy, let’s chat a bit about bloody stool, shall we?
First things first, if you notice blood in your feces, you’re likely not going to die, and everything will be A-OK. In other words — don’t panic. Yes, bloody stool can be scary, but the truth is that it happens.
That being said, bloody poo can be indicative of a serious issue that may be detrimental in some cases, so it’s important to know what the blood in your poop is trying to tell you.
Medically referred to as hematochezia, blood in the stool can occur for a number of reasons, including:
When swollen blood vessels in the rectum get irritated due to constipation or pressure from the pelvis, hemorrhoids (aka piles) are likely to crop up — and when they do, it’s not uncommon to find bright red blood on your toilet paper after wiping. In fact, hemorrhoids are the most common culprit behind blood in poop.
If a pesky hemorrhoid is the cause of your bloody stool, the blood will be bright red in color. While they usually aren’t dangerous, these little nuisances can be very uncomfortable.
An anal fissure is another common cause of blood in poop. Like hemorrhoids, the blood from anal fissures is almost always bright red in color (lower GI bleeding).
More often than not, anal fissures form as a result of being constipated or trying to pass hard stools. Pressure from the pelvis causes these painful cracks to appear in the delicate skin around the anus. Fortunately, anal fissures usually heal on their own.
If you get hemorrhoids or anal fissures on the reg, your gut could be trying to tell you that it needs more fiber. Fill your plate with fiber-rich foods, and be sure to drink plenty of H2O to help keep stools soft for easy passage.
Open wounds that develop in either the lining of the stomach, the upper portion of the small intestine, or both, a peptic ulcer occurs when the highly acidic digestive fluids in the GI tract eat away at the protective layer that lines the gut. As the lining of the stomach or small intestine erodes and sores develop, bleeding can occur.
Since this bleeding takes place higher up in the GI tract, blood in poop via a peptic ulcer will appear dark red or black and tarry. In addition to peptic ulcers, upper GI bleeding can also be a result of:
- Gastritis — inflammation of the stomach lining
- Gastroenteritis — inflammation of the stomach and intestines
- Esophageal Varices — enlarged veins in the esophagus
- Stomach Varcises — enlarged veins in the stomach
- Injury — tears in the esophagus, either from trauma or from prolonged, violent vomiting
If you think that the blood in your poo is trying to tell you that you’ve got some upper GI bleeding going on, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
What Are Other Causes of Blood in Poop?
In addition to what we’ve previously discussed, other causes of blood in poop include:
- Colon Polyps
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Diverticular Bleeding
- Colon Cancer
- Crohn’s Disease
- Certain Medications (like Coumadin, Lovenox, and Eliquis)
And in some cases, what looks like bloody poo is really just coloring from something you’ve eaten. Artificial food coloring and dyes are notorious for making stools red — beets may do the same thing. If you’re experiencing bloody poop and aren’t sure what the cause may be, it is best to consult your healthcare provider to determine possible causes and treatment options.
Whether the blood in your poo is due to a little rectal bleeding from a hemorrhoid or anal fissure; dark red, sticky, and tarry; or bright red and completely random, there’s no denying that bloody stool can be a bit scary. Fortunately, though, it’s not always a major cause for concern.
If you notice a large amount of red blood in a bowel movement or feel nauseous, dizzy, or fatigued, seek emergency medical attention as it could be a sign of something serious.
To support the health of your gut and promote healthy blood-free poops, opt for a clean diet full of fiber-rich foods and drink plenty of H2O. We also suggest taking a daily probiotic — like Gut Feelings Probiotics. In one easy-to-swallow capsule, our innovative probiotic and prebiotic formula supports healthy gut function and digestion. What’s not to love?
Here at Love Wellness, we create natural solutions for natural problems. Why? Because we experience them too, that’s why! From funky smells and weird discharge to belly bloat and sexual health, you can always count on us to have just what you need to thrive.
Check us out today and see how we can help you to feel your best!
Your Digestive System & How it Works | NIDDK
HOW OFTEN DOES THE AVERAGE PERSON POOP? | UMASS
Excretory System – The Definitive Guide | Biology Dictionary
The bowel movement beet test: How to measure your digestive ‘transit time’ | National | Globalnews.ca