A Poop Primer

A Poop Primer

Want to talk about your mom or dads bowel movements?

Me neither. But boy do they want to talk about them. My dad proudly describes his daily launch as occurring like clockwork and if he misses his regular splash down, you can bet Ill hear about it.

Might as well get it over-with. Heres what you need to know.

When a loved one has bowel movements that seem strange it can be distressing. Its important to know whats what “ which type could mean something dire and which ones are ok to flush from of your mind entirely. So heres more than you ever wanted to know on the subject:

Brown: The reason poop is brown is that the body produces and injects bile from the liver into it along the way “ and for good reason – that stuff digests fats and other hard-to-deal-with stuff we eat. So brown is a sign of a healthy liver and normal digestive process.

Green: Chances are if poop is this color it means someone has eaten lots of green veggies or something with green food coloring. It should go away. If green colored poop continues for a few days it could mean theyre having trouble digesting things properly (i.e. things are moving too quickly through the large intestine). If it continues, have them checked by the doctor.

Yellow: If poop is yellow, greasy and foul-smelling (more than usual) it can mean theyre not digesting fat well. It can lead to lots of negative consequences for the body so get some support (i.e. call the doctor) if yellow, especially stinky poop occurs for more than two or three bowel movements.

White: Sometimes white or pinkish/clay colored stool can show up when the bile duct, the tube that sends bile into the gut, is blocked. It can also mean the liver is not producing bile as it should. If this color continues for a while, follow up with a medical provider.

Black: The first thing to think about when you see black or very dark stool is, what medications or supplements have they started taking? Iron is a common culprit. However, black stool can also indicate something more serious, namely, bleeding higher up in the GI track (hence the blood has taken more time to get to the exit and turned black). It can also look granular, like coffee grounds. This should definitely get checked out by their physician.

Red: The most common causes of red or frank blood are hemorrhoids and small, anal fissures. These are very common, especially in elderly patients who often dont get enough water, fiber or exercise. Bleeding from a hemorrhoid or fissure should be scant and stop when the patient is cleaned up and goes back to their normal routine. If the bleeding is excessive and doesnt stop, seek help right away. But most of the time, a little blood on the toilet paper is a result of constipation and the angry exit and can be treated by addressing the cause with diet changes, stool softeners, laxatives, fiber supplements, etc. “ more on this in a later entry.

(What works: apply a little Vaseline to a sore back door, works wonders).

*A Super Important Tip About Poop

I cant tell you how many times our patients have called in a panic because their poop looks strange and it turns out “ it was something they ate. So before you (or they) freak out, think about their recent consumption of beats, asparagus, red Jell-O, tomato soup, new medications, iron, other supplements “ or anything else unusual and new to them. Explains a lot.

If in doubt and things just dont seem right in that department, go get it checked out by the doctor. When it comes to poop, knowledge is power. -LL


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