By Evangeline Majawat
Does potty talk bother you? Are you grossed out by chats about poop and urine?
Mother of three, Maryanne Gomez, says she was once horrified if anyone dared to bring up the subject of poop because “it was not a proper subject”. “My parents were shy when it came to talking about bowel movements. The only exception was when we were ill with diarrhea.
However, everything changed when Gomez turned vegetarian 10 years ago. She said she started noticing that her poop was a lighter colour, with less odour. Then one day, it turned black.
Gomez thought it was all normal and caused by the changes in her new diet but as it turned out, she was wrong! She soon wound up in hospital and was diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. “The doctor said I should have noticed something was wrong when my poo turned black. That was my warning sign!”
So, even if potty chat is not your favourite topic, it is certainly worth taking the time to inspect your ‘goods’ as it can tell you a lot about your health.
Don’t just flush it and forget it!
What comes out of you is a good indicator of how well you are doing on the inside.
According to general practitioner Dr. K. Y Lim people usually talk about their poop and bowel movements when they are constipated or suffering from diarrhea. “You’d be surprised by the number of patients that I’ve seen who get terribly embarrassed when I ask them about their stools,” he shares.
Dr. Lim explains that stool consists of water, fibre, undigested food, bacteria and dead cells from your intestines. “Your stool gives an insight to your diet, digestive system and overall health.”
Clues in the Toilet
Doctors use the Bristol stool chart, also known as the Meyers scale, to classify human feces into seven categories. This special medical aid was developed by Dr. Ken Heaton at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Heaton deduced that the shape and form of the stool is a useful measure of the colon transit time, which is the time it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract.
The seven types of stool according to the Bristol stool chart are:
- Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
- Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy
- Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface
- Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
- Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)
- Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges or mushy stool
- Type 7: Watery, with no solid pieces. Entirely liquid
Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation, with 3 and 4 being ideal stools (especially the latter). Type 5, 6 and 7 are considered diarrhoea.
Dr Lim advises everyone to remember the 4S when inspecting poop: Shape, size, smell and shade.
- Pellet-like, hard and dry poop – This means too much time spent in your digestive tract. You should add more fibre to your diet and drink more water. Certain medications can also cause constipation.
- Too soft or liquid – It is moving too fast through the digestive tract. It could be from an infection, increase in fibre or intolerance to certain types of food.
- Pencil-thin – Possible obstruction in the digestive tract that is blocking the stool.
“Black coloured stools indicate internal bleeding in the upper digestive tract, either from an ulcer or cancer. Red means bleeding in the lower tract or possibly from certain foods such as beetroot or dragon fruit,” explains, Dr. Lim. “Light coloured or green stools could mean liver or pancreatic diseases.”
Khaki coloured poo that is sticky and smelly points to a diet that could be too rich in fat.
The Sensible Approach
“Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, drink more water and exercise. If you find it hard to go to the toilet, eat more fibre and wholegrains. Try not to strain because it could cause haemorrhoids,” advises Dr Lim.
If you notice any abnormalities in your stool or urine, visit your doctor immediately. As they say, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.