The material provided below is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. You should always seek medical advice before consuming any new medicines or supplements.
The information provided herein is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as medical advice or to replace professional medical care. You should always seek the advice of a medical professional before starting any new medication or dietary supplement. The opinions stated herein are those solely of the writer and do not portray the opinions of the Culturelle® brand, i-Health, Inc., or DSM.
Dr. Shethº is a gastroenterologist with his A.B. degree and medical degree from Brown University. He is the Chief of Gastroenterology at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. Dr. Sheth is the recipient of various honors and recognitions and has several publications in numerous medical journals.
Most of us are inclined to quickly flush away our bowel movements without taking a peek in the toilet bowl—it is waste, after all. But it turns out, a quick glance can yield valuable information about your diet and digestive health.
What is Poop?
This may sound like a simple question but the digestive process is actually quite complex. Poop is a collection of digestive waste, insoluble fiber (i.e., corn kernels), bacteria, intestinal cells and water. When things are working smoothly, our body breaks down the food we eat and absorbs nutrients in the small intestine. The rest passes through into the large intestine where it resides anywhere from one to three days until it is ready to be eliminated.
Look Before You Flush
Poop consistency, frequency, color and even aroma can tell you a lot about your health. The longer it takes for stool to move through the system, the harder and dryer it becomes. This is because the large intestine absorbs water from stool. Smooth, timely transit will ensure that poop is soft and easy to pass. Having trouble with occasional hard, infrequent stools? Try drinking more water, eating more fiber and exercising regularly—three things that can help reduce occasional digestive upset.
Loose or liquid stools can indicate a problem with digestion, infection or medication side effects, most commonly antibiotics. Frequent loose stools can occur in those with lactose intolerance or celiac disease. It is important to speak with your doctor about any issues you are having; to come up with a plan of action.
Changes in poop color or smell are important to note, as well. Dark or red poop can signal intestinal bleeding (or a healthy helping of beets!), while yellow or green stools are seen in gastrointestinal infections.
In general, short-lived changes in your poop are not cause for concern. Persistent changes can indicate a problem with your digestive system and should prompt a visit to your doctor.
Role of Intestinal Bacteria
In addition to diet and the other factors mentioned above, our intestinal bacteria play an important role in maintaining gut health. Previously believed to be bystanders, we now know colonic bacteria play an active role in our digestive process.
A healthy balance of bacteria is vital to help keep digestion working smoothly. Poor diet, stress and medications can lead to a non-beneficial bacterial milieu which, in turn, can lead to occasional undesirable changes to poop consistency. In addition, since bacteria are responsible for fermentation in the colon, occasional bacterial imbalance can cause increased gas and bloating.
The good news is taking a proven probiotic like the one in Culturelle® on a daily basis helps restore a healthy balance to your gut bacteria.* Culturelle® contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG®, the most widely studied probiotic strain on the market.†† In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, probiotics like Culturelle® can help relieve occasional digestive upset and help support bacterial balance. *
Poop provides valuable information regarding your diet and health and can be the first sign of digestive difficulties. A quick glance is all it takes. Don’t like what you see in the bowl? Occasional issues can usually be altered by diet changes, regular exercise and restoring bacterial balance with a clinically proven probiotic like the one in Culturelle®.* Persistent changes should prompt a visit to your doctor.
Next time: look before you flush!