As a species, there are certain things that we humans don't like to talk about much. One of those things is definitely sex – but others include dying, money, fears and toilet habits. What's unfortunate, is that all these things that we try to avoid talking about, are the very same things that need a lot of attention and scrutiny.
Talking about toilet habits is a good example of this. Most of us don't really like to talk about how often we go to the toilet, or what it looks like, because we find it embarrassing. And anyway, who really wants to hear about how much you poo?
This is unfortunate though, when you consider just how much insight our faeces can provide us with when it comes to our health. Your toilet habits can tell you a lot about the state of your body and your health and keeping a close eye on them is a great way to be updated regarding any imminent problems.
Here then, we're going to look at some of the things you should be asking about your toilet habits. We'll look at what's normal, when you should be worried and how to tell a good poo from a bad poo. Just because you don't like talking about it, doesn't mean you shouldn't at least be thinking about it.
How Often Should You Poo?
The first question on many people's minds when it comes to their toilet habits, is just how much they should be going. What's a normal amount of times to go in a day?
The answer is that everyone is different and thus there is no 'correct' amount of times to use the toilet. There is a normal range however, which is once every three days at the lower end and three times a day at the higher end. If you are going more than three times a day on a regular basis, or if you haven't been for four days… then you might want to start worrying.
Ultimately this should balance out at around one ounce of stool for every twelve ounces of bodyweight. If you weigh 120 pounds, you should be producing just less than a pound of stool every day. Impressively, you will likely produce about 9,000lbs of poop throughout the course of your life. To put that in perspective, that's equivalent to 47 grown men, 27 lions, 3 cars or half a tyrannosaurus rex…
If you're not going and you suspect you have constipation, then you should increase fibre and water intake. If that doesn't help you should speak to a professional.
Texture and Shape
Faeces should consist of around 75 percent water, with the rest being dead and living bacteria, waste material that's left over from food, linings of cells, fibres, fats, salts and insoluble foods that don't get broken down.
The texture of your poo should be generally soft though not too 'mushy'. If it is too watery and doesn't hold its shape, then you may be suffering from diarrhoea. Why does diarrhoea cause this? It's because the stool is passing too quickly through your intestines, meaning that there's no chance for any of the fluid to be absorbed by the body. If it's too hard on the other hand, then you might be somewhat dehydrated and not getting enough fluids. Try increasing your intake of water.
In terms of shape, your poo should look like a torpedo. It has to travel through 30 feet of intestinal tract in order to reach your rear end, and on this journey it will get shaped by the narrow passage. If it's the right consistency then it will hold this shape and drop out easily.
What if it's not that shape? Well, if you're point in little balls, this suggests it is staying too long inside the intestines, causing water to be reabsorbed. This is often due to a lack of fibre in the diet, so get eating some oatmeal in the mornings!
Skinny poos meanwhile can be the result of a mass in the colon causing the stool to be forced through. This may suggest colon cancer or polyps and is another good reason to speak with your doctor.
And what of floaters? A floater suggests that there is too much fat in your stool, which means your body isn't properly absorbing it. This in turn can be the result of malabsorption conditions, of weight loss drugs or of Olestra. You may also notice that floating turds are the smelliest.
In terms of the colour of stool, the ideal should be a solid brown colour. If your poo is red then this might mean lower GI bleeding and it's worth checking with a doctor… unless you've eaten red foods like beets lately that is.
If your poop is very green, this can either mean you've eaten a lot of leafy greens, or it might mean that you have some undigested bile in there – which could be a sign of Crohn's disease. This can also be caused by antibiotics.
Yellow poo is in some cases a sign of gallbladder issues or giardia – a form of parasite. White suggests the use of antacids like aluminium hydroxide, or possibly the presence of liver disease or pancreatic disorders. Black can be a sign of upper GI bleeding, the use of iron supplements (used to treat anaemia for example) or too much protein.
If you notice discolouration in your stool that isn't likely to be caused by recent diet changes, then you should go and see a doctor immediately.