What your stool tells about your gut health
Going to the bathroom can be a good indicator of bowel health. Watching your stool can help identify problems with your bowel health early. Bowel movements can be an indication of illness if there is a change in bowel habits.
A change in the color and consistency of the stool may be due to bowel problems, which in turn can affect overall well-being and indicate a more serious condition. For these reasons, stool observation is important and recommended.
Stool types and signs
Problems in the digestive tract can be identified by more than just the type of stool. Related intestinal health problems are often accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal cramps, unexplained weight loss and other signs of physical discomfort.
However, observation of stool can serve as a reliable indicator of health problems. Hard stools are a clear sign of constipation and inadequate fluid intake. Frequent, loose stools, on the other hand, are a sign of diarrhea. Both may be due to diet or lifestyle - or may be a symptom of an underlying condition.
- Bright red blood in the stool is usually an indication of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract, such as the colon or rectum. It could also be due to hemorrhoids or be a sign of colon or rectal cancer.
- Dark tarry and sticky stools usually result from bleeding in the upper intestinal tract. The characteristic of the stool is called melena when the blood has undergone changes in the digestive tract. Dark stools may also be a symptom of a temporary or chronic digestive disorder or the result of a diet too high in fat.
- Black stools may indicate bleeding in the upper intestinal tract, such as the stomach. The person may also be taking medication, such as iron supplements.
- Pale, bulky, greasy, unpleasant stools are an indication of liver or gallbladder problems.
- Green stools might be experienced without any other symptoms. Leafy green vegetables or food coloring likely are the cause. If occurring with other symptoms, such as consistent diarrhea or vomiting that does not improve, green stool could indicate a condition such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
- Yellow, greasy, foul-smelling stool indicates excess fat in the excretions, such as due to malabsorption disorder.
How to maintain gut health?
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Such a diet is high in nutrients and fiber and is associated with a lower risk of colon and rectal cancer.
Red meats such as beef, pork and lamb have also been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The same warning applies to processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and midday meals such as cooked meats, cold cuts, charcuterie and deli meats.
- Get regular exercise: If you are not physically active, you may have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. Being more active can help lower your risk.
- Watch your weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing colon or rectal cancer. A healthier diet combined with more physical activity can help control body weight and thus lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Don’t smoke: People who have smoked for a long time have a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer than non-smokers.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. It's best not to drink alcohol at all. If you do, however, the American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
If you are over 45 years of age, we recommend that your annual health screening includes a stool exam and an occult blood test, to detect blood that is not visible. Colonoscopy screenings for healthy individuals should be scheduled in 5 year intervals.
How Bumrungrad specialists can assist in ensuring gut health
Specialized Bumrungrad doctors and clinics examine and evaluate any concerns about bowel health. Patients can rely upon a comprehensive diagnosis and are provided with recommended treatment options to ensure bowel health.
3rd floor, Building B, North wing
Tel 02 011 2351-2 (8:00 - 18:00 hrs.)
Tel 1378 (20:00 - 8:00 hrs.)
E-mail: [email protected]