POO isn't exactly a topic for polite conversation.
But the more you know about it, the better informed about your health you can be.
That's because your number twos can tell you a thing or two about your diet and digestion.
It can even let you know you're suffering from digestive problems, a stomach bug or something more serious that needs to be checked out, like early signs of cancer.
Here we lift the lid on all things poo, from what what its shape, smell and colour can tell you to whether it should float.
1. What's your poo made of?
This may seem like a silly question to ask. In your head you're probably saying: "The food I ate, surely!"
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That is true to an extent – your stools do contain fibre that you ingest.
But research conducted in 2015 shows that most of your poop – 75 per cent in fact – is made up of water.
The remainder is a combination of fibre, dead and live bacteria, cells and mucus.
The type of fibre you eat can actually affect how easy your food is to digest and it will affect the look of your number twos too.
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According to Mount Sinai, soluble fibre – found in oats, beans, lentils, seeds nuts and some fruit and veg – attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, which makes the process slower.
Insoluble fibre found in corn, wheat bran and most veggies is more difficult for your body to break down so they pass through your stomach intestines more quickly.
2. What does the colour of your poo mean?
Most poop is brown, but it does come in a variety of other shades, from red to green to black.
Red is one of the colours that you shouldn't ignore, unless you've recently eaten red food like beetroots.
Blood in your poo can be a sign of bowel cancer, along with changes in your poo habits for over three weeks, tiredness and weight loss.
In such cases, your poo can bright red but it can also be a darker red or black, depending on where in your intestine your bleeding is happening.
The blood in your poo can be caused by different conditions, such as a tummy bug, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome or even piles, according to the NHS.
Even if these conditions are less serious, they still requite medical attention.
Yellow poo is also worth seeing a GP about, as it could mean you have coeliac disease, when your body can’t handle a protein called gluten, which is in wheat, barley, and rye.
According to Guts UK, around one in 100 people have the condition.
Green poop mostly means you've eaten lots of green veggies, though it can sometimes signify a bacterial infection or be dyed that colour from your medication, according Charlotte Dawson, a registered nurse and head of support and information at Bowel Cancer UK.
3. What does the shape of your poo mean?
Yep, the shape of your poo can also be pretty enlightening.
You might have heard to the Bristol Stool Chart, which analyses what different poop consistencies mean.
It goes as follows:
- Type one: Separate hard lumps, hard to pass – this indicates severe constipation
- Type two: Sausage-shaped but lumpy – you're mildly constipated
- Type three: Sausage-shaped but with cracks on its surface – this is a normal poo, so you're good to go
- Type four: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft – also normal
- Type five: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges that's passed easily – you're lacking fibre in your diet
- Type six: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool – you have mild diarrhoea
- Type seven: Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid – you're in trouble, you have severe diarrhoea
If your poo consistently looks like types six or seven, its definitely worth speaking to your GP as- it could indicate an infection, food poisoning, or a gastrointestinal illness.
4. All poop is smelly – does mine smell 'too bad'?
There is such thing as poop that smells too bad.
Foul-smelling number twos could have a number of causes, but they usually indicate something's not quite right.
Coeliac or Crohn's disease could be the cause, as well as malabsorption – this is when your body isn't fully able to absorb certain sugars, fats, proteins, or vitamins.
Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist at Penn Medicine Princeton Health told Everyday Health that super stinky poos could also be a sign of an infection.
5. How often should I be pooing?
There isn't really a right or wrong amount of times to poo – whether you're visiting the loo a few times a day or a couple times a week.
Studies suggest 98 per cent of people go between three times a day and three times a week.
They key is what's normal for you, according to Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of patientaccess.com.
The majority of people have a "fairly regular pooing pattern", she said, so veering off that for some time is a red flag you should speak to a GP about.
Knowing what's normal for you is key to being able to spot signs of bowel cancer, which can cause you to need to poo more or less often than usual and change the consistency of your stools.
6. How do I know if I have diarrhoea or I'm constipated?
Diarrhoea is the result of your poop passing too quickly through the large intestine, where most of the water content is absorbed. You'll know you're suffering from it if you're passing looser, watery or more frequent poos, according to NHS Inform.
It can be caused by a virus, various strains of bacteria and even parasites.
You don't usually need to seek treatment for diarrhoea as it should clear up after just a few days. Just make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids to make up for what you're losing.
Constipation, on the other hand, is when it takes too long for stool to pass through.
The NHS says you'll know you have it if not pooing as often or finding it hard to poo.
The most common causes include:
- not eating enough fibre, found in fruits, vegetables and cereals
- not drinking enough fluids
- spending long periods sitting or lying down
- being less active and not exercising
- often ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
- changing your diet or daily routine
- a side effect of medicine
- stress, anxiety or depression
The NHS suggested making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle to loosen things up a little, by gradually increasing the fibre in your diet and drinking plenty of water while steering clear of alcohol.
You can try snacking on apples, apricots, grapes, raisins, raspberries and strawberries, which could act as a mild laxative. Wheat bran and oats will also be your best friends.
You should speak to a GP if you're still finding it hard to poop despite making the above changes.
7. Should my poo sink or float?
According to research, whether your poop sinks or swims has to do with its gas content.
It's OK if your stool floats in the toilet bowl occasionally, as it'll most likely be caused by something you ate.
But floaters that look greasy and smell foul could indicate poor absorption of foods.
Another reason can be high fat content in your poop, known as steatorrhea. It can mean you're not absorbing the fat in your meals properly, which can be a consequence of coeliac disease or chronic pancreatitis.
Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten, damaging your gut so your body can't properly absorb nutrients.
Chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas – an organ helping digestion – has become permanently damaged from inflammation and stops working properly.
So ideally, your poop should mostly sink. If you're noticing frequent floaters, see a GP.
8. How often is it normal to fart?
As much we try to hide it, everyone farts – some people more than others, admittedly.
NHS GP Doctor Sooj recently suggested that the average person farts between five and 15 times a day.
The NHS said: "What's normal is different for everyone."
But it added that there are things you can do if you notice a change in the amount you toot or your flatulence is affecting your life, like eating smaller meals, exercising regularly and drinking peppermint tea.
Sas Parsad, nutritionist and the founder and supplement expert at The Gut Co, recently revealed five surprising foods that are making you gassy – including milk, fish and chips and some fruits.
However, if you experience persistent bloating that's not related to meals or keeps coming back, it's worth raising with a GP.
9. How long should I spend on the toilet?
Many of us sneak our phone to the loo to scroll while we do our business.
But sitting on the bowl for too long can have some not so pleasant consequences. You might develop piles – also known as haemorrhoids – which are painful lumps inside and around your bottom.
Straining to poop for ages can also make the lumps worse, as you're applying pressure to your backside.
According to the NHS, symptoms of piles can include:
- bright red blood after you poo
- an itchy bum
- feeling like you still need to poo after going to the toilet
- mucus in your underwear or on toilet paper after wiping your bottom
- lumps around your anus
- pain around your anus
10. Your phone might be covered in poo particles
On the subject of phones and loos, you definitely want to make sure you're washing your hands thoroughly after you poo, otherwise you might be spreading germs to unintended places.
Nauseatingly, that includes your phone.
Recent research by SellCell found that E.Coli and Faecal Streptococci were found on 100 per cent of smartphone screens.
11. Poo transplants are a thing
And finally, poo transplants can be super effective at treating various illnesses.
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In fact, a recent study found that faecal transplants – when stool from a healthy person is placed in the colon of an infected person – was more effective than antibiotics in treating Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a type of bacteria that can cause diarrhoea, high temperature and a loss of appetite.
Scientists are also exploring if this method could help people with inflammatory bowel disease, autism and obesity, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Signs of bowel cancer
Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:
- changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
- needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
- blood in your poo, which may look red or black
- bleeding from your bottom
- often feeling like you need to poo, even if you've just been to the toilet
- tummy pain
- losing weight without trying
- feeling very tired for no reason
How to tell if you're bleeding from your bottom
You might be bleeding from your bum if you have:
- blood on your toilet paper
- red streaks on the outside of your poo
- pink water in the toilet bowl
- blood in your poo or bloody diarrhoea
- very dark poo (this can be blood mixed in poo)
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