Let’s Discuss Bathroom Habits and What They Mean

Talking about your bathroom habits can be an uncomfortable topic. After all, it’s not the most charming subject. You too may have some questions you are too embarrassed to discuss with anyone. For example, how many times a day should you be going to the toilet? Is it bad if you find food particles in your stool? Should you be alarmed if your stool suddenly changes color?
These are all important questions, and it's perfectly normal if you want to know the answer to them. Remember that your bowel movements can reveal a lot about your health. In fact, your mood, your energy levels, and your overall productiveness are all linked to your bowel health. Here, we have attempted to answer a few of such relevant and potentially concerning questions.

1. How often should I be pooping?

Poop Health, man in WC
The majority of people clear their bowels at least once a day. However, this varies from person to person depending on their health, age, diet, activities, and other factors. Experts say that pooping three times a day to three times a week is perfectly normal, even though it is widely assumed that you must have a daily bowel movement. That’s not true. If twice a day or thrice a week feels normal to you and your body, don’t worry about what others have to say.

2. Is it okay if my poop is smelly?

Poop Health, smelly
If your poop emits a strong smell every time you clear your bowels, don’t be overly worried. Bowel movements usually have an unpleasant smell because gut bacteria produce several types of gases with unique odors. On some days, your stool may give off a particular smell because of the food you ate. That being said, if your stools have an abnormally strong and putrid smell for a long time, then it may be a sign of an underlying health issue like an infection or nutrient malabsorption.
Malabsorption is a disorder that happens when your body fails to absorb the right amount of nutrients from the food you eat. So, get yourself checked by your local physician if you continue having bowel movements with an unusually foul smell.

3. Is it normal to bleed a little?

Poop Health, bleeding
Blood in the stool can definitely make anyone feel worried. But there might be many reasons for this unpleasant experience. Sometimes, we strain too hard during a bowel movement, which causes the skin around the anus to tear, thus leading to blood in the stool. Blood can also appear due to irritation or inflammation in the bowels, anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and certain digestive conditions like ulcers. 
However, rectal bleeding may also be the sign of something more critical. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “rectal bleeding can sometimes be a sign of a serious condition like colorectal cancer.” So, if you are experiencing heavy and frequent bleeding during a bowel movement, you should get an appointment with your healthcare provider.

4. Should I be worried if I am constipated?

Poop Health, constipated
Have your bowel movements become less frequent? Is it more difficult for you to pass stools? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you may be suffering from constipation. Constipation can be caused by a variety of different things – changes in a diet, not drinking enough water, not getting enough exercise, or consuming foods low in fiber.
Thankfully, mild constipation can easily be treated. Drink more water, eat more fiber-rich foods, get regular exercise, and have a balanced diet to alleviate the symptoms of constipation. That being said, chronic constipation may be indicative of a more serious health condition. If lifestyle changes don't help your symptoms, you should get yourself examined. 

5. What if my poop has changed color?

Poop Health, color
The normal color of poop is brown or somewhere in the yellow-to-brown category. This is because of the presence of bile in the stool, which is made by the liver. Black or clay-colored poop can be a cause for concern. Black stools can be a sign of bleeding or some other infection in your gastrointestinal tract.
White or clay-colored bowel movements may suggest that you have a blockage in your bile duct. However, black stools may also be caused by certain medications. If that’s not the case, and you continue having black or white-colored stool, it’s time to see your doctor.
Read our article on the different colors and shades of stool for more information.

6. Should I be alarmed if I see food in my stool?

Poop Health, food
Seeing some recognizable, undigested food in the stool may get anyone worried, but it's often not a good reason to be alarmed. One of the most common causes of undigested food in the stool is fibrous food. Our body has the ability to break down most food, except for insoluble fiber, which passes through our digestive tract mostly indigested.
Some of the high-fiber food particles that can often be seen in stools are peas, corn, beans, seeds, and skins of vegetables. Don’t be overly concerned if you see these food particles in your stool, though. Instead, try eating slower and chew your food properly. Once food is thoroughly chewed, your digestive enzymes can break it down more easily. These changes will ensure that fewer food particles appear in your stool.
However, if you start experiencing other symptoms like persistent diarrhea or unexplained weight loss along with food particles in your stool, then you should see a doctor.

7. Why does poop refuse to sink sometimes?

Poop Health, sink
Are you having frequent trouble flushing it all down the toilet? According to health experts, floating stools are often a sign of high-fat content, which may indicate that you are suffering from malabsorption. It may also be caused by excess gas. Some foods like milk, cabbage, beans, and soft drinks can cause gas in stools and make them float. 
The occasional floating stool shouldn’t make you worried. But if the stools also have a strong unpleasant smell and appear greasy, then it may suggest you have severe malabsorption. Malabsorption is associated with conditions like celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal tract infections. If you suspect that something is wrong, a trip to the doctor is warranted.

8. Why is my poop shaped like pellets?

Poop Health, pellets
When it comes to poop, size usually doesn’t matter. As long as you don't strain yourself, there's no need to worry. However, if a bowel movement can be described as small and hard, almost shaped like rabbit pellets, it may point to constipation. It may also mean that your diet is low in fiber. If you get enough fiber in your diet, your stool should be soft and easy to pass. Generally, adults consume 15 grams or less of fiber a day, which isn’t sufficient enough.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended fiber intake is 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women over the age of 50. Try and include fiber-rich foods in your diet like berries, pears, oranges, and broccoli, carrots, and sweetcorn.
Pebbly stools can also be a sign of dehydration, so drinking more water daily may help soften the stool. Lastly, sudden and long-lasting changes in stool shape can point to an underlying health condition and require professional help. 
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