How To Know If You Are Constipated – We all poop, but for most of us it’s too embarrassing to talk about. But paying attention to the size, smell, color and texture of your stool can reveal a lot about your health.
A growing body of evidence shows that the health of your gut—home to trillions of bacteria—has the ability to influence many aspects of your physical and mental health, including how your immune system works.
How To Know If You Are Constipated
“It’s important to normalize talking about stool, because problems with it can indicate problems with the digestive system. If it’s something serious, it’s important to catch it early,” says Dr Rhianna McClymont, head of family medicine at B. Here’s what you need to know about healthy stool, The main warning signs to look out for and when to talk to the doctor.
A Root Cause Approach To Constipation
When it comes to your poop, it’s important to know what’s normal for you. But if you’re not sure, the Bristol Stool Chart below is a good illustration of a healthy stool.
Hard stools or pill-like stools can indicate constipation, explains Dr. McClymont. You are likely constipated if you have not had a bowel movement at least 3 times in the past week and you have pain or straining when going to the bathroom. You may also feel bloated, sick, or have an upset stomach. Common causes include lack of fiber, dehydration, inactivity, medications, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Drinking plenty of water and eating enough fiber are important, says Dr McClymont. Gentle movement and exercise can also help keep your bowels moving.
“Loose stools or diarrhea can be caused by intestinal infections, food intolerances, certain medications, hyperthyroidism, or intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease. Certain foods are also to blame, such as alcohol, caffeine, and spicy or fatty foods,” said Dr. McClymont. Stress and anxiety can also cause diarrhea, due to the strong connection between the gut and the brain.
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One of the main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 10 to 15% of people worldwide, is loose stools. “Many people find that their IBS symptoms worsen when they go through periods of significant stress,” explains Dr. McClymont.
“Treatment for loose stools will depend on the individual trigger, but in general it’s important to stay hydrated, eat plenty of fiber and avoid foods you’ve identified as irritating to your digestive system,” she says.
Seeing bright red blood in your stool may be alarming, but blood in stool is more common than you think. It can be caused by anal fissures, hemorrhoids, IBD or diverticulitis (a digestive condition affecting the large intestine).
It can also be a sign of colon cancer. According to Dr. McClymont, red flag indicators of IBD or colon cancer include:
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Taking iron tablets to treat iron deficiency is a common cause of darker stools, as is eating foods like black licorice. But it can also be a symptom of a bleeding ulcer or stomach cancer.
“Stools that are black and scaly can indicate problems such as gastrointestinal bleeding,” said Dr. McClymont. “It’s important to talk to a doctor if you find this in your stool, as you may need further testing.”
If your stool looks greasy, floaty and hard to wash, it means you are not absorbing enough nutrients from your food (malabsorption) or producing bile or enzymes to digest food effectively. Other common symptoms of malabsorption include excessive gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, weight loss, and indigestion.
“There are several reasons for this,” explains Dr. McClymont. “If it happens with your stool, it’s best to talk to your family doctor.”
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“Mucus in the stool can be a sign of infection or an underlying disorder such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which are two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),” says Dr. McClymont. Tears or open wounds near the anus (anus fissure), ulcers, IBS and food allergies can also increase mucus production.
“If you see mucus in your stool and have changes in your bowel patterns, stomach pain, or blood in your stool, bring it up with a doctor.”
The stool can be any color from brown to purple. “Certain foods can change the color of your stool,” says Dr. McClymont.
“Beets, for example, can cause a pink-pink color, which can be quite alarming at first glance. A diet very rich in spinach and leafy greens can also cause stools to be more green.’
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Bile is produced in the liver and gives stool its brown color, so if your stool is pale, it could be a sign that the liver is not producing enough bile or that the flow may be blocked. “If you detect it, talk to a doctor because it may require further investigation,” said Dr. McClymont.
If your stool smells worse than usual, it could indicate anything from constipation to an infection or food intolerance. It can also be caused by recent changes in your diet.
“If you’re concerned or the stool smells accompanied by other things like lower abdominal pain, fever, or blood in your stool, bring it up with a doctor,” says Dr. McClymont.
“It’s different for everyone. Many people will throw one bowel movement every day, but others may have two a day or one every day. The main thing is to consider what is ‘normal’ for you,” said Dr. McClymont. “If the frequency of your stools suddenly changes, and you If you experience constipation or start having many bowel movements a day when you normally only have one, it is better to talk to the doctor,” he said.
What To Do If Constipated?
If you’re embarrassed to talk to your doctor about your bowel movements, Dr. McClymont recommends using the Bristol stool chart, which can help clarify the consistency of your stool and whether it has changed. The doctor may do blood tests and a rectal examination and ask you to provide a small sample of stool. “It’s normal to give a stool sample and it’s normal for GPs to ask patients to do it,” Dr McClymont said. ‘It is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.’ If you are concerned about your stools or stools, a doctor can help identify the cause and advise the necessary treatment.
If you are concerned that your stool may be a symptom of an underlying condition, make an appointment with a doctor who can provide you with proper treatment.
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General and seasonal health – October 10, 2022 Why do I get sick when I have a bowel movement? 8 Causes of Bowel Pain Find out everything you need to know about painful bowel movements, including causes, other symptoms, what to do and when to get help Read more The Bristol Stool Chart is a pictorial diagram commonly used in healthcare that you can use to classify your stools. Type 1 and Type 2 indicate constipation.
Good Foods To Relieve Constipation
Making small changes in fluid intake, fiber intake and activity level can change the shape of stool to make it easier for the body to push waste through the digestive tract.
Aim to drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid each day. This will soften your stool and make it easier to pass.
Water, tea, coffee, milk, yogurt drinks, liquid juices, fruit juices, sodas, carbonated juices, soups and broths all count.
Alcohol does not count towards your fluid intake and can increase the risk of dehydration so it is best to limit or avoid alcohol if you are constipated.
Foods To Avoid If You Are Constipated
Check the color of your urine. This is a good indicator of whether or not you’re drinking enough. If you drink enough, your urine will be pale or straw-colored. If your urine is dark, you need to drink more to prevent dehydration.
As part of a healthy balanced diet, the general population is encouraged to eat 30 grams of fiber per day. This may be difficult to achieve especially if you have a poor appetite.
Foods with a higher fiber content can make you feel fuller and tend to have fewer calories in them. If you have a small appetite or are trying to gain weight this may not be practical.
If you add fiber to your diet do it gradually introducing 1-2 changes every few days. This will help your bowels adjust and prevent excessive bloating and gas.
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Fiber absorbs liquid. You may need to drink more if you increase the fiber content of your diet to prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
For more information on how to include fiber in your diet, visit The British Dietetic Association or The British Nutrition Foundation.
As a starting point, see below for examples of high and low fiber foods. Try to choose a higher fiber alternative;
Increasing the fiber content of your diet may not be right for everyone, especially if you have a stoma, cancer affecting the digestive system including the stomach, bowel/colon or have been told you are at risk of bowel obstruction.
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