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What’s the Scoop on Poop

Posted 12/30/2016 by UHBlog

Know your poop. Ask us.

What’s the Scoop on Poop?

No need for a crystal ball. Your poop can give you the inside scoop on the mysteries of your amazing body.

“The color, shape, frequency and consistency of a person’s poop is a reliable gauge of digestive function,” says licensed acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor Lina Sbrocco ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, LAC. “Your poop can indicate underlying health problems like infections, celiac disease, intestinal bowel disease, food intolerances and even cancer. That’s why you shouldn’t be shy about discussing changes in your poop with your doctor.”

So what’s the scoop on poop? Simply put, poop is the body’s natural way of getting rid of the waste and toxins that it doesn’t need once it's absorbed all the usable nutrients and vitamins from the food you eat. When this natural system is off-kilter, it's reflected in your poop.

According to Sbrocco, normal poop is usually light to dark brown in color, has the shape and softness of a banana and passes easily without straining.

“However, poop can change simply because of something you have eaten or the vitamins or medications you have taken” she says.

Do you know the color and consistency changes to watch for in your poop? According to Sbrocco, they are:

  • Red or black poop. After ruling out an extra serving of beets, red gelatin or tomato juice, if your poop has bright red spotting, this can indicate hemorrhoids or bleeding somewhere in your colon or lower digestive tract. The same goes for black poop, which can be caused by something as harmless as eating licorice, taking iron supplements or Pepto-Bismol. But it can also indicate bleeding in the stomach.
  • Chalky, white or clay-colored poop. This poop color may be due to anti-diarrheal drugs, such as Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol. In rare cases, light-colored poop may indicate a block in the flow of bile or liver disease.
  • Diarrhea or extremely watery poop. “Although most cases of diarrhea resolve themselves on their own, persistent diarrhea can be a cause for concern and should be checked out,” says Sbrocco. “If someone is experiencing diarrhea, it is important to drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.”
  • Constipation. Constipation has many causes. It’s defined as infrequent or difficult-to-pass poop. The most common causes are inadequate water or fiber intake, and a decrease in physical activity. Some medications for pain and medical conditions, such as hypothyroid, can also cause constipation problems.
    “An occasional laxative is safe, but try not to take them regularly, as they can become less effective with habitual use,” she says.

Simple lifestyle and diet changes can help you get your poop schedule back on track. Sbrocco offers a few tips for having healthy poop, including:

  • Take time to eat, chew thoroughly and be mindful of your emotions
  • Eat foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Fiber stimulates the production of good bacteria, which is vital to immune function. Oatmeal and flaxseed are good choices, along with psyllium husk. Always drink at least eight ounces of water when taking a fiber supplement.
  • Exercise will help increase your metabolism and keep things moving

If you're concerned your body is off-kilter, a naturopathic wellness consultation can help. A naturopathic doctor takes your complete health history with special attention paid to medications and possible herb-drug interactions. An individualized wellness plan is then created based on your specific needs and goals. To learn more, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network online or call 216-285-4070.

Lina Sbrocco, ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, LAC is a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist with University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Sbrocco or any other health care provider online.

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