You may not look down into the toilet bowl very often, although, if you have a baby or toddler, you can’t help but notice and wonder what is happening ‘down there.’ If you do hazard a glance, particularly on a regular basis, there can be a wealth of important information that you can use to understand your state of health. First of all, we’re talking about your stool, your ‘poop,’ the contents of your bowel. Of course, stool is the by-product of your body’s elimination function that happens in your intestines; it is also a reflection of your body’s ability to digest. It is actually made up mostly of microorganisms, water, the waste from your body’s metabolism and your undigested food (mostly fibre and whatever you ate too much of).

The color of your stool is derived from a pigment that comes from the normal and daily breakdown of your blood cells, which becomes a brown color during the transit from your liver, to your gallbladder, into the small intestine, ending in and out of your large intestine. The colors can dramatically change and there is meaning in the color.

Stool colors and what they mean

  • Brown – breathe easy, this is normal
  • Dark brown – also normal, though stool will darken with the amount of meat you consume, and also if you are constipated
  • Green – this is the typical color of bile (produced in the liver, stored in the gall bladder); when the movement of stool is too fast in your digestive tract, the green bile doesn’t have a chance to turn brown; this typically happens when you have diarrhea (of any cause)
  • White, or pale clay-color – when the gall bladder is blocked and the bile does not flow into the digestive tract, then the stool stays a light and clay-like color; if this persists, check with your doctor as it may be a sign of gall bladder blockage/spasm and may even indicate hepatitis or cirrhosis in the liver; small amounts of white in the stool can also indicate a yeast or other infection
  • Red or maroon (brownish-red) – this should be checked right away as it means there is bleeding in the intestines, often from hemorrhoids, but it may also indicate the chance of a tumor; beets, red-colored drinks can also make the stool red
  • Black – if there is bleeding higher up in the digestive tract (eg: from an ulcer or tumor), such as in the stomach or small intestine, the stool color can become black, and should be investigated; other causes include iron supplements
  • Yellow, greasy – this is a sign of improper fat absorption and may be a sign of a malabsorption disorder (eg: Celiac disease)
  • Clear mucus-like – can be an indicator of inflammation, common in illnesses like colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome

Proper digestion is fundamental for good health. Now that you know the most important colors and types of stool, you can be more informed in your health. When you see changes in your stool consistency or form, it may also be worth a trip to your doctor.


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