Nearly every ancient culture used feces’ shape, size, and texture to provide health diagnoses before modern medicine existed. Today, many people get squeamish and embarrassed to talk about their bowel movements, but they are still a very reliable way to investigate what is going on inside the body. If you feel off, your first instinct may be to call your doctor, but looking at your bowel movement should be number 2.
What Your Bowel Movement Means
Although you might not admit it, most of us look at our bowel movements before flushing the toilet. When you notice a change in the color or texture of your feces, it can be alarming. While most differences are completely normal and will resolve themselves in a day or two, some characteristics could be a sign of a serious condition.
Normal Bowel Movements
- Color: Bowel movements are generally medium to dark brown because they contain a pigment that forms when red blood cells break down. While brown is considered the “normal” color, some greenish-brown hues are considered normal.
- Smell: Although smelly bowel movements can be embarrassing when they’re done in the wrong place at the wrong time, they are completely normal. When your body is effectively getting rid of bacteria, it emits gas within feces that have an unpleasant odor.
- Texture: Your bowel movement should be soft to firm and passed in one piece of a few medium size pieces. If you have long, sausage-shaped feces, it’s because of the shape of the intestines.
- Consistency: People who are considered “regular” have a bowel movement once or twice a day; at the very minimum, you should have a bowel movement 3 times a week. The process should be painless and require minimal pressure.
Abnormal Bowel Movements
Changes in the texture, shape, color, or smell of your bowel movement can indicate that you’ve consumed a food that influences the color of feces or that the body may be experiencing a problem internally.
- Separated Hard Lumps: Very Constipated
- Lumpy and Sausage-Like: Mildly Constipated
- Soft Blobs with Edges: Need to Eat More Fiber
- Mushy Consistency: Sign of Inflammation
- Liquid Consistency: Diarrhea
- Black: If your feces are black, iron supplements, black licorice, black stout beer, and medications used to treat upset stomach, heartburn, and nausea could be to blame. However, if they are black and look similar to coffee grounds, the body may be experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding.
- White or Gray: Pale colored feces indicate a possible issue with the liver or gallbladder due to a lack of bile. Some anti-diarrhea medications can also cause white stools.
- Green: Foods like spinach and kale can cause green feces, but they can also be a sign that you’re expelling too much bile and not enough pigment.
- Red: Eating or drinking red foods like beets or berries can cause red-colored feces; it can also be a symptom of gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhoids.
Orange: Eating orange-colored foods like carrots and sweet potatoes contain a pigment called beta-carotene that can turn feces orange.
They can also be a sign of blocked bile ducts or a side effect of medications like antacids and the antibiotic rifampin can cause orange poop.
Yellow: A bowel movement that is yellow or greasy in appearance may contain too much fat because of absorption issues or problems producing enzymes or bile.
While it is normal to experience different colors of feces throughout your life, it’s usually due to something you’ve eaten or a minor issue. However, if you experience a change in the color of your feces for 2 or more weeks or if you observe a red or black bowel movement, contact your doctor.
Natural Ways to Regulate Your Bowel Movements
- 1. Eat Fiber: The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25g for women under 50 years old and 21g for women over 50 and 38g for men under 50 and 30g for men over 50.
- 2. Drink Water: Aim for 8 glasses of water each day; staying hydrated is especially important when you increase your fiber intake.
3. Include a Probiotic: Foods like yogurt and sauerkraut and supplements offer beneficial bacteria for the gut called probiotics. These bacteria have been known to help support normal bowel movements.
Smarter Gut Health is made from ancient hearty strains of probiotics that are naturally shelf stable. Prebiotics are added to help support healthy probiotics and MCT and flax oils to help support normal digestion.
- 4. Exercise: Participating in physical activities can help support normal bowel processes and relieve stress, a common cause of abnormal bowel movements.
5. Maintain Magnesium Levels: Some gastrointestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome can decrease the body’s magnesium levels. Magnesium is important for bowel movements for two reasons. First, it may help relax the muscles in the intestines to allow a smoother movement through the bowels and second, magnesium helps draw water into the intestines to stimulate motion while softening and increasing the size of the feces to make it easier to move.
Smarter Magnesium is formulated with magnesium derived from marine sources that are known to be resistant to temperature and humidity. AstraGin®, a patented, 100% natural compound, is added to help make magnesium easier for the body to absorb.
- Hu, David and Yang, Patricia. “The Physics of Poop.” Scientific American. 2017.
- “What are the different types of poop?”
- O’Neill, Terri. “Magnesium for Constipation.” Michigan Medicine. 2021.
- Bolen, Barbara. “The Health Benefits of Magnesium.” Very Well Health. 2021.