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Quiz: The Scoop on Poop

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Your poop should always be an S-shape.

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Your poop should always be an S-shape.

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Despite what you might have heard on the morning talk shows, healthy stool comes in all sorts of shapes: curvy, sausage, snake-like, and more. How it looks depends on how much fiber and water you have all day, as well as how fast things move along in your colon. See your doctor if your stool looks thin and narrow like a pencil for several weeks. This can be a sign of a GI (gastrointestinal) problem.

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If you don’t poop every day, dangerous toxins can build up in your body.

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If you don’t poop every day, dangerous toxins can build up in your body.

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This myth is so widespread that some people are obsessed with regularity -- over-relying on laxatives or using risky colonic machines. But your colon is pretty good at fighting bacteria. After all, its job is to get rid of toxins. 

 

Besides, you’re probably more regular than you think. Three or fewer BMs in a week is a sign of constipation. So don't be concerned unless you go less than every other day, have pain, trouble going to the bathroom, or there's a change in how often you go.  

A BM can make you giddy.

A BM can make you giddy.

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Ever feel energized or elated after a BM? There’s a reason. Passing a large stool can stimulate the vagus nerve in the brain. That triggers a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure. This whole bathroom event can cause you to feel a tad lightheaded and giddy.

How long does it usually take for something you ate to come out in your poop?

How long does it usually take for something you ate to come out in your poop?

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Digestion is a poky process. It usually takes about a day before a meal starts showing up in the toilet. And it can take up to 3 days before it’s fully digested.

 

Of course, food rushes through much faster when you have diarrhea. Your body may not be able to absorb much fluid or many nutrients. That's why people with ongoing diarrhea are at risk of dehydration and malnutrition.

What makes stool float?

What makes stool float?

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Food that’s digested in the lower intestine creates excess gas in the form of hydrogen or methane. This gas makes stool less dense and more likely to float. Floaters are pretty common and generally nothing to worry about.

 

See your doctor if you have floating stools for more than 2 weeks. You may have trouble absorbing nutrients because of celiac disease or another GI problem.

Brown-colored poop is a sign of good health.

Brown-colored poop is a sign of good health.

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Healthy stools come in a variety of colors, including yellow, tan, and green. The most common causes of an unusual stool color are medications or foods. Tomatoes and fruit punch can turn stools red; spinach and leafy vegetables can make them green; and grape juice can darken things to black.

 

Color changes can signal a problem such as bleeding (red or black), liver problems (white or gray), or diarrhea (green).

Always get tarry, black stool checked out by a doctor.

Always get tarry, black stool checked out by a doctor.

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Tarry, sticky, black poop can be a sign of bleeding or an injury in the stomach or parts of the intestine. The blood isn't red anymore because it's partially digested. Always get this checked out by a doctor. Keep in mind that black poop also can be a sign of less interesting things, like eating beets or taking some medications.

How often does the average person pass gas?

How often does the average person pass gas?

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Hold your nose. Most of us burp or fart about 14 times a day. Gassiness is typically caused by air that gets swallowed while eating or drinking or undigested carbs in the digestive tract. See your doctor if you regularly clear rooms or if you have gassiness along with bloating. You may be lactose intolerant or have another gastrointestinal disorder.

As long as you eat a healthy diet, your poop shouldn’t smell bad.

As long as you eat a healthy diet, your poop shouldn’t smell bad.

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Of course, poop should be stinky! It contains all sorts of nasty things: undigested foods (similar to rotten vegetables), gas, bacteria, water, and salts. Most of the bacteria in there are good -- they help digestion. But viruses and some harmful bacteria also can be passed in stool. The bad smell naturally warns us to stay away.

Do prunes really help constipation?

Do prunes really help constipation?

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Like many high-fiber fruits and vegetables, prunes (which are really dried plums) encourage regular bowel movements. Prunes are also high in sorbitol, a natural sugar that acts as a laxative. Studies suggest that prunes may help more with constipation than using fiber supplements.

Streaks of blood on your stool or toilet paper are most likely caused by:

Streaks of blood on your stool or toilet paper are most likely caused by:

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Hemorrhoids, swollen blood vessels in the rectum or around the anus, often bleed when you strain to push out a BM. Red-streaked TP also can be caused by tiny tears in the lining of the anus called fissures. Both of these usually go away on their own. Still, you should always get rectal bleeding -- minor or not -- checked out.

 

One often overlooked cause of blood on toilet paper? Wiping too hard. Try a lighter touch and softer TP.

Doctors can transplant stool from one person to another to help with unhealthy bowels.

Doctors can transplant stool from one person to another to help with unhealthy bowels.

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During a fecal transplant, donated stool is injected into a person’s colon.  More than 90% of the time, healthy bacteria from the donor stool start to grow in the patient’s colon. These good bacteria get rid of an overgrowth of bad bacteria called Clostridium difficile or C. diff.

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