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Do You Have Healthy Bowel Movements? The Scoop on Your Poop

Female patient talking to her provider

Pooping problems can really stink — both literally and figuratively. Although we may not feel comfortable talking about it, everybody poops. And it's not something to be embarrassed about. What comes out can provide a lot of info about your health. When bowel movements don't seem right, you shouldn't hesitate to mention it to your provider.

Here are some answers to common questions you may not want to ask — but probably should.

Is There Such a Thing as "Normal" Poop?

When it comes to bowel movements, what's normal for one person may not be normal for another. But there are still some general guidelines of what's considered healthy. These include:

If your stool is different on a consistent basis, that may just be what's normal for you. But it's worth mentioning to your doctor just to be sure.

How Do You Know if Something is Wrong?

A healthy poop can vary from person to person. There are still certain health indicators you should watch for.

Light-colored Poop

This means possible infection or inflammation of the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas.

Black Poop 

Black licorice, blueberries, and iron supplements can cause this to happen. But it could also indicate bleeding or tumors in the digestive tract.

Red or Bloody Poop 

Constipation or hemorrhoids can cause small amounts of bleeding. Red poop could be more serious if it continues for more than a few days.


Diarrhea is loose and watery stool. You may have to go more than three times in one day. Some causes include viruses, bacteria, or parasites from contaminated food or water; medications with magnesium (antibiotics or antacids); food intolerances; or a stomach, small intestine, or colon disease.


Stool that's hard, dry, and/or painful to pass is a sign of constipation. Causes can include a diet low in fiber, dehydration, lack of exercise, or a reaction to medications such as antidepressants or opioids.

Floating Poop

If this happens once in a while, it's not cause for concern. But if it happens more often, it could be caused by problems absorbing nutrients, too much gas, a gastrointestinal infection, or pancreatitis.

Change in smell

No one's poop smells like roses. But if the odor suddenly changes, it could be a sign of a problem.

What Causes Problems With Your Bowel Movements?

Change In Poop?

If you notice blood or other changes, talk to your provider about colorectal cancer screening.

Foods that are fried, spicy, and highly acidic can cause temporary gastrointestinal symptoms for a lot of people. Some sufferers find relief by consuming high fiber and low-fat foods, as well as non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, and caffeine-free drinks (water is best).

Several health conditions can cause digestion to be off track on a more regular basis. These include:

These conditions may cause constipation or diarrhea, as well as general irregularity.

Each person's "normal" is going to be slightly different. But if you notice sudden changes to your stool and you haven't changed your diet, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about it.

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Tags: colon cancer

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