Poop questions

Everyone poops. As a gastroenterologist, I deal with poop issues every day. Poop questions are a routine. I poop too much. I can’t poop enough. My poop has blood in it. This article answers all your poop questions.

What is poop?

Poop is the end product of the digestive process. It is removed from the body through a bowel movement (aka defecation). It is mostly water, about 75%. The solid component, about 25% is composed of dead bacteria (30%), indigestible fiber (30%), fat (20%), inorganic substances such as calcium phosphate and iron phosphate (10-20%), and protein (2-3%).

What is the average weight of poop?

One ounce of stool for each 12 pounds of body weight

 What is the right shape and consistency of poop?

Well formed poop is usually solid in consistency. It takes the shape of the colon and is often S-shaped.

What gives poop its color?

Poop color comes from the action of bacteria on bilirubin.

What gives poop its smell?

Chemicals and gases produced by the action of bacteria.

More Poop Questions……..

How often should I poop?

No two individuals are the same when it comes to the frequency of poop. Frequency ranges from once in 3 days to 3 times a day. Most people poop once a day.

Why is my poop black?

Black stool may be the result of bleeding from the stomach or intestine. Stomach acid turns red blood dark. This kind of poop is usually black and tarry.  Black poop can also be the due to use of iron tablets or bismuth containing substances such as PeptoBismuth®. Certain foods like licorice, grape juice and Oreo cookies can also turn poop black. If your poop is black, contact your physician.

Why is my poop red?

Red poop can come from food and food colorings like beets, medications like Omnicef or a serious condition like bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.  If your poop is red, contact your physician.

Why is my poop maroon-colored?

Bleeding from the small intestine or proximal colon can lead to maroon-colored poop. If your poop is maroon colored, contact your physician.

Why is my poop green?

Food, medications and rapid movement of food materials through the intestine that does not allow time for the action of bacteria on bilirubin can cause poop to be green.

Why is my poop light gray or white?

Food like milk only diet, medications like aluminum hydroxide and barium or diseases in which the bile flow is blocked can cause poop to be light gray or white.

 Why does my poop smell so bad?

Poop never smells good. The bad smell comes from bacteria and gas associated with the breakdown of food.  Certain foods and medications can change the smell of poop. Persistently foul smelling poop can be due to serious conditions like infection, inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease or malabsorption.

Why is my poop oily?

Oily poop can be greasy or fatty. You may see oil droplets or skid mark in the toilet after flushing. The stool is also often foul smelling, pale, and bulky. The medical term for oily poop is steatorrhea. This can happen due to abnormal digestion (break down) and absorption of fat. Common causes of oily poop are chronic pancreatitis,  bile salt (detergent that helps remove fat) deficiency –cirrhosis, primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), Crohn’s disease of the terminal ileum, terminal ileum resection, bacterial overgrowth; diseases of the small intestine like celiac disease, giardia infection, lymphoma.

Why does my poop float?

A well formed stool is denser than water and usually sinks to the bottom of the toilet. Loose stools tend to float more. Poop may float as a result of change in diet (e.g. high fat diet) that produces more gas, infection, or diseases can cause fat malabsorption like celiac disease or chronic pancreatitis.

Why do I have mucus in my poop?

Mucus is a jelly-like fluid that lines the wall of the intestine and colon. It is a lubricant that protects against acid and irritation. It is usually white or yellow. Some mucus in the poop is normal. It is abnormal if the amount is large, if it is persistent or if it is associated with other changes like blood in stool, diarrhea, fever, bloating or belly aches. These changes may be due to infection, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome.

More Poop Questions…..

What is constipation? Or why is my poop hard or small?

Constipation has different meanings for different people but usually involves 2 or more of the following: straining when you poop, lumpy or hard stools, sensation of incomplete evacuation, sensation of blockage in the anus, manual maneuvers to aid pooping like digital evacuation, or fewer than 3 poops per week. Constipation can be idiopathic (unknown cause) or caused by medications, diseases like diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, hypothyroidism, injuries like spinal cord injury, diseases that affect the gut, and cancer.

What is diarrhea? Or why is my poop watery or large?

Diarrhea also has different meaning for different people but can be characterized by an increase in the volume or frequency of stool or a decrease in the consistency of stool (loose or watery).

It can be acute (≤ 14 days in duration) or chronic (>30 days). It can be functional or secondary to other causes like infection, medications, inflammation. It can be bloody or non-bloody.

Eating a wrong meal, eating too much or eating an exotic or unusual meal can give us acute diarrhea. This does not usually last long.

Diarrhea can be caused by food poisoning, infections, inflammations, medications, toxins, cancer.

How can I stop my Diarrhea?

For insight into how to stop diarrhea from different causes, click HERE. 

What can I use to monitor my stool or changes in bowel habits?

The Bristol stool chart is a useful tool to monitor your stool and assess changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea).

What is IBS? Or why is my belly ache better after I pooped?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common disorder. It affects about 10-15% of adults. It is often diagnosed based on symptoms alone. The common complaint is recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort associated with change in bowel habits. This change may be improvement in abdominal pain or discomfort with defecation; change in frequency of stool (constipation or diarrhea or both); or change in stool form or consistency.

Symptoms may vary over time. There are periods when symptoms flare up and other times when symptoms are not present. Other symptoms may be present like bloating, mucus in the stool, urgency (the need to poop fast), and tenesmus (sensation of not completely emptying the stool after defecation).

The exact cause of IBS is unknown but it has been linked to factors that may alter the connection between the brain and the gut. These factors include stress, inherited genes, infection causing gastroenteritis,

There is no cure for IBS but there are many treatments that can help with the symptoms.

What is fecal incontinence? Why can’t I hold my poop?

Fecal incontinence is involuntary loss of stool. It can be caused by aging, obesity, anal fistula, anal injuries, childbirth injuries, post-cholecystectomy syndrome, diabetes, stroke, and medications. Having diarrhea makes you prone to having fecal incontinence.

Why do I have pain when I poop?

Pain with defecation or dyschezia can be due to a variety of conditions including anal fissure, hemorrhoids, proctalgia fugax, chronic proctalgia, proctitis, solitary rectal ulcer, anal cancer.

Anal fissure is linear tear in the anal canal that looks like an ulcer. Most of the time the cause is unknown but it can also be due to Crohn’s disease, syphilis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, psoriasis or anal cancer.

Hemorrhoids are protruded anal cushions. They can cause anal irritation, itchiness, and bleeding. They can be internal or external.

Proctalgia fugax is intense anorectal pain lasting only seconds to minutes.

Chronic proctalgia is recurring anorectal pain lasting 20 minutes or greater. It is also known as levator ani syndrome, levator spasm, pyriformis syndrome, puborectalis syndrome, pelvic tension myalgia.

Proctitis is inflammation of the rectum. It may be caused by several things. Common causes include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, infection.

Solitary rectal ulcer is caused by constipation. In addition to anal pain, it can cause rectal bleeding, mucus discharge, excessive straining, and feeling of incomplete evacuation.

More Poop Questions…..

Why do I feel like pooping after a meal?

This is due to the gastrocolic reflex. Once your food reaches the stomach, messages are sent to the brain which then sends messages to the small intestine and colon to start stretching and moving. This then leads to the urge to defecate.

What is the best position for pooping?

Humans were meant to squat when they poop. They have been doing that for hundreds of years until the western world invented the modern toilet. Squatting relaxes the poop muscle (puborectalis) completely whereas sitting on the toilet bowl with knees at right angle relaxes the poop muscle partially. A study has shown that pooping in the squatting position reduced the time it takes to drop the poop by one third. Another study showed that squatting compared to sitting increases the poop angle (anorectal angle) from 100 degrees to 126 degrees. To accomplish the squatting position whilst using the modern toilet, people raise their feet up using several things like books, cartons, stool or commercially available squatting aid.

10 Poop Etiquettes

    1. No announcement. No need to announce that you want to poop. If you have to notify someone, just say you need to use the restroom.
    2. Close the door. If one exists, close the door. Adult bowel movement is a private affair.
    3. Keep your distance. In public restrooms with multiple stalls, use the stall that is far from the door or any other poopers.
    4. Flush PRN. Flush as needed as smell accumulates from your poop. The flushing gets rid of the poop and minimizes the odor.
    5. Silence, please. Don’t talk to on the phone or to someone else in the restroom while pooping.
    6. Empty the bowl. When you are done, flush and make that all is gone before leaving.
    7. Be fast. When using public toilets, be as fast as possible. People may be waiting for you. This is not the place to brainstorm or finish a thriller.
    8. Vent. If an overhead fan exists, use it to reduce the odor and save yourself and others the discomfort of a foul smell.
    9. Clean up. Don’t trash the toilet. Don’t leave tissue paper everywhere.
    10. Wash up. Make sure you wash your hands and dry them before you leave.


What is your poop question?