Body Check – Stools Transcript
Dr Christian: Despite not being very pleasant, your poo is important, as not only does it remove waste from the body, it can tell you a lot about your general state of health.
The best way to spot a potential problem is to check yourself and there are some key things to look out for.
When it comes to shape, a sausage like form is normal but if your stools appear in separate hard lumps this can be a sign of constipation.
Width will also vary from person to person but look out for a prolonged change to narrower stools as it may be a sign of obstruction in the colon and it should be discussed with your doctor.
Soft forms or liquid, resulting in diarrhoea, can be a sign of infection like food poisoning – but can also occur after alcohol or spicy food. Thyroid problems can cause diarrhoea too.
If it doesn’t stop in a few days it could be IBS – irritable bowel syndrome – or Crohn’s disease.
How often you go isn’t generally a cause for concern – people differ, ranging from three times a week to three times a day. But if your regularity changes or if you swap between constipation and diarrhoea for no apparent reason these are possible signs of bowel cancer, and it’s really worth discussing with your doctor.
Stools get their normal brownish colour from bile. However, you may find you have various colour changes, which are more than likely to be influenced by something you’ve eaten. But it can sometimes indicate something more serious.
Red colouring can come from food, but blood can also cause it and although this isn’t nice to see, it is something doctors come across quite often, usually as a result of haemorrhoids or a small tear; if it persists make sure to get it checked out.
If the stools appear black, this can be digested blood, which could mean bleeding ulcers or tumours and is something really important to look out for and get examined.
Finally, white stools are definitely worth being evaluated by your doctor because they may indicate a serious problem in the liver, such as hepatitis.
For this body check and others featured on the site we want to hear about your findings. So please come back to share your results and discuss them with other site users.
And if you have any concerns or ongoing problems it’s best to contact your GP.
Body Check: Stools
Despite not being very pleasant, your poo is important as not only does it remove waste from your body, it can also tell you a lot about your state of health. In this video, Dr Christian tells you what changes to look out for in your poo.
Keep an eye out for changes in shape and width, as a prolonged change could be a sign of an underlying condition. What you’ve eaten can also have an effect on your poo, causing changes in form and consistency. Colour changes can also come from food, but red, black, or white stools could also indicate more serious conditions like digested blood or liver disease, so do get it checked out.
How often you go isn’t a cause for concern, but if your regularity changes or you constantly swap between constipation and diarrhoea, it could be a possible sign of bowel cancer and it would be advisable to discuss with a GP.
If you are worried that your child is suffering from constipation, then read our condition guide especially for parents on the Embarrassing Bodies: Kids website.
From the 29th April – 5th May 2009 we conducted a National Health Survey to find out what the state of the nation’s stools was.
Over 15,000 of you responded and once again it was women that were more willing to share their findings, with 76% of respondents being female.
In total, 47% of people who took part reported Type 3 or Type 4 stools – which are normal, and sausage like in appearance – not too hard or soft. However, 22% of people reported Type 1 or Type 2 stools, which are much looser than is ideally the case. If this persists then it can be a sign of an infection, or more serious bowel conditions, such as IBS and Crohn’s.
Around 17% of respondents said that they had hard, pellety stools, and these can be a sign of constipation, so it might be worth looking at your diet if this persists for long periods of time.
Constipation can result in small amount of blood entering the stool (as can hemorrhoids or small tears to the anus) which will probably account for the 356 or so respondents that reported red blood in their poo. If this persists, it would be worth getting checked out by your GP.
A more serious concern was that around 7% of our respondents reported that they had black stools, and as this can be a sign of digested blood, it should always be checked out by your doctor, as it can be a sign of intestinal problems, and in rare cases serious conditions such as Bowel Cancer.
Yellowish stools have also caused concern for around 5% of you and the most common cause of this is a lack of bile caused by your poo moving too quickly through the digestive tract. Again if this is a persistent problem, then it should be checked by your doctor.
Comments and Questions
Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.