Strangely Colored “Number Twos” Should Be a Number One Concern

If things suddenly start going wrong when you have a bowel movement (poop), it might be time to take a closer look at the issue.

For Americans, colon and rectum cancer is third among the top ten cancers on the rise. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 the rate of colon cancer was 36.8 per 100,000, with almost 141,500 new cases. The U.S. rate of colon and rectum cancer deaths was 13.5 for every 100,000 people; over 52,500 people died of these cancers.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that for 2020, total cases of colon cancer will be close to 148,000 (about 8% of all new cancers) and deaths from colon cancer will reach over 53,000 (almost 9% of all cancer deaths). Our best hope for canceling colon cancer is early detection and diagnosis, and that can mean checking out your poop.

Sometimes stool color (or shape) problems are caused by relatively benign issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, medications that slow down or speed up intestinal functions or just having a bad diet. But sometimes your bowel movements may be trying to tell you something.

Brown bowel movements of any shade and of normal texture are ideal. Your body releases bile, which starts out green, to help digest fats. Once enzymes break down the bile pigments in the gastrointestinal tract, poop becomes its normal brown color.

Green poop may not be a problem, either. It could be normal or it could indicate you ate a lot of a green vegetables or a food with green dye in it or you took an iron supplement. If accompanied by diarrhea, it could mean the food is moving through the body too quickly for the bile to break down. See the doctor if green stool is accompanied by pain.

Very light tan or clay-colored stool could be an early marker of pancreatic cancer or gallstones, especially if the poop floats, which can indicate a high fat content. If the poop is white, the bile duct may be obstructed. See your doctor.

Blood in the stool can be a problem. Small amounts of bright red blood in poop could mean you have an anal fissure or hemorrhoids as a result of constipation or overly frequent diarrhea. In rare cases, fresh, red blood in the stool can indicate colon or rectal cancer. If you continue to have an issue, see the doctor. Red poop that doesn’t look bloody may not be an issue, especially if you ate a lot of something red, like beets, red Jello or tomato soup.

Dark, black stools can signal a serious problem, like bowel cancer. Black stools can be a result of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. In this case, the poop might look like coffee grounds.

Before you worry over having a dark poo once in a while, think about it. Did you take Pepto-Bismol for an upset stomach or diarrhea? That medication and others like it can cause stool to be temporarily dark. So can some foods (such as licorice) and iron supplements.

Yellow stools can indicate liver cirrhosis, hepatitis or celiac disease. Having yellow stool can mean that your liver is not producing enough bile to digest the fat you eat or that you are malabsorbing certain kinds of foods. This type of stool might look greasy and smell especially bad. See your doctor for evaluation if the problem persists or returns.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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