BY CASSIE SHORTSLEEVE
Tuesday, September 22, 201
A lot of guys say they do their best thinking when they’re on the toilet. But there’s one thing you probably don’t want to ponder when you’re pooping: the actual contents of your crap.
Is it gross? Yeah, of course. Important? You bet. The stuff at the bottom of the bowl can tell you a whole lot about your body, so don’t flush away the evidence without taking a look.
Your digestive tract is lined with mucus to help food pass smoothly. If you frequently go #2, your colon contracts more often—so it’s normal for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to see mucus in their stools, says Robert Burakoff, M.D., chief of gastroenterology, hepatology, and endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
When to worry: If you didn’t think you had IBS, you’ll want to see your doctor for a diagnosis. The disorder causes abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, but you can manage it with diet and lifestyle tweaks.
The bigger concern is if you see blood along with the mucus, which could point to inflammation, infection, or a tumor in your rectum or higher up in your gastrointestinal tract, says Dr. Mullin. (Keep reading.)
Bright red blood in the bowl usually means hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your rectum or anus that bleed when you strain, says Dr. Burakoff. But it could also signal serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD), or even colon cancer.
NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin can also cause recurrent bleeding anywhere in the gut, making your stools look almost black. A Spanish study found that people who regularly took NSAIDs were 72 percent more likely to experience upper gastrointestinal bleeding than those who weren’t on the meds.
Best-case scenario: Black, tarry looking stools could just stem from something you’re consuming, like Pepto-Bismol, iron supplements, and some foods like spinach.
When to worry: We’re stating the obvious, but anytime you see blood in your poop, you need to high-tail it to your doctor. He or she may recommend a colonoscopy or a flexible sigmoidoscopy—a less invasive examination of the lower colon—to check for IBD, hemorrhoids, or colon cancer.
It’s the stuff of nightmares: You look down into the toilet bowl and see small, white, thread-like worms (called pinworms) or long, flat, white strands (tapeworms) wiggling around your poop.
Rectal itching—especially at night, when pinworms lay their eggs around the anus—can point to worms, too.
What the heck are they doing there? Worms can signal a parasitic infection, which can prevent you from properly absorbing your food, Dr. Mullin says. You can pick up tapeworms from eating uncooked meats like beef and pork, and pinworms from bedding or toilet seats.
When to worry: If you find worms in your poop and you don’t freak out, then nothing must rattle you. “Collect the worms and bring them in to your doctor,” advises Dr. Burakoff. Treatment options, like antibiotics and anti-parasitic prescriptions, differ depending on which creature is inside of you.