Your poop could be considered the check-engine light of your body, letting you know that something is not quite right. Whether serious or minor, a good indication of your overall health can be seen by the condition of your bowels. Everyone is different, both in the kind and frequency of their poop. So as a good rule of thumb, pay attention to any changes in your typical bowel patterns. That said, there are some general signs that might indicate engine trouble.

How To Know When The Check-Engine Light is On

While issues that last only a day or two may not be cause for concern, some warning signs should not be ignored. Blood can mean something small like hemorrhoids, which may clear up on their own, or something more serious like an internal tear. Likewise, diarrhea can be due to food intolerance and subside after a day, or it can indicate there is a larger problem like irritable bowel syndrome or a colon disorder. Problems like blood in the stool and chronic or recurring diarrhea warrant a call to your doctor. Other signs of potential problems include a change in stool consistency, constipation, and change in color. 

Make sure to consider these signs of change:

  • Narrow – typically, healthy poop is around two inches in diameter.
  • Black or Red – dark or red stool can sometimes indicate internal bleeding.
  • White, Gray, or Yellow – different colors can indicate different issues, such as gallbladder or pancreatic disorders.
  • Hard or Mushy – constipation and diarrhea are common but if they persist, they would be indications of getting checked. 
  • Increased Mucus – there are health issues that may increase the mucus in your stool and be an indication that it's time to be seen by a doctor, especially when accompanied by abdominal pain or bleeding.
  • Particularly Smelly – particularly foul-smelling poop can indicate a more serious problem as well.

Medications and dietary changes could be the culprit, but when these signs are accompanied by abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, or don’t improve after a couple of days, get your GI Associates doctor involved.

How To Know When Check-Engine Light is Off

Just like there are signs that something is wrong, our poop can also help assure us that things are working well. This can be important for people after surgery, when starting a new medication, or after diagnosis of a digestive disorder. Poop that is brown and snake or sausage-like is considered normal, healthy poop. The frequency of our bowel movements is also important—research shows that having one to three bowel movements each day is typically best. The ease of bowel movements is a very good indicator; it should require some pushing but be fairly easy to poop—too easy could be diarrhea and too difficult could be constipation. Lastly, a bowel movement should be complete, meaning that you don’t feel uncomfortable after going like you didn’t completely empty your colon. 

Remember that everyone is different, and although these signs can be helpful in monitoring your health, they are not universal. The key is change—when your engine starts running differently, it’s time to check it out. The doctors at GI Associates can help you assess any warning signs and determine if there is a problem that needs to be addressed. If you are concerned about your changing bowel habits, make an appointment today at GI Associates. 

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