Everyone poops, but that doesn’t mean they talk about it. However, this bodily function can offer significant clues to your health and wellness. Here’s what you should know about your stools and when to talk to your doctor.

We all do it, but it’s not the prettiest of conversation topics. In fact, some people consider it a necessary inconvenience best left ignored. However, this essential bodily function can offer a variety of insights into your health and wellness — you just have to know what to look for.

Dr. Laureen Forgione-Rubino has worked in private practice since 1993. Over her career, she’s treated people for numerous issues, from breast cancer and skin lesions to hernias, hemorrhoids, and gallbladder disease.

While stools may not be a popular topic of conversation, Dr. Forgione-Rubino recommends gaining an understanding of this important bodily function. Learning how to decipher its clues can help detect potential issues before they progress.

Why you should pay attention to your stools

It’s tempting to do your business and flush without a second thought. However, stools offer important clues to how your body is working.

First, stools leave your body during a bowel movement. This substance goes by many names, like feces and poop. But, no matter what you call it, it’s all that remains after your body absorbs nutrients from the food and beverages you consume.

Characteristics of healthy stools often include:

  • Medium to dark brown from the pigment bilirubin
  • Strong-smelling from bacterial gas
  • Soft to firm in texture
  • Painlessly passed, once or twice each day
  • Consistent in their characteristics

However, since stools are a waste product, they can vary significantly from person to person and even day to day based on diet, lifestyle, and health problems. That means it’s crucial to make a quick assessment after each bowel movement to get a sense of what’s “normal” for you.

Similarly, paying attention to your stools can help you watch for signs that something is off.

How to watch your stools

Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend hours analyzing your daily bowel movements. Instead, just keep a watch on the shape, color, and smell. Each of these elements can tell you if your body isn’t operating in peak condition.


Generally speaking, stools should have a sausage, hot dog, or snake-like shape since they form in your intestines. Other shapes that indicate issues include:

  • Hard lumps or marbles: constipation
  • Lumpy, sausage, or caterpillar-like: mild constipation
  • Soft blobs with clear edges: lack of fiber
  • A mushy, soft consistency: mild diarrhea or inflammation

When stools become liquid without solid pieces, it often means inflammation and diarrhea.


If you’ve ever seen a poop emoji, you’ve seen the ideal color for stool: medium to dark brown. However, stool color can also change depending on certain foods, like eating a lot of greens or beets.

Still, you shouldn’t ignore colors like black, white, red, orange, and yellow. These colors can be signs of several problems, from gastrointestinal bleeding or malabsorption to liver or gallbladder problems.


Stools will never smell like roses, but that doesn’t mean they should smell extremely bad or foul. Medical issues that can trigger foul-smelling stools include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Intestinal infection
  • Malabsorption
  • Cystic fibrosis

Healthy stools may not smell pleasant, but you shouldn’t have to race for the air freshener whenever you have a bowel movement.

When to see a doctor about your stools

Several things can lead to unusual bowel movements, including stress, dehydration, lack of fiber, and food intolerances or allergies. But, as mentioned above, they can also occur from medical conditions.

As a result, Dr. Forgione-Rubino recommends talking to your doctor if you notice changes in your bowel movements that last two weeks or longer. You should also seek immediate attention if you have bright red, black, or tarry stools — signs that can indicate blood loss.

Remember, it may seem embarrassing to watch or talk about your stools. But ignoring ongoing abnormalities can make matters worse.

Have you noticed a potential problem with your stools? Dr. Forgione-Rubino can help. Schedule a consultation by calling our Manchester, Connecticut, office or requesting an appointment online today.

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