What Your Poop Should Look Like (& What's Wrong If It Doesn't)

Look, we know you don't want to talk about your poop. It always feels weird to look at it when it's in the toilet, and it's even weirder to type its description into Google, but here we are. As gross as it is, your poop can say a lot about you, what you ate, and how your body is feeling about all that. So what does it all mean?


Here to decode your poop is Dr. Scott Renshaw, MD, a family medicine physician at Indiana University Health. Renshaw says you should be on the lookout for changes, but only really worry when you're seeing a shift long-term.

"If your stool frequency, shape, and color change for a few days but then return to normal, it's not concerning," he says. "What's concerning is if the change is persistent."

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Here's his guide for both color and shape.

What the color of your feces can tell you:

  • Green: Green says you're either eating a lot of green leafy vegetables or taking an iron supplement, Renshaw says. It could also mean that food is moving through your intestines quickly, so bile hasn't had a chance to be completely broken down, which can be normal. 
  • Red: "You're either eating a lot of red-colored foods, such as beets or foods with red dye," Renshaw explains, "or, you have bleeding in your lower GI tract, most likely from hemorrhoids."

  • Black: Black poop can come from iron supplements or medication for diarrhea that contains bismuth. But it can also mean there's bleeding in your upper GI tract from a bleeding ulcer or something else.

  • Pale brown or clay: Light-colored poop can be caused by anti-diarrheal medication, but if you're not on anything like that, it might mean there's a problem with your liver or bile tract.

  • Yellow: "You may have celiac disease," Renshaw says. "Or there's a problem with your liver or bile tract."  

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What the shape of your feces can tell you:

  • Normal shapes: Sausage shaped with cracks, smooth sausage shape, or soft blobs.

    Shapes that indicate constipation: Separate hard lumps, or lumpy and sausage-like.

  • Shapes that indicate diarrhea: Mushy consistency with ragged edges, or liquid consistency with ragged edges. 

Again, day-to-day changes aren't concerning, because your poop will change a lot depending on what you eat. But if you're seeing worrisome colors that last many days or weeks, it might be time to bring the poop talk to your doctor's office.


Image via thodonal88/Shutterstock

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