From diet to disease, many things affect your poop. If you have any concerns that your stool is abnormal, then visit your physician. Many things can affect the balance of stool content, including diet, medications, supplements, and the presence of a GI disease, disorder, or infection.
Poop can be a taboo topic: some people are very open to talking about it, but many avoid the subject at all costs. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to talk about poop — because it says a lot about your gastrointestinal and digestive health. Let the experts at UnityPoint Health help you understand this taboo topic!
Having a bowel movement is a critical part of digesting the food we eat. While you should talk to your doctor about any concerns, changes in poop color and consistency could show what is happening inside your digestive system. Poop that is hard and shaped like tiny rocks or pebbles is likely just a sign of constipation.
Black stool isn't always due to a big problem. There are many reasons stool could appear black, and iron supplements or even Oreos could be to blame. This is especially true for people who have had ostomy surgery or a colectomybecause the food is not being digested as fully as it is in people who have not had any abdominal surgery.
Colon cancer symptoms can be confusing. Common stomach ailments or a change in bowel habits are common occurrences. However, not everything should be ignored.
While many cases of diarrhea will resolve themselves within a few days, black diarrhea and stool in any form can be a sign of a larger medical issue. Often, it signifies blood in the digestive tract or a reaction to a food, medication or supplement. Black diarrhea that has a somewhat tarry consistency should be taken seriously.
The color of stools varies, but typically falls within the spectrum of brown color, depending on the foods you eat. You should be concerned if your stools are deep red, maroon, black, or "tarry," especially if they have a noticeable odor. This may mean that there is blood in the stool. Small amounts of bright red blood on stool or toilet paper are likely caused by hemorrhoids or a scratch in the rectal area, and generally should not cause concern.
Beets and foods with red coloring can sometimes make stools appear reddish. In all these cases, your doctor can test the stool with a chemical to rule out the presence of blood. Bleeding in the esophagus or stomach such as with peptic ulcer disease can also cause you to vomit blood.
Melena or melaena refers to the dark black, tarry feces that are associated with upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Iron supplements may cause a grayish-black stool that should be distinguished from melena,  as should black coloration caused by a number of medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismolor by foods such as beetrootblack liquoriceor blueberries. The most common cause of melena is peptic ulcer disease. Causes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding that may result in melena include malignant tumors affecting the esophagus, stomach or small intestine, hemorrhagic blood diseases, such as thrombocytopenia and hemophiliagastritisesophageal varicesMeckel's diverticulum and Mallory-Weiss syndrome.