Poolitics: What Does Your Poo Say About You?

WARNING: Put your food down before reading this.

It's an awkward topic to read about, much less talk about, yet many people wonder if their toilet habits and number two regularity is "normal".

One question gastroenterologists (we'll call them the poo doctors) say they get asked all the time is -- "should I poo every day?"

And for those not asking a doctor, they are turning to a far less qualified medical practitioner - Dr Google. 

The Conversation canvassed the expertise of five different poo doctors to get some clarity.

One verdict was unanimous -- it is NOT essential to have a daily poop.

Dr Dan Worthley pointed to a study of 4, 775 people with 'normal' bowel patterns. The research found that 95 per cent of people had a bowel movement  between three and 21 times per week.

"So between three times a day and three times a week is what I like to call the “Goldilocks zone for pooing," he wrote.

But what happens if you are not going at least every second day?

 "Long periods without bowel movements (fewer than three stools per week) can cause a number of complications such as haemorrhoids, anal fissures or faecal impaction," said CSIRO scientist Damien Belobrajdic.

Faecal whaaat?

A faecal impaction is a large, hard mass of stool that gets stuck so badly in your colon or rectum that you can't push it out. This problem can be very severe. It can cause grave illness or even death if it's not treated.

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If you are pooing less or more than the normal range, doctors say it's worth visiting your GP.

If you regularity isn't an issue, but you're poo looks funkier than usual, this may also be cause for concern.

This is how the Australian Continence Foundation of Australia describes an ideal stool:

  • Sausage or banana shaped
  • Passes easily
  • Soft
  • Floats but does not need several attempts to flush

The Bristol Stool Chart is the global go-to guide for bowel breakdowns.

Colour also matters.

Black poo could be a serious medical issue due to bleeding in the stomach or upper gut. Although it may also simply be from eating licorice or taking iron supplements.

Red poo could also raise a red flag. This may indicate a serious medical issue due to bleeding in the lower gut, or from haemorrhoids. Similarly it could be harmless after having large amounts of red food colouring.

Experts say if you don’t know what colour your usual poo is  -- take a look and get acquainted. If you see a colour that’s out of the ordinary and you haven’t eaten anything unusual, take a picture and see your doctor.

IMAGE: Getty

Your stool is also a very important indicator of your overall digestive function and gut health.

"The best way to promote optimal digestive health and regular bowel motions is to drink plenty of water and consume high fibre foods at every meal," Belobrajdic said.

This can be achieved with a balanced diet including wholegrain breads, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fresh fruits.

Featured Image: Getty Images