The Scoop on Poop: 5 Facts You Should Know


Your bowels communicate.

That may sound strange, but here’s what I mean: Signs of everything from diseases to stress may show up in your bathroom habits. The key is knowing what to look for — and what the signs may mean.

There is no normal

People are different. So are bowel movements. The size, shape and consistency of feces will change greatly from person to person.

“Your body reacts to things that go on around us. The impact of stress and unresolved issues may show up in your bathroom.”

Brooke Gurland, MD

Department of Colorectal Surgery

Instead of looking for “normal,” look for a change. Did you use to move your bowels frequently but now have trouble doing so? Did they use to be solid but now are runny for a long period of time? When you experience a big, noticeable change that lasts, it’s time to see your doctor.

Blood is a warning sign

If there is blood in your feces on a recurring basis, see a doctor. Blood can be a sign of polyps or colorectal cancer. It also can be caused by benign conditions such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures. In any case, it’s worth getting checked out.

If you see blood, keep an eye out for other symptoms: weight loss, fever, chills. When they come together, those are “high-alert” symptoms of bowel disorders.

Sometimes size is a concern

If you used to have sizeable stools but now they are always pencil thin and hard to pass, consult your doctor. In certain types of colon cancer, the bowel gets narrow, and so do your bowel movements.

Thin stools do not automatically mean cancer. But if they last a long time and if going to the bathroom is difficult for you, your doctor may order a colonoscopy to rule it out.

Consistency matters

We all have bouts of diarrhea from time to time. Runny, watery stool over a short period of time can mean mild food poisoning or an infection, for example.

But if you used to have solid bowel movements and now have diarrhea frequently, it could be a sign of an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — especially if it comes with other symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood and weight loss.

It could be stress

Your body reacts to things that go on around us. The impact of stress and unresolved issues may show up in your bathroom.

Your bowels may be indicating something that you’re not appreciating consciously. If your bathroom habits have changed drastically and other medical causes have been excluded, life’s stresses may be to blame.

Pay attention to what your bowels are telling you. From stress to medical conditions, they may give you warning sings that will help you improve your health.


Brooke Gurland, MD

Brooke Gurland, MD, is a surgeon with the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.
  • Pablo

    Try Epsom Salts in a warm bath it works for me!

  • Kathy Lue

    Take 10/ 325 hydrocodone and wash it off.

  • Fungus kills

    probably caused by Candida Albicans- the whole medical field in the US is misdiagnosing this pathogen. It can be cured by sodium bicarbonate and iodine. Epsom salts are ok, but add baking soda for a cure.

    • Ouch 15

      Internally or bathing in them?

  • Guest 2011

    This was THE most painful issue I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know how it happened as I eat an excellent diet, only drink water and exercise regularly. The simple measures such as sitz baths and still softeners did not work for me. My doctor had to give me a medicated ointment to be inserted rectally as well as pain medication. It took a long time for it to heal and I dealt with major anxiety for awhile thereafter whenever I needed to have a bowel movement.

  • kitkat

    My doc had me buy baby washcloths as they are softer n more gentle. Gently rinse area with warm water. NO SOAP! And wash the washcloths in a detergent like All Free n Clear to keep fragrances out of the picture. Irritating. He had me pat dry. And then pat cornstarch on affected area to keep dry. That helps too for analysis itching g.

  • Daniel bowman shiva mathey Jr

    I need a enema