Health & Wellness

Colorado Health & Wellness | Spring 2016

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Health and Wellness Magazine • 49 Red stool indicates bleeding and could be a symptom of polyps, cancer, colitis, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel diseases or other maladies. A little blood occasionally on toilet paper after wiping may indicate hemorrhoids; but, don't dismiss hemorrhoids causing pain, bleeding excessively, or not improving with over-the counter remedies, says Evans. Light, clay or grey stool indicates the body isn't getting bile out of the liver into the intestine. This could be a symptom of a stone blockage or a tumor, he says. Black or tarry stool can signal bleeding higher in the GI tract. It's associated with such disorders as stomach and duodenal ulcers; see a doctor immediately if it coincides with abdominal pain and light-headedness, says Evans. Some medications, such as iron supplements and anti-diarrheal medications with bismuth subsalicylate, can also cause black stools. Shape & Consistency Stool can come in a spectrum of shapes and sizes. The Bristol Stool Form scale (BSF) or a similar chart helps patients understand and communicate information about their stools. Casanova and McGarry say smooth, sausage- or banana-shaped stools (Type 4) are ideal because they are formed and pass easier. To improve stool consistency overall, most adults should eat 20 to 25 grams of fiber and drink two liters of water a day. Children should consume fiber equal to their age plus five in grams (for example, a 5-year-old should get 10 grams of fiber). Your child is drinking enough water if she/he pees about every two hours, say Casanova and McGarry. People should not overdo too much of a good thing. Evans says over- consuming fiber can make constipation worse. Constipation, stools less than three times a week and/or difficult-to-pass stools, are often caused by narcotic pain medications, thyroid disorders, and inactivity, says Evans. Occasional constipation is common and can be treated with over-the-counter stool softeners or Vitamin C. Talk to your doctor about constipation lasting several weeks or longer. Stopped up bowels can have a domino effect. "They can cause urinary-tract infections, voiding dysfunction, incontinence, frequency, hesitancy, pelvic pressure and pelvic floor dysfunction," says Casanova. Frequent diarrhea can be a symptom of Crohn's disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), thyroid problems, cancers, and other health disorders. Diarrhea can sometimes be a symptom of constipation. Other causes could also include food sensitivities, stress, or even hormone changes, says Evans. A doctor can help a patient normalize the bowel pattern. Undigested food in stool should not automatically sound an alarm. Some vegetable and fruit skins are hard to digest and may be present. "Malabsorption has additional symptoms like very foul-smelling stools, a layer of oil in the toilet water, and weightloss. If those symptoms are present, get evaluated," Evans says. New research suggests a better way to go? When having bowel movements, researchers say both kids and adults should put their feet flat on a footstool, have their pants to their ankles, spread their knees apart, and have their belly out (not bent over at the waist). People should also not linger on the toilet (reading), as the pressure can increase problems such as hemorrhoids. Color Healthy stools should be medium to dark brown in color. Darker stool indicates a longer waste transit time through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Light brown and even greenish stools are also generally fine, says Evans. Some foods can also impact stool color, including greens (kale, spinach, etc.), beets, carrots, and berries. Other stool colors, however, may indicate a health problem and require a doctor's attention. Type 1 Separate, hard lumps Type 2 Sausage-shaped, lumpy Type 3 Sausage-shaped, cracks Type 7 Watery, no solid pieces Type 4 Sausage-shaped, smooth Type 5 Soft, distinct blobs Type 6 Fluffy, mushy stool Bristol Stool Chart

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