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What your bowel movements reveal about your health

What your bowel movements reveal about your health

Ah, the mysterious world of bowel movements – an everyday occurrence that holds the key to understanding our digestive health. Most of us shy away from discussing it, but your bowel movements can reveal valuable insights about what's happening inside your body. In this friendly and informative journey, let's decode the shapes and colours of your bathroom adventures and understand what they might be telling you about your overall wellbeing.

The palette of poop: understanding colours


The typical colour of a healthy bowel movement is brown, thanks to a pigment called bilirubin produced during the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver. This brown hue indicates a well-functioning digestive system and proper nutrient absorption [1].


Seeing green in your toilet bowl might raise an eyebrow, but fear not. Green poop can result from consuming green veggies, such as spinach or kale, or even certain medications. However, if the green persists and is accompanied by other symptoms, it's worth mentioning to your healthcare provider [2].


While red can be a festive colour, it's less so when it appears in your stool. Red or maroon-coloured stools may indicate bleeding in the lower digestive tract. This could be due to various reasons, from haemorrhoids to more serious conditions. If you notice persistent red stools, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional promptly [3].


Black, tarry stools may signal bleeding higher up in the digestive tract, often due to issues with the stomach or upper intestine. This can be caused by medications, certain foods, or even internal bleeding. If you observe this colour consistently, it's vital to seek medical advice [4].


Pale or lighter coloured stools may indicate that your body is not producing enough of a fluid called bile, which is important in digestion. Bile is especially important in the digestion of fats into fatty acids that your digestive tract can absorb. If your poo remains pale for more than a few days it is worth speaking with a healthcare professional to check everything is working okay [5]


Yellow poo may indicate that your body has an infection so it is important not to ignore it. Sometimes it can be greasy and yellow meaning that you may have a condition that affects how your body absorbs fat. This can include conditions such as coeliac disease or problems with your liver, so it is important to discuss persistent yellow stools with your doctor [6].

Shapes and sizes: the scoop on shapes

Sausage-shaped and smooth

A well-formed stool often resembles a sausage or snake and is smooth in texture. This suggests a healthy transit time through the digestive system, indicating that your body is effectively absorbing nutrients and hydrating waste [7].

Pellets and pebbles

If your bowel movements resemble small, hard pellets or pebbles, it could be a sign of constipation. Dehydration, lack of fibre, or certain medications can contribute to this. Increasing water intake and incorporating fibre-rich foods into your diet can help soften things up [8].

Watery wonders

On the flip side, loose, watery stools may indicate diarrhoea. This can be caused by infections, certain foods, or underlying medical conditions. If diarrhoea persists for more than a couple of days, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to identify the cause [9].

Floating or sinking

The buoyancy of your stool can also provide clues. Generally, stools should sink. If they consistently float, it might be due to excess gas or fat in the stool. While the occasional floater is normal, persistent floating could be a sign of malabsorption issues and should be discussed with a healthcare provider [10].

What your bowels are trying to tell you

Consistency is key

Ideally, your bowel movements should be regular, comfortable, and easy to pass. Changes in frequency, consistency, or colour can be indicators of underlying issues. Trust your instincts – if something seems off, it's worth discussing with a healthcare professional.

Dietary delights

The foods you consume play a significant role in the appearance of your stool. A well-balanced diet rich in fibre, fruits, and vegetables contributes to healthy bowel movements. Experimenting with your diet and noting changes can help you understand what your gut loves or loathes.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can lead to constipation, impacting the shape and texture of your stool. Ensure you're drinking enough water throughout the day to keep things flowing smoothly.

When to seek help

While minor changes in bowel habits are normal, persistent alterations in colour, shape, or consistency should not be ignored. If you experience unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, or prolonged changes in bowel movements, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.

Your bowel movements are like a daily report card from your digestive system, and understanding what they're telling you can empower you to take charge of your health. If you're concerned about your bowel health, consider taking MyHealthChecked's Bowel Health Rapid Test for quick and convenient insights into your digestive wellbeing.

MyHealthChecked Bowel Health Rapid Test


  1. Stewart, C. P., Dewanji, A., Geary, D. F., & Clarke, J. (2006). Bilirubin production in human infants. Pediatrics, 117(3), 1049-1051.
  2. Wysocki, A., Kowalska-Duplaga, K., & Piwowarczyk, A. (2005). Characteristics of stool colour in treated children with coeliac disease. Acta Paediatrica, 94(11), 1556-1560.
  3. Parikh, R., Karim, R., & Parikh, S. (2006). Clinical significance of blood in stools. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 54, 159-162.
  4. Wilkins, T., Reynolds, A. P., & Wald, A. (2017). Constipation in adults. BMJ, 356, j443.
  5. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). (2019). Stools—pale. Clinical Knowledge Summaries. This source provides information on the clinical presentation of pale stools and suggests investigating further if they persist.
  6. British Liver Trust. (n.d.). Stools & urine. This source from the British Liver Trust provides information on various stool colors and their implications, including yellow stools potentially indicating liver issues.
  7. Arhan, P., Devroede, G., Jehannin, B., et al. (1981). Segmental colonic transit time. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, 24(8), 625-629.
  8. Chaussade, S., Minic, M., Vergnolle, N., et al. (1991). Acute diarrhea in patients with ileoanal pouches. Gastroenterology, 101(3), 703-708.
  9. O'Donnell, L. J. (1990). The pathophysiology of diarrhea. The Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 4(1), 33-37.
  10. Serra, J., Azpiroz, F., & Malagelada, J. R. (1998). Impaired transit and tolerance of intestinal gas in the irritable bowel syndrome. Gut, 42(6), 761-764.