What Your Bathroom Experience is Telling You
Some health concerns, such as diet and exercise, seem to be constant sources for public conversation. Each person can obtain a great deal of information on what food they should eat and what types of exercises they should perform, and most people understand that if you have a six pack and eat plenty of veggies you could be considered a healthy individual.
Unfortunately, there is an equally important health topic that often goes completely undiscussed: your bathroom experience.
Most people consider the bathroom a very private place and, for that reason, usually don’t like to talk about it. Your experience inside of that private space, however, can often tell you more about your health than your physical appearance alone.
Stool colors are important because they reflect the health of several major organs in your body. The biggest concerns are usually the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, small intestine, and colon. A disease or insufficiency in one of these organs can cause significant changes in your stool colors.
Sometimes you eat something that doesn’t sit well with you and you end up having diarrhea, with your food passing through you at a very fast rate. This might cause you to have green stools.
The bile your liver releases doesn’t have time to break down the stool, which results in this coloration. Green stool could also be caused by eating green food coloring, such as the literary-inspired “green eggs and ham,” or by consuming a great deal of leafy green vegetables or iron supplements.
This color is usually fairly rare, but if you see it, it is most likely due to consumption of too much carrots, turnips, squash, or any other yellow-orange colored food.
Decreased bile production, as in the case of bile flow obstruction or liver disease, could also cause this color to occur.
If your bowel is looking a little more yellow, greasy, and perhaps smelling bad, it could possibly be due to poor absorption of fat in your intestines.
In a healthy individual, proteins, carbohydrates, fat, water, and chemicals get absorbed in your intestinal lining. In people who have poor absorption, such as those suffering from celiac disease, the intestinal lining isn’t as proficient in absorbing fats and a great deal is excreted, resulting in the yellow and smelly stool.
If you love to consume beets, cranberries, tomato juice, and soups like “borscht” like I do, then you may be used to observing this color in your stool. Excessive red dye from these foods, or food coloring, can result in red stool.
Another big factor that can cause red stools is lower intestinal bleeding. This can be caused by ulcers, polyps (small bumps in your intestine), hemorrhoids (inflamed veins), or colorectal cancer.
Bleeding in your lower intestinal tract can also cause your stool samples to look black. Therefore, many of the causes of red stools are true for black stools as well.
If you have been having stomach issues and taking Pepto-Bismol you might also see some black stools. Otherwise, overconsumption of foods like black licorice or others that have significant black food dye, can also be the cause of this stool color.
Bile is what usually colors your stool. If it has enough time to be processed, it makes the stool appear brown. If you aren’t able to release bile into your intestine, such as in the case of bile obstruction, you will most likely see this white or faint color. Other causes could also be medication, such as large doses of bismuth.
This is the normal color that you will usually see in the bathroom. It usually indicates that everything is normal with you. Your bile is being created and has enough time to be processed. You are absorbing most of your nutrients and most likely don’t have an intestinal bleeding problem.
See a doctor
If your stool color isn’t the normal brown color and can’t be explained by the food patterns you have been eating, it's a good idea to see a doctor.
Lastly it’s important to get enough fiber in your diet from high fiber foods such as lentils, split peas, broccoli, artichokes, and black beans. If you notice your stool is hard or mostly consists of dark liquid then you are most likely not getting enough dietary fiber. Try to get more dietary fiber in your meals.
Your urine color is also very important to your health.
It covers the other gastrointestinal organs that were not covered by your stool sample, including your kidneys, ureter, and bladder. If somebody has kidney stones, an infection, or an underlying diabetic disease, many symptoms can precipitate in your urine and also be followed with pain in your back or lower hip region.
Visible blood in your urine is usually a cause for concern. The two most common causes of blood in urine are infections or kidney stones, which both require medical attention and are associated with pain. Kidney stones that attempt to leave the body often get stuck, and tear through tissue, which causes the visible bleeding.
Dark Orange Urine
If you see that your urine is a dark or orange color, and especially if your stool samples are a discolored white color, you may be suffering from a malfunction in your liver. Orange can also be caused by severe dehydration.
Blood can create the red color, which can be possibly caused by kidney infections, stones, or cancer. It’s also important to remember that certain medications, such as Rifampin or azulifidine, can cause your urine to be either orange or red in color.
This color is usually seen due to different food colorings. Also, certain medications, such as indomethacin or propofol, can cause your urine to be this color. Rare diseases, such as hypercalcemia (high calcium level in blood) are also known to cause this.
Certain foods, such as fava beans, aloe or rhubarb, can cause brown urine. Nitrofurantoin medication can also cause this coloring. Be aware of urinary tract infections, as they can also precipitate this color.
Lastly, if you are severely dehydrated your urine can be this color. Drink plenty of fluids to improve your urine quality.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences
- LeBlond RF, et al., eds. The abdomen, perineum, anus, and rectosigmoid. In: DeGowin's Diagnostic Examination. 10th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Sept. 28, 2016.
- Feldman M, et al. Gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 29, 2016.
- What is celiac disease? Celiac Disease Foundation. https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/. Accessed Sept. 29, 2016.