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Bowel health: What is a normal colour and what signifies abnormality – expert weighs in


Bowel health depends on the digestive or gastrointestinal system working well. An effectively working bowel is one that, amongst other things, is able to digest food effectively and eliminate the waste easily and with an appropriate frequency (at least four times a week). A key sign of how well the bowel is working is the appearance of your stools. How does the bowel and digestive work, how many stools should you be having a week to be considered healthy and what is a healthy-looking stool? Community Pharmacist, Sultan Dajani, spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to offer his insight.

When asked how the digestive works, Sultan said: “The digestive system is essentially a very long tube that stretches from the back of the mouth to the anus.

“When we eat, the food gets chewed into little pieces that are easy to swallow.

“The food leaves the mouth then passes down the food pipe (oesophagus) to the stomach, squeezed by regular contractions along its way. This is called peristalsis.

“When the food reaches the stomach, it is broken down into a mushy liquid called chyme by acids and enzymes. 

“The small intestine is made up of three parts.

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Sometimes, stools can vary in colour, texture, amount, and odour.

These differences can be worrying, but usually, these changes are not significant and will resolve in a day or two.

Other times, however, changes in poop indicate a more serious condition.

A healthy stool should be medium to dark brown, pain-free to pass, and soft to firm in texture.

At most, it should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes to pass stool, said Medical News Today.

The health site added: “People that take longer than this may have constipation, haemorrhoids, or another condition.

“A healthy poop varies from person to person. However, a person should monitor any changes in the smell, firmness, frequency, or colour of poop as it can indicate there is a problem.”

Stools which are considered abnormal include:

  • Pooping too often (more than three times daily)
  • Not pooping often enough (less than three times a week)
  • Excessive straining when pooping.
  • Poop that is coloured red, black, green, yellow, or white
  • Greasy, fatty stools
  • Pain when pooping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Bleeding while passing stool
  • Watery poop (diarrhoea)
  • Very hard, dry poop that is difficult to pass
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