When Should You Be Worried About Undigested Food in Your Poop?

There may not always be a cause for concern.

Most would agree that having great digestive health is ideal, but easier said than done.

When your digestive system works at its best, it basically means whatever you eat or drink is being properly broken down and used by the body. Proper digestion also means your body can get rid of wastes from digestion through peeing and pooping.

A healthy stool may look different from person to person. But in general, poop should be a shade of brown and soft and compact enough that it's easy to pass.

So what does it mean when you have undigested food in your poop—and when should you be worried if that happens? Here's what you should know.

The Basics of Digestion

The digestive system is made of a few different organs, including the:

  • Mouth and salivary glands
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Appendix
  • Pancreas
  • Small and large intestines
  • Rectum and anus

Your digestive system works to get your body any nutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals) from what you eat or drink.

The body goes about the digestive process with the help of hormones and nerves. Digestion begins as food or drinks enter your mouth and continues as your body moves what you eat or drink through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to your large intestine.

What Is the GI Tract?

The GI tract is made up of hollow organs that are connected within the body. It contains the majority of the digestive system organs with the exception of the:

  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas

The GI tract breaks those nutrients down so the body can absorb and use those smaller parts for things the body needs. For example, carbs may be turned into simple sugars for energy use.

Once your body has digested whatever you've consumed and absorbed any nutrients, any waste products make up your poop—which is when undigested food might appear in your stool.

When Undigested Food in Your Poop Isn’t a Concern

Though it may be a little gross, the occasional bit of undigested food in your (otherwise normal-looking) number two is typically nothing to fret about.

Part of the reason there may be undigested food in your poop is based on the food you eat. For example, foods that are high in fiber can sometimes be hard to digest. These might include foods such as:

  • Corn
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Grains

Of note, there are enzymes (natural complex proteins that lead to chemical changes in the body) in the body that help break down food. However, high-fiber foods often pass through you only partially digested because the enzymes in your digestive system don't break them down fully.

When You Should Be Worried

If undigested food in your poop routinely happens along with diarrhea, you should bring it up with a healthcare provider.

Certain viral gastrointestinal infections (like gastroenteritis) can speed up the transit time of stool moving through your digestive tract—leading to diarrhea and the potential presence of undigested food.

Diarrhea may also be a sign that your intestine is not absorbing nutrients properly, which can be a result of celiac disease or Crohn's disease.

You should also see a healthcare provider if you're experiencing cramping, bloating, or abdominal pain. In those situations, you may have a food intolerance, allergy, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How to Make Sure Food Digests Well

There are a few ways to ensure that your body can digest food properly, such as:

  • Eating slowly and smaller meals
  • Adding enough fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables, into your diet
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Managing stress
  • Creating a meal routine (e.g., trying to eat at the same times every day)
  • Consuming probiotic-rich foods (e.g., yogurt, kefir)

These are all smart steps to keep your digestive tract running smoothly and your stool looking "normal."

A Quick Review

At times, undigested food can be in your poop. This might be due to eating high-fiber foods as part of your diet, which is sometimes harder to digest.

However, if high-fiber food is not responsible for undigested food in your stool, a digestive issue, including food allergies or intolerances, could be the reason. If you're unsure of the reason, it's best to see a healthcare provider to determine the possible causes.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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