How Much Do You Know About Poop? Take This Quiz to Find Out

No, really: How much do you know about poop? It's not the most glamorous topic to chat about, but it's one that's so important because it's shape, smell, and color can tell you a lot about how healthy you are. Not to mention, it's something you do regularly (hehe, we hope: poop joke!), and so it might be on your mind pretty often. Take this quiz to test your BM knowledge and learn what your poo is telling you:

  1. This is how often you should poop to be considered regular:

A: Once a day

B: Three times per day
C: Three times per week

D: Once a week

Answer: A, B, and C. While the average person poops out 3 to 8 ounces of waste daily, any range from three BMs per day to three BMs per week is considered normal. Anything less is defined as constipation and anything more frequent is called diarrhea, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. You may go more or less frequently depending on the food you eat, new medications (these commonly list constipation or diarrhea as a side effect: Read the label or ask your pharmacist!), and in a change in exercise or activity, says Debbie Shiller, MD, a gastroenterologist with Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, if your normal BM habits change or are unexplained, call your doctor. It could be a sign of digestive conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD).

  1. Stools that are this color usually are not normal:

A: Red

B: Black
C: Yellow

D: Clay or white

Answer: All of the above. Normal poop is varying shades of brown or even green, says Dr. Shiller. However, each of the colors above—red, black, yellow, or white—could indicate an underlying problem. Red might mean you just ate a lot of beets (do you remember doing this?) or it could be blood in your stool, which is a sign of colon cancer. (And FYI: Colon cancer is rising in younger adults, points out the American Cancer Society.) Black stool can happen if you take iron supplements or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol), but it may be a sign of an upper gastrointestinal bleed. Yellow may be a gallbladder problem or infection. And finally, a light clay or white color indicates that there is a reduction in bile in your stool, which can be indicative of pancreatic dysfunction or cancer or liver disease, says Dr. Shiller. Bottom line: Check with your doctor if your poop has one of these alternate hues.

  1. When you look back in the toilet after #2, call your doctor if you see:

A: Oil on the surface

B: A small amount of white mucous
C: Floating or greasy stools

D: Corn in your stool

Answer: A and C. Poop looks like a lot of things, but oily or greasy or so sticky it's hard to flush are not qualities you want in your stool, says Dr. Shiller. These may be a sign of a malabsorption GI disorder like celiac disease, pancreatic dysfunction, infection, or even lactose intolerance. On the other hand, floating stools can just be extra gas in the stool (fine) but may also be another sign that there's a digestive problem at play. "One floating stool is okay, but if stools suddenly floated, I'd want to investigate what was going on," she says. Oh, and as for a little white mucous on your poop or the paper when you wipe? No biggie—this is probably just the mucous that lubricates things along to help you go. (Noticing a lot of it? Call your doctor.) Corn in your poop is totally normal; some foods, particularly corn, have an outer shell that's tough to breakdown so it may come out looking like it went in.

  1. This is the shape of A poop:

A: Sausage-shaped but lumpy

B: Sausage-shaped with cracks
C: Smooth and sausage or snake-like

D: Nice, soft blobs

Answer: B and C. This refers to the Bristol stool chart (Google it to get a visual of what each type means). "This chart shows the various stages of stool. The 'normal' ones are in the middle, but everyone has different stools," says Scott David Lippe, MD, chief of gastroenterology at New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, New Jersey and contracted specialist at AristaMD. Hard, difficult-to-pass lumps or pebbles indicate constipation, while small, fluffy pieces or watery stools skew towards diarrhea.

  1. The following can help you poop:

A: Prunes

B: Psyllium (fiber) supplements
C: Oatmeal

D: Kiwi

Answer: All of the above. If you're constipated, it can mean that you're not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water, two things that help bulk and keep stool soft for pleasant passage. And while you may know that prunes and fiber supplements (like Metamucil) are bona fide remedies for constipation, you can also add kiwi to the mix. In a preliminary study published at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting in 2020, patients with chronic constipation who ate two kiwis per day, 100g of prunes (about 12 dried plums, ahem), or took 12g of a psyllium powder supplement per day for four weeks. All three improved the number of weekly poops and reduced straining—but people generally said they found the kiwi to be the most palatable. "Kiwi has an enzyme that may help with constipation," says Dr. Shiller. Oatmeal is another winner, she says, as its soluble fiber not only draws fluid into the stool but also act as a probiotic to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

  1. Your poop should smell:

A: Clear-the room stinky

B: Pretty bad
C: Not great

D: Almost pleasant

Answer: C. What's the saying: It's not going to smell like roses? Listen, your sh*t is going to stink, but it shouldn't leave the room gasping for air. "Everyone's poop smells different, and it truly depends on what you eat," says Dr. Lippe. Meat, cruciferous vegetables, and dairy are all foods higher in sulfur which, when broken down during digestion, can cause a foul odor. Your nose should perk up, though, if your typical eau de poo changes. Blood in the stool, diarrhea, malabsorption problems, and infections like C. difficile or giardia can all be responsible for extra-stinky BMs. Yep, this is another time to talk to your doctor.

  1. Keeping or bringing this into your bathroom can make pooping easier:

A: Your phone

B: Air freshener spray
C: A toilet stool

D: Nice toilet paper

Answer: C. Whether you call it a toilet stool or a squatty potty, these devices are great for reducing straining and getting you to go. In fact, research out of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in 2019 found that "defecation posture modification devices" (also known as a toilet stool) improved the likelihood of having a complete bowel movement, eased straining, and reduced the time needed to sit on the toilet and go. "These stools can change the angle of how the muscles line up to relax the rectum and allow for defecation," says Dr. Shiller. Increased straining can also lead to hemorrhoids (blood vessels that can bulge from the anus, causing bleeding and itching), so anything that makes toilet time easier is a win.

  1. The following are red flag symptoms that warrant a call to your doctor:

A: Rectal bleeding

B: Change in bowel habits
C: Narrow stools

D: New abdominal pain

Answer: All of the above. But by now you knew that, right? These are all potential signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, along with unintentional weight loss and unexplained fatigue. The American Cancer Society recommends beginning regular screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 45, which can be done through tests such as the colonoscopy (done every 10 years for those at average risk), or if your doctor okays it, a stool-based test (done every year). These tests can both help prevent cancer by removing polyps, or growths in the colon, that can develop into cancer and find cancers at earlier, more treatable stages.

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