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Digestion, Excretion Strange Facts and Health Problems

A doctor can tell much about a person’s health and can diagnose certain conditions by sending stool samples for analysis. In their book, Body Signs, Joan Liebmann-Smith and Jacqueline Nardi Egan discuss some of the illnesses that can be identified through faeces.

The Sounds and Products of Digestion

A rumbling stomach is a sign that the digestive system is working well. The sounds are caused by peristalsis which is the muscular contractions of the walls of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although the sounds are normal, severe gurgling accompanied by bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhoea may be a sign of a GI problem such as stomach viruses, bowel obstructions, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Burping and farting are the result of gas in the intestinal system and are a natural way of expelling the excess. It is estimated that most people produce between one and three pints of gas per day.

Facts about Human Faeces and Health

Stools vary greatly in colour, texture, size and quantity and these differences can reveal much about diet and health. Here are some signs to watch out for:
  • Green stools can be a sign of a diet rich in green vegetables or the result of certain antibiotics and iron supplements.
  • In a similar fashion, orange stools can be caused by eating a large amount of orange foods and certain medications.
  • Red stools can be a sign of eating large volumes of red food but there is always the chance that they contain blood. Bright red streaks of blood can be a sign of haemorrhoids. Red stools may indicate conditions such as diverticulitis or the presence of polyps. Dark red stools can signify problems in the upper GI tract.
  • Black tarry stools can be caused by iron supplements, charcoal and medicines containing bismuth. It can also be blood that has passed down from the oesophagus or stomach and may indicate some type of ulcer.
  • Pale stools are often a result of excess pale food or barium x-rays but may be a sign that bile is not reaching the stools. This can be caused by a number of serious conditions such as hepatitis, liver cancer and cirrhosis.
  • Floating stools are caused by excess gas and occasionally, celiac disease
  • Greasy stools with a bad odour may be the result of a high level of fat. This can be caused by bad diet or a condition where fat is not being absorbed
  • Skinny, ribbon-like stools can be a sign of bowel disease, adhesions, polylps or cancer and should be investigated by a doctor
Digestion is a natural process that is accompanied by sounds and the production of gas and stools. The colour, size and shape of faeces can give an indication of the diet of a person as well as being a sign of illness. Any sudden changes should be observed and monitored, and if they persist, medical help should be sought.

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