Cloudy urine. Strange-smelling stool. Was it something you ate? Or does it reflect a deeper health problem. In their new book, ($27; Rodale Books), the MDs behind the hit TV show The Doctors reveal how to tell.
Symptoms: Light, white or clay-colored bowel movement
What it could mean: Can be caused by taking diarrhea drugs containing bismuth subsalicylate (such as Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol) or may be a sign of a problem in the system that drains the gallbladdder, liver and pancreas
What to do: Call your doctor
Symptoms: Black stool
What it could mean: Could be from iron supplements, diarrhea medications, black licorice or even blueberries. May also be caused by bleeding in the upper intestinal tract, from an intestinal infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or bleeding from hemorrhoids.
What to do: Call your doctor right away
Symptoms: Red stool
What it could mean: May be due to red food coloring, tomato products, beets or cranberries, or may be a sign of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract
What to do: Call your doctor right away if you suspect bleeding is the cause
Symptoms: Frequent loose, watery bowel movements (several times a day)
What it could mean: Diarrhea from a bacterial or viral infection
What to do: Drink plenty of fluids; if the diarrhea is severe or lasts for more than a few days, sip an electrolyte beverage (also called a rehydration drink) such as Pedialyte, CeraLyte, or Infalyte or a sports drink. See your doctor if the diarrhea gets worse, if you don’t get better within 5 days (2 days for babies and children), if you have a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for children or if there is blood or pus i your stool.
Symptoms: Green stool
What it could mean: Usually a reflection of what you’ve eaten, such as lots of green, leafy vegetables, green drinks or frozen pop, even iron supplements
What to do: Follow the advice given for diarrhea
Symptoms: Small, hard, dry stools that may even be little balls (like deer or rabbit poop!)
What it could mean: Constipation
What to do: Increase the amount of fiber in your diet, drink more water and get some exercise.
Symptoms: Stool that sinks or floats
What it could mean: It’s a mostly harmless indicator of how much gas is in your stool. But if your stool sinks and is hard and dry, you may be constipated
What to do: Usually, sinkers and floaters are nothing to worry about, and, in fact, experts are divided over which type is healthiest. Just be sure you’re eating plenty of fiber-rich produce and whole grains and drinking six to eight glasses of water a day for easy "passage" of your bowel movements.
Symptoms: Soft (but not liquid), S-shaped bowel movement
What it could mean: A normal bowel movement
What to do: Keep on doing whatever you’ve been doing-a bowel movement like this is a good sign that you’re getting plenty of fiber and water.
Symptoms: Pink, red or brown urine
What it could mean: Coloring from a medication you’re taking or from foods like beets or blackberries. Could also be a sign of a liver disorder or bleeding in the urinary tract.
What to do: Call your doctor
The Doctors 5-Minute Health Fixes 2010 by Stage 29 Productions. Permission granted by Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.