The One Question About Your Poop That You're Too Embarrassed To Ask

Photographed by Winnie Au.
It's not the most pleasant topic, but your poop can tell you a lot about your health. For example, watery or "loose" poops can be a sign of a GI infection, while blackish or really dark poops can be a sign of intestinal bleeding. And then, there's the smell. It should go without saying that everyone's shit stinks, but a change in odor can sometimes be unsettling. Thankfully, this usually isn't a cause for concern. Shape spoke with a few experts on the subject in order to answer the questions you might not want to ask in person.
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One of the most common (and non-worrying) reasons your poop's scent might change comes down to what you're eating. Anish Sheth, MD, author of What's Your Poo Telling You?, told Shape that foods that are high in sulfur (meat, garlic, broccoli, kale, and dairy) are harder to digest and release a lot of gasses in the process, which can lend "an eggy aroma to stool."

Processed foods and foods that are high in fat can also be to blame, since these are also harder for your system to digest. Gina Sam, MD, of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, explained that these kinds of foods spend more time in your gut, so they have more time to produce gases that lead to smellier poops.

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If you notice that your trips to the bathroom are stinkier after you eat dairy, you could be suffering from lactose intolerance.

What's more worrying, though, is if the change in odor comes with other symptoms, like abdominal pain, fatigue, or loss of appetite — this could be a sign of a bigger issue, such as celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten) or an infection. Both of these are treatable with diet changes or medications, but you shouldn't diagnose yourself, as many different problems that affect the gut have similar symptoms. If you think something more than a change in your diet is to blame for smelly poops, see your doctor, who can run tests and prescribe appropriate treatments.

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Shape for more on maintaining a healthy, happy gut.

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