Bathroom Habits and Your Health

What can a toilet teach you about your body? Quite a bit it turns out. Yes, it may seem gross, but regularly observing your bathroom habits may help alert you to potential threats to your health. Here’s a quick hit list of characteristics of which to be aware:

Urine: Ideally, urine should be a shade or two off of completely clear. This shows the body is well hydrated, and not suffering from any infections or internal bleeding in the digestive or urinary tract. The exceptions are after eating or drinking intensely colored foods or beverages (beets, for example, can turn both urine and stool somewhat red, which can be alarming when first observed, but is completely normal). Dark yellow urine signifies inadequate hydration and may indicate inefficient kidney function. Urine with a particularly pungent smell may be related to foods (some people report a strong odor after consuming asparagus, among other vegetables), or it may be an indicator of other health considerations. A strong, somewhat acidic smell may be present in those consuming alcohol to excess. An odor like acetone, model glue or nail polish remover may be a warning sign of disorders like diabetes or hyperglycemia. Of course, any pain or discomfort while urinating may indicate anything from a urinary tract infection to a sexually transmitted disease to a yeast infection (which can affect both men and women).

Stools: Formed, easy-to-pass stools that occur with regular frequency ranging from once a day to two or three times a week are the typical norm. Color should fall within the full range of the brown family. Pale stools indicate the presence of insufficient bile which means something is impacting liver function. Bright red or very dark (almost black) stools indicate some level of bleeding in the digestive tract. Loose, very foul smelling or overly frequent stools are symptoms of intestinal inflammation (which may be caused by diet or infection) or the presence of too much fat in the diet. Marbled-looking stools means there is mucus present in the stool, which is another sign that there may be inflammation in the intestines.

From time to time, each of us may encounter one or more of these symptoms... of course, not all of them need be reason to rush to the emergency room. Usually a change in diet and sometimes exercise patterns can help the body self regulate back to its optimum state. If, however, your symptoms don’t resolve with a change in diet, or persist for several days, always seek the advice of a physician.