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Black Poop? Here's What It Says About Your Health

August 27, 2018

No one really talks about it, but a lot of people peek at their poop. In fact, a gastroenterologist questionnaire about the practice of stool inspection found that 27 percent of respondents checked the box to say they did examine their stool every time they used the bathroom. "Peekers" were able to detect an issue with a color change and do something about it, while non-peekers had no idea about this helpful health clue.

But what happens if, one day, you peek and you see black poop? Your mind will probably go in a hundred different directions. While there may be cause for concern, it's also possible that there are less scary explanations. Asking yourself the right questions is the way to figure out what steps you need to take when it comes to black poop.

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Why is my poop black?

The first question to ask yourself is: Was it something I ate? Food, certain supplements, and medications can cause black stools. Think black licorice, blueberries, beets, prunes, cranberries, or even dark chocolate cookies. Dark blue, black, or green foods can all cause black stools. Other ingestible causes of black stools include iron supplements, whether stand-alone or part of a multivitamin, and Pepto Bismol, a popular pink upset-stomach medication with pink bismuth. This is nothing to worry about. But if nothing you've eaten or taken seems to be the reason, it's time to take the next step.

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When is it time to consult with a doctor?

It's important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your stool. If you notice black stool, consultation and testing are necessary to understand if the issue is digested blood that is causing the poop to appear black and tarry, known as gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding—bleeding that can happen in any part of the GI tract. If GI bleeding is the possible cause, further recommendations can include a rectal exam, colonoscopy, endoscopy, or lab testing. Because black poop can mean something minor or major, you will want to follow your doctor's advice to know for sure what is happening. Everything from blood and circulatory issues to acute variceal hemorrhage, to intestinal disorders to ulcers, to polyps and the possibility of colon cancer, are reasons to pursue answers regarding your black stools. It's not something to second-guess or ignore. You also don't want to jump to a conclusion of a severe diagnosis. See your doctor and get answers.

Another good idea? Incorporate proven supplementation to increase your bowel health. In clinical studies1, curcumin combined with turmerones has been shown to be a stellar choice to provide superior absorption and reduce inflammatory compounds in the intestines. In addition, a tannin-free French grapeseed extract, standardized to contain small molecular OPCs—those compounds found in grapeseeds that stop oxidative damage and reduce inflammation—can also produce a positive effect on the digestive tract and small intestines. Study after study continually tout highly absorbable curcumin and French grapeseed extract2 as stealthy warriors in the fight for exceptional intestinal and digestive health.

The bottom line? When you poop, it's important that you peek. And after you peek, take appropriate action if you notice black poop. When you notice something—don't panic. Follow these simple steps to find peace of mind:

  • Assess what you've been eating. Does your diet include dark foods like blueberries, beets, and chocolate cookies?
  • Review any supplements and medications you take. Do a little research to make sure there is not a warning about dark stools in the fine print.
  • Explore proven supplementation for inflammatory bowel issues that can bring down inflammation and improve your bowel health—clinically studied absorbable curcumin with turmerones and tannin-free French grapeseed extract.
  • Make an appointment to see your doctor, and don't be shy about candidly sharing your observations. You're not talking about something new or unheard of, so be direct and share the facts about your bathroom experience.
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Here's the cause of another common digestion issue: thin poop.

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Ajay Goel, Ph.D.
Ajay Goel, Ph.D.
Biophysicist

Ajay Goel, Ph.D., is a professor and the director of Translational Genomics and Oncology, as well as the director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Research at the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute at Baylor University Medical Center. Goel is one of the top scientists in the world investigating botanical interventions and has dedicated over 20 years to cancer research.

As a research pioneer, Goel is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Gastroenterology Association. He is also on the international editorial boards of Gastroenterology, Clinical Cancer Research, Carcinogenesis, PLoS ONE, Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Scientific Reports, Epigenomics, Future Medicine, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, and World Journal of Gastroenterology. Goel further serves on various grant funding committees for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several international organizations.

In addition to a thriving career in medicine, Goel is a big supporter of the movement for more simple, natural foods and improved dietary practices. He also works privately with an organization in India to provide food, shelter, education, and care for orphaned children.