There's nothing fun about dealing with gastrointestinal-related illnesses. It's painful, uncomfortable, infringes on your everyday life, and can be quite embarrassing, even though it shouldn't be. If you feel like something is wrong with your stomach or your intestines or anything like that, the obvious thing to do is immediately head to a gastroenterologist. These specialists can diagnose what's wrong with you, give you medication to help make you feel better, and soothe your worries. First, though, they have to run a battery of tests on you, including a stool sample: as gross as it might sound, there are a bunch of health issues that can be detected from your poop.
Collecting a stool sample is not fun or easy, and it's probably something you'd like to avoid! Unfortunately, if your doctor recommends one, you should listen to your doctor's advice and just get it over with it. It can help detect some serious issues that need to be dealt with immediately.
Of course, a stool sample isn't the only way you'll be able to tell that something is up with your body. You can probably tell on your own, whether you're monitoring your feces or realizing that, uh, things don't seem quite right. Maybe you're pooping way more than usual, maybe you can barely poop at all. Whatever the specifics, you'll know if something is up. Below are a few of the illnesses that could be detected by paying attention to your poop:
1. Parasitic Disease
You could be dealing with some sort of parasitic disease, and the CDC says that one of the best ways to diagnose that is with a stool sample. A stool sample can help doctors find the eggs or the parasite, which would be in your feces. You'd have to put three different stool samples into special containers and then deliver them to the lab to get results. Some symptoms include diarrhea, loose or watery stools, cramping, gas, and other abdominal illness.
Have you noticed blood in your stool, or a lot of pain when you're trying to go number two? It's possible that you're dealing with hemorrhoids, aka swollen veins in your anus or lower rectum. Bleeding during a bowel movement is the most common sign, and your doctor can confirm for sure with further testing.
3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
If you've been dealing with bad abdominal pain, cramping, chronic fatigue, and rectal bleeding, it's possible that you have inflammatory bowel disease, more commonly called IBS. Doctors will often do a stool test to check for signs of inflammation, which is a sign of IBS. These stool tests look for the presence of proteins like calprotectin and lactoferrin, which can be a sign of inflammation.
Diverticular disease refers to a condition that affects the colon. It happens when small pouches, called diverticula, form in weak spots on the colon wall. When these pouches become infected, it's called diverticulitis, which can cause cramping, bloating, or changes in bowel habits. There are several tests done to diagnose diverticulitis, and one is a stool sample where doctors look for abnormal bacteria and parasites.
5. Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine, otherwise known as the colon. It starts off as small, noncancerous polyps (clumps of cells) that form on the inside of the colon. It usually affects older adults, but can really happen at any age. A stool sample is often used to determine whether or not someone has colon cancer. The various types of stool samples might change, but they are all looking for signs of polyps. Blood in your stool is a sign of colon cancer, but it's not the only sign.
Colitis is a severe form of IBS, with symptoms that can include abdominal pain and cramping. If you're experiencing diarrhea and blood in your stool, that could be a sign of colitis, especially if you've dealt with IBS in the past. A stool sample test is needed to figure it out.
7. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease similar to Crohn's disease, although usually less serious. If you're experiencing cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and if you notice blood in your stool, these could all be signs. Doctors will often do fecal testing to check if there is blood in your stool as well.
Proctitis is the inflammation of the lining of the rectum, the muscular tube at the end of your colon where stool passes through on its way out of the body. Symptoms include rectal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and discharge, and you might feel like you always have to have a bowel movement even if you don't. If you're dealing with an inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis), or if you have a sexually transmitted disease, you're more likely to develop proctitis.