If your poop appears pale and even seems to float in the toilet, it may be an indication that your pancreas, an organ that aids in digestion, isn’t working normally, Chey says. Very smelly poop that looks greasy or oily can also point to problems with the pancreas, according to the Mayo Clinic, and may mean that your body is having trouble digesting fat.
A problem with the liver could be another reason for pale poop, since the organ is responsible for releasing the bile that typically gives feces its brown hue. Be sure to talk with a doctor if either of these issues — pale or greasy stool — persists for more than a few days, especially if you’re experiencing weight loss or abdominal pain alongside it.
How often are you going?
Consistency is another important feature to pay attention to — and, along with it, frequency.
If you’re someone who releases soft stools every day, for example, and then you’re suddenly not able to go — or can produce only pencil-thin feces — it could point to an obstruction, like a mass or lesion, somewhere in your GI tract, says Reezwana Chowdhury, M.D., a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Trouble going can also be diet related. Increasing your water and fiber intake — try more fruits, vegetables and whole grains — can help with constipation. So can exercise.
“I tell many of my patients who have issues with constipation: The more you move, the more your gut moves,” Chowdhury says. “A sedentary lifestyle does slow your gut down.”
Constipation also becomes more common with age. “Things just slow down” as we get older, Chey explains. Often, people are less active, their diets change, and they’re taking more medications. Add all those factors together and you have a greater likelihood of experiencing constipation.
If your issues lie on the opposite side of the spectrum and your bowel movements are frequent and watery (diarrhea), it may be due to something you ate or a sign that your body is fighting a virus or struggling with a food intolerance.