Unless you’re a gastroenterologist, you probably don’t discuss poop on a regular basis. But odds are, you may have some questions about your visits to the loo that have been left unanswered. For instance, ever wonder why certain foods remain whole in your stool? Here are 5 causes of food particles in your poop:
Sometimes foods aren’t broken down properly.
The bacteria in your body should be able to properly break down your food, but sometimes high-fiber foods are especially difficult to digest. Corn, carrots, cereal, seeds, and nuts are among the most common culprits as the starches in these foods can be difficult to digest. Because these foods pass through the body virtually unchanged, we don’t always absorb all of their nutrients.
Almost all plant-based foods contain complex carbs that are not easily converted into calories by our bodies. To ensure that you are truly absorbing your nutrients, try steaming your veggies—this will soften them, allowing more of their nutrients to be released.
You’re not chewing your food thoroughly.
What we see in our stool is also influenced by how well we chew our food. The digestion process begins with mastication. If we don’t chew our foods thoroughly, this makes it difficult for digestive enzymes to work on the food, so they pass through intact.
The food has a tough exterior shell.
Some nuts and seeds have tough exterior shells that make it difficult to access the fats stored inside. Not so for corn—so why does it always seem to pass through our bodies whole? It may not have a hard shell, but each kernel of corn has an outer casing composed of cellulose, which cannot be broken down by human enzymes. The inside of the kernel gets digested, but the cellulose casing remains visible in the stool. While it may appear that the corn is fully intact, we do usually absorb these nutrients.
Things move quickly.
Normally, it takes 24-72 hours for food to pass through the digestive tract. Some people have a high motility rate and might notice food particles in the stool that haven’t had time to be fully broken down. This motility rate is the transit time, which is affected by the health of the colonic muscles as well as the composition of the diet.
The gastrointestinal tract is made up of four distinct parts: the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Each part of the GI tract has a unique job in digestion, and motility can vary even between different sections of the bowels.
You’re having other GI issues.
Seeing food particles in your stool is not typically cause for concern. However, if they are accompanied by diarrhea and/or weight loss, it can be a sign of more serious condition and should be evaluated by a doctor.
Diarrhea and weight loss can both be a signs of malabsorption related to celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or pancreatic insufficiency. Be aware that all diseases causing malabsorption can cause undigested food particles in the stool. It’s not a specific symptom of a particular disease, which is why it should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.