DIGESTIVE DISORDERS / GASTROENTEROLOGY
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Significance of Stool Size
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by PhillyMan, Nov 25, 2004
Dr-

Please forgive graphic nature of the question, but this is really important and very serious.  What is the nature of normal stools?  More specifically I have the following questions:

1-Is there a reason why stools float vs. sink? Soft vs. hard?  What is the cause and significance?

2-I read where colon cancer has as a symptom thinner than "normal" stools.  If I have a thick ( half dollar in width) stool one day and the next day have a long thinner one (both very soft) is this a bad thing?  I would think logiically that a colon tumor would not grow big enough overnight to create enough blockage to make the stool thin.

3-I normally go every two days.  I went yesterday ( stool was long, soft and thick) and went again this morning ( unusual).  I was surprised by it.  I had a very rich dinner last night and my stomach has been a bit upset all night-I keep belching and tasting the food I ate.  Any thoughts here as well?

4-Finally I have always read that rapid weight loss without any other changes is a very bad sign.  I am very curious WHY this happens?  What is it about systemtic disease that causes this?  Or is it that disease causes loss of appetite and that means no eating and hence the weight loss?  For the record, I have a huge appetitie and after I went this morning, I am starving.

I thank you in advance for your help and I hope a rapid answer.

I welcome anyone elses thoughts or experiences as well!

TCPhilly.
Answer:
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by Kevin Pho, MDBlank, Nov 27, 2004
To answer your questions:
1) Qualities of the stool often depends on what you eat.  There are some cases of floating stools that are caused by fat malabsorption.

2) Colon cancer or masses can change the caliber of stool.  A colonoscopy can be done to evaluate for this.

3) Again, stool frequency is variable from person to person and is dependent on what was eaten.

4) Many, many things can cause weight loss.  You may also want to consider water loss, which also can vary weight.  Dietary habits, in conjunction with irritable bowel, can also cause weight variation.  Thyroid tests as well as cancer can cause weight loss.  You may want to inquire about age appropriate cancer screening tests (colon and prostate cancer screening above the age of 50), as well as tests for thyroid, kidney and liver tests.  

Followup with your personal physician is essential.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
Medical Weblog:
kevinmd_b
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Member Comments (4)
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by PhillyMan, Nov 25, 2004
I did write earlier and want to mention I have been told I have IBS.  In the above post, I don't strain when I go and there is no pain or blood.  The stools are not broken up.  I eat a big bowel of raisin bran in the am, and apple ( new the last couple of days) and have been increasing my water intake.
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by GallbladderBaby, Nov 26, 2004
Hello-
I think that you are excessively worrying.  Stools vary by what you eat.  If you're really worried, have a colonoscopy for piece of mind.
GallbladdeBaby
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by yoshi, Nov 26, 2004
there are many reasons-you could have a high metabolism rate,you may have parasitic worms,there may be malabsorbtion,some food could cause stool to be loose ,tasting your food after eating a big meal is reflux from your stomach.
if you are worried about your stool,have the lab look at it .
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by PhillyMan, Nov 27, 2004
Thanks for all of your input.  I now notice that as I have been drinking much more water and eating more fiber type foods, I am going every day and the stools are soft.  I also noticed that if I go, then the first stool is complete and of a diameter around an inch or more, then I feel more in there so I strain to get it out and that second part comes out thinner and longer.  I KNOW I am over the top with worry here and this all sounds silly and stupid. Thanks again.
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by bean1998, Sep 28, 2008
A related discussion, stool diameter was started.
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by Darcy800, Jun 12, 2009
A related discussion, Maintain size of stool was started.