Q: What does it mean when I have undigested food in my poop?
Many high-fiber foods, like corn, leafy greens, and certain nuts and grains, often pass through you only partially digested because the enzymes in your system don't break them down fully. Eating more slowly, really chewing each bite, drinking plenty of water, and consuming probiotic-rich foods (yogurt, kefir) are all smart steps to take to keep your digestive tract running smoothly and your stool looking "normal." (A healthy poo may look different from person to person. But, in general, stool should be a shade of brown and soft enough that it's easy to pass, but still compact.)
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Though it may be a little gross, the occasional bit of undigested food in your (otherwise normal-looking) number two is typically nothing to fret about. But if it routinely happens along with diarrhea, you should bring it up with your doctor. Certain viral gastrointestinal infections can speed up the transit time of stool moving through your digestive tract, leading to diarrhea and the presence of undigested food. Diarrhea may also be a sign that your intestine is not absorbing nutrients properly, which can be a result of celiac or Crohn's disease. You should also see your doctor if you're experiencing cramping, bloating, or abdominal pain. It's possible you have a food intolerance or allergy, or irritable bowel syndrome.
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Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.