What It Means When There's Undigested Food In Your Poop

As you reach to flush the toilet after going number two, you can generally anticipate what you'll see when you look down into the toilet bowl. Most of the time, our bowel movements look pretty similar. That's why it can be all the more surprising when you glance down to see something that doesn't normally belong there, such as undigested pieces of your last meal. Wait a minute — isn't it our digestive tract's job to fully break down the foods we eat? So then, how did that corn kernel manage to remain fully intact?

After we've eaten, our stomach begins the process of breaking down the food we've ingested. The small intestine further takes over from there and draws out the food's nutrients and vitamins before the remains move into the large intestine (via WebMD). It's here where water is leached from our waste before it's expelled from the body in the form of stool. However, some foods pose an exception to the rule and can't be completely broken down. If bits of undigested food are present in your poop, it likely means that you've ingested foods with high fiber content.

The body can't break down fiber-rich foods

Fiber is a carbohydrate, and dietary carbohydrates can be separated into two categories: monosaccharides and polysaccharides (via Science ABC). While our digestive organs can successfully process monosaccharides into sugar molecules, our bodies aren't equipped with the enzymes needed to break down fiber, which is a polysaccharide. Therefore, fibrous foods like seeds, corn, fruit and vegetable peels, nuts, and more may unexpectedly turn up again after using the bathroom.

In some instances, finding undigested food in your poop may alternatively signal a potential health condition. This can include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lactose intolerance, or celiac disease, explains WebMD. It may also be indicative of a condition specific to the pancreas, an organ that produces enzymes to support digestion. However, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, or pancreatic insufficiency can all impact the organ's functioning, making it challenging for the body to break down food. Most often, undigested food in one's poop will not be the only symptom a person experiences if the cause is due to a health condition. One might also experience diarrhea, pain, fever, bloating, constipation, or more.

Our body needs fiber but here's when you should talk to your doctor

If you discover food remnants in your stool after indulging in a particularly fibrous lunch, know that this is not uncommon and there is no need to avoid fiber. After all, fiber is our gut bacteria's main source of food, according to researchers from a 2019 study published in the scientific journal Nutrients. Because the body can't break down fiber, it essentially reaches our colon unscathed, giving our microbiome a nice, hearty meal. In turn, this keeps our gut happy and healthy.

However, if you develop accompanying symptoms such as bowel incontinence, tiredness, unexpected weight loss, fever, blood in your stool, or more, be sure to reach out to your physician. In some cases, undigested food showing up in one's poop can indicate a person isn't absorbing nutrients as they should, which can increase one's risk of malnutrition. So again, you'll want to speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.