What is in my water that has caused changes to my, um, bowel movements?
July 8, 2013 10:09 PM   Subscribe

What is in my water that has caused changes to my, um, bowel movements? (Some graphic details inside)

Ever since I moved to my new house, I've been having issues with #2. I hate to be so graphic but it's probably necessary; I went from being very regular in every way with this to having these soft, sticky, tarry masses that requires me to scrub the toilet sometimes immediately after "going." I've been trying probiotics and been taking my lactose more regularly. I've tried removing various things from my diet one at a time to no avail. Then, I noticed that when I travel I don't have this problem! I was traveling for work a few days a week and the difference between home and travel was immediate and dramatic!

To test this, for the last week I've been drinking only bottled water at home and.. voila! Problem solved!

So, what is in my water and what kind of filter can remove this? Will Brita be sufficient or are we talking reverse osmosis? I live in a housing development that has some kind of shared water system. We have our own small hot water heater, but, there's something about a shared tank... I don't remember. Anyway, ideas? I'm opposed to the amount of garbage, even if recycled, my bottled water habit will cause.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tarry? What color?
posted by SLC Mom at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2013

I wonder if the shared tank has a dead animal or something in it. Have you talked to any of your neighbors about this? Obviously it's kind of embarassing but it would be worth it to see if this is just your house that's got contaminated water or if it's the whole development, because then that could determine who you call to come take a look at your water supply.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:25 PM on July 8, 2013

What is in my water that has caused changes to my, um, bowel movements?

Giardia, possibly?
posted by zippy at 10:52 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get your water tested by a reputable lab. Figure out what the deal is with your water supply; you should understand how your tap water comes to you. If there is a problem with your water you will need to figure out who is responsible for it.
posted by Luke Skywalker at 10:57 PM on July 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

Concur with Luke Skywalker. You need to get your water properly tested ASAP.
posted by MissySedai at 11:28 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Remember that disposable single bottles of water are not the only option. You can easily purchase large 5 gallon jugs of water and have them filled at water filling places (which abound here in Arizona, YMMV, but they're often available at grocery stores or dedicated water/ice places here, or little parking lot kiosks) for a few cents. They're completely reusable each and every time, and would entirely remove your house's water from anything you consume.

Reverse osmosis isn't terribly expensive, in any event. I think our system cost $200 when I had it put in and it's completely amazing. It will essentially strip out anything, the water tastes better, and it's softer too. (We have serious water quality issues with our water here in Arizona. It's safe, but it's hard hard hard and it tastes... minerally and not in a pleasant way. It's actually really frustrating. RO solves that entirely.)
posted by disillusioned at 2:05 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is kind of a serious health matter. There should not be stuff in your drinking water that is making you sick, and if the development is supplying you with water that is not up to standard it could also be a serious legal matter.

I would start by contacting your local Department of Health, as they are probably responsible for overseeing water quality issues. They can give you guidance about the steps to follow next. If the problem turns out to be on your property, you need to figure out what is causing that and remedy it at the source, rather than working around the problem by filtering or drinking bottled water.
posted by drlith at 3:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Although the previous commenters are correct, I would suspect chloramine. It is a different form of chlorine that is sometimes used, and my own similar experience is that it causes these gut issues. In my case, the only way out was reverse osmosis or doubling up on Brita filtration.
posted by gjc at 6:34 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know about water contaminants, but in addition to calling the health department have you been to to doctor? Posters above are asking about color because dark tarry stool is classically a sign of gastro-intestinal bleeding, which you should have looked at.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:34 AM on July 9, 2013

There may be something wrong with your tap water, but there also may not. The test you did is interesting but not what I would consider to be definitive or conclusive by any means both from a statistical and scientific point of view. Getting your water tested, as many have suggested, may give you more conclusive information.
posted by Dansaman at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2013

I once had a sort of similar issue when we were buying filtered water from a particular store. We changed water stores and the issue cleared right away. So I have to assume that the water filters were not being changed in a timely manner.

Recently I was working on our own water dispenser at home, and I found that after 5 years or so of use, it had built up some kind of scum on the inside, even though all of the water that had run through it had been previously filtered (from the "good" store). I hadn't paid enough attention when I bought it that occaisionally you have to drain the unit and clean it out. I never got sick from it though.

So I think you are dealing with a filter issue probably. Get a couple of gallons of store-bought water and don't drink anything else for a few days to see if it clears up. (Try to use this for your cooking water too, just in case it is a serious bug).

And just as an aside, don't forget to try to stay hydrated. If it doesn't clear up within a few days of switching water, I would see the dr.
posted by vignettist at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2013

Further experiment: Pre-boil tap water and drink that for a while. This would kill bacteria and parasites living in your water, probably destroy viruses too, but would not affect dissolved minerals.
posted by eritain at 12:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If it is well water, it might be dissolved magnesium, which makes poops loose.
posted by gjc at 3:08 PM on July 9, 2013

How does one get their water tested? Also, how can you find out if it's chlorine or chloramine?
posted by Raichle at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2013

If you fill a large white container with water that you suspect was treated with one or the other, chlorine looks bluish while chloramine looks greenish.
posted by gjc at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2013

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