Poop… also known as BMs, caca, doo-doo, turds, stools and of course, poo. For most people, poo isn’t in our daily conversations. In fact, the only people I know who say the P-word are mothers and dog owners….with no second thought or offense. If we actually stop and take a look in the toilet bowl… our poop can be a very real indication of our overall health. The quality of your poop is a direct indication of how well you are digesting your food.
The quality of your poop is a direct indication of how well you are digesting food. It is what remains after all nutrients are absorbed and that portion, the waste, is eliminated at your body. Paying attention to the frequency, color, shapes, and size and what your normal is, is important. This where symptoms first happen when something is lurking inside, please do pay attention.
It is said that there are no norms for ‘frequency’, only averages. A known average is 1-2 times a day. Some people go more, some less. If you know your norm, then you do not have to give much thought to your poops unless there is a change.
For stools are usually brown in color due to of bile, a product of the liver and an essential component in digestion . Transient time from the moment food enters your mouth to when it is eliminated is approximately 3 days. The poop may be greenish in color also if the transient time is shorter. A red flag is when the color changes. Here is a reason to know your poops… do not ignore this sign as it may be a early warning sign for something lurking inside. For instance a black stool can indicate bleeding which may indicate an ulcer or cancer. It is usually also tarry (sticky) and smells bad. The only time a black stool could be considered normal.. is when you are taking vitamins that contain iron, medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate (pepto-bismo), which is intended for short term use only. Light stool the color of grey clay- can indicate a possible blockage of bile flow and/or liver disease.
Size and shape:
Size and shape is only relevant when looking at health. If there is a change from what is normal for you- this could be life saving in the long run. Start sizing up your recent BM’s (see below diagram by University of Bristol published a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, gifting us with the Bristol Stool Chart), between 1-3 is: constipated, and 6-7 diarrhea. A “normal” poop is “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft. If your poops aren’t looking like a 4… you do not have normal poops.
Bowel movements usually smell but may not. What you smell is the result of bacteria breaking down substrate (bits and pieces of waste) along the whole length of the gut. There are trillions of bacteria that aid the digestive process and ultimately result in maintaining your good health. Although it’s no bed of roses, it is normal for your bowel movements to stink to some degree. If the smell is really smelly, then that is a sign that should not be ignored if it all the time.
What happens when poops gets out of whack? It may present as a pain, gas, bloating, burning or discomfort around the midsection of the body. It is a first sign, that something is not quite right and irregular. Usually irregularity is first experienced as constipation and/or diarrhea which can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions like neurological disease, autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory conditions.
Constipation is going from having a bowel movement once or twice a day to suddenly changing to a longer period… 3 days or more. It can be accompanied by any of the above symptoms along with a lot of pushing and straining, what comes out is nothing compared to the effort. Causes may be from a change in diet, dehydration, lack of physical activity, medications (narcotic meds and iron supplements). When the metabolism is slowed, so will your poops.
Diarrhea is the opposite problem and could indicate a major digestive disaster and caused by a toxic meal, an abundance of bad bacteria (h.pylori, c. difficle) or even a virus. Diarrhea is categorized by loose to watery stools. Diarrhea is a big problem if left untreated for more than 2-3 days; it leads to dehydration which can affect function all major organs.
There is little concern if either only last a few days, but- If it becomes reoccurring, then it is essential to see a qualified Functional Medicine physician.
Blood in the Stool
Bleeding from anywhere is a significant warning sign, but seeing blood in the stool can indicate something as scary as cancer to hemorrhoids that burst. As a rule of thumb, if at 50 you have not had a colonoscopy, just do it. It becomes even more important if there is a family of history of colon diseases including cancer. You will only realize your DNA if you follow your family poor LifeStyle eating habits.
Good GI Health- Diet
Diet is the first step to having a healthy GI tract. Eating diets high in fiber and water are basics, as well as regular exercise. 20-25 grams of dietary fiber/day is thought to be the magic number. If after increasing this fiber through diet, supplement or both doesn’t work, consult a physician skilled in GI or a LifeStyle Strategist.
Here are some guidelines for diet beside the obvious and non-gmo’s:
Eat Real Food– People that claim to eat healthy while they consume things like grains, soy, and table sugar. By eating real food, it is one of the biggest game changes you can make if you have gut problems.
Eat Good Bacteria– Consume good bugs every single day. Start with foods like sauerkraut, kombucha or water kefir and see how well you tolerate them. A high quality probiotics is one supplement that can also boost the immune system in the gut and improve digestive health.
Eat More Fat- Fat has a direct impact on moving the food along the digestive tract… Fat is a good add on when you are constipated. Use fats like coconut oil, animal fat, olive oil, and fermented cod liver oil. For some people, coffee helps.
Exercise is essential for bowel movement because it improves GI “motility” and health in general.
Bottom line and the truth… if you are not pooping normally, then something could be terribly wrong inside your body. Recent research suggests that your brain and the your gut communicate directly which influences your mood, immune system, and whether you have inflammation or not… for instance insulin sensitivity happens here. A book to recommend is: The Second Brain by Michael Gershon MD was ground breaking for understanding the gut. The gut is the most resilient organ in the body… I always say “FIX YOUR GUT, CHANGE YOUR LIFE.”
Have a question- ask.