What your Poo can tell about You
Topic of Discussion: Poop, just putting it out there so nobody freaks out half way through this blog!
Fact of life - We all poo (and wouldn't be alive for long if we didn't!) It’s actually one of the most important clues we get about our internal health on (hopefully) a daily basis, but yet to many of us are not paying any attention to it.
REALITY: If you’re not pooping right, it could be a clue from your body that something is wrong.
Your poop can tell you: Are you digesting your food well? Are you breaking it down and absorbing all of the nutrients? Are you eating foods that don't agree with your body? Is there internal inflammation?
Your poo quality is a direct indication of how well your digestive tract is functioning!
If your poo isn’t healthy on an ongoing bases there is an increased risk of conditions like Irritable bowel syndrome, Autoimmune disease, Ezcema, Neurological illness and Chronic inflammatory conditions.
Recent research indicates that the beneficial bacteria in your gut communicate directly with your brain influencing your immune system, mood, and inflammation levels (1)(2) .
The short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in your colon, have anti-inflammatory effects and increase insulin sensitivity (3).
A good analogy is to think of your poo like the red light that comes on in your car meaning CHECK THE ENGINE.
It might be annoying when it turns on, but it’s important. Your engine might need something simple like a new air filter… OR it could be 3km before everything blows up. Its a prompt to do something about it, or you'll be stuck on the side of the road with a monster repair bill.
On the other hand if you’re pooping well its a good sign your body is doing great and you probably are or on the way to good health.
So just what is a Healthy Poo?
There are four key components to a perfect poo. Take this poop assessment and see how you stack up.
1. Does your poop look like a snake?
Yip - that means taking a moment to check in the toilet to see what your poo looks like.
The University of Bristol published a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, giving us the Bristol Stool Chart as a visual comparison.
Here it is:
What this means: Kind of self explanatory but anything between a Bristol 1-3 is considered constipated, while 6’s and 7’s are states of diarrhea. A healthy poo is “like a sausage or a snake, smooth, soft and easy to pass.” If your poops aren’t looking 4-ish, your body is trying to tell you something i.e you are dehydrated, are not consuming enough fibre, the bacteria in your intestines are either lacking or not the beneficial type you need, you are consuming foods that your body isn't liking.
2. How easy is it to poop?
Sitting on the toilet with the newspaper or your phone for 30 minutes battling it out to poo may be common but its certainly not normal. A healthy bowel motion should only take a minute, maybe 3. It should be easy to pass as prolonged pushing usually leads to anal fissures or hemorrhoids, which are uncomfortable conditions you want to avoid.
What this means: Its about finding the balance - A normal bowel motion is a balance between not having to push/.strain, but also not having so much urgency you can barely hold it. If you’re spending over 10 minutes on the toilet or doing a sprint to make it just in time, you’re not having healthy bowel movements.
3. How often are you pooping?
We are all different, but the research agrees we should all poo daily. That range of healthy is classed as 1-3 times a day, but it can vary day-to-day. Poo is the waste products of digestion and getting rid of it every day is important to ensure that you are properly removing toxins. Some people even have bowel movements every time they eat.
What this means: If you find yourself pooping a couple times a week, you are probably constipated and not having enough fibre in your diet, or drinking enough water.
If you are going more that 5 times a day, everyday you are likely to become malnourished. This is often a sign of food sensitivities commonly gluten and/or dairy.
Both of these states pose serious health risks over the long term.
4. Did it all come out?
Part of a healthy bowel motion is having what’s called a “full evacuation.”
Are you getting all your poop out when you sit down? Do you have to keep coming back over and over again? Do you feel like there’s always something left behind making you feel uncomfortable? Typically an adult should be passing at least 30 cm of poo everyday. 10cm everyday is still not considered healthy.
What this means: A healthy poop is a complete one. If you never quite feel empty, then you’re not having healthy bowel movements.
Drink your body weight x 30mls of pure water everyday. Herbal teas like peppermint and chamomile can contribute but black tea and coffee do not.
2. Eat wholefoods
Vegetables should make up the bulk of most meals (not just potatoes) Add loads of leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and microgreens for their nutrients and fibre. Soaked and hydrated flaxseed and chia seeds are a great sources of soluble fibre. Spray free berries, kiwifruits, pineapple and papaya are also great fibre and contain digestive enzymes that help breakdown the proteins in foods.
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, non-processed yoghurt have been prepared in a way so that the bacteria naturally found within them starts to ferment. Fermentation, also known as lacto-fermentation, is a process in which bacteria and other micro-organisms break down starches and sugars within the foods, making them easier to digest This also results in a product that is filled with healthy probiotics and enzymes, that enhance digestion, balance the gut flora to work in your favour, help to fight off disease-producing microorganisms and produce nutrients we need to function well.
Exercise like walking, running, skipping, yoga etc stimulates muscles in the lower part of the digestive system to get rid of the stool.
5. Relaxation and posture
Not being able to poo when desired can be stressful so you need to relax and sure there is enough time if you are a "I only poop at home person". Straining or trying to force the body to poo is not healthy either. Changing the angle of your legs changes the angle of your colon. Toilet footstools or a block are one accessory that you can use in the bathroom to do this. Most people find that it helps them have a more comfortable and effective bowel movement (4)
So in conclusion, your bowel movements may not be the most pleasant thing to discuss, but when your gut health is so important to all aspects of your wellness, your poop may help pinpoint any underlying health issues before they progress.
1) Forsythe, P & Kunze, W. A (2012). Voices from within: gut microbes and the CNS. http://www.indiana.edu/~abcwest/pmwiki/CAFE/Voices%20from%20within-%20gut%20microbes%20and%20the%20CNS.pdf Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. DOI 10.1007/s00018-012-1028-z
2) Galdeano, C et al. (2007). Proposed Model: Mechanisms of Immunomodulation Induced by Probiotic Bacteria. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1865623/ Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2007 May; 14(5): 485–492.
4) Modi, Rohan M. et al (2019) Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device
Impact on Bowel Movement Patterns in Healthy Subjects. https://journals.lww.com/jcge/Fulltext/2019/03000/Implementation_of_a_Defecation_Posture.21.aspx Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 2019 Mar;53(3): p216-219