What everyone ought to know about poop
Ok, it’s not something people like to talk about. My clients often say, “sorry for too much information…” But really, I don’t think we are talking about it enough. What comes out tells you so much about what has gone in and how well those choices are serving you. And it helps you to make changes if necessary to feel your very best every day!!
So, what does your poop tell you? The Bristol Stool Chart is a good visual to explain what is happening with each of the stool types. Everyone may experience changes in stool consistency throughout the week, but overall this may give you a good idea of where your body lands. Developed by Dr. Stephen and Dr. Ken Heaton at the University of Bristol
I would describe constipation as having a bowel movement less than once per day and a consistency that is hard. What everyone considers to be “normal” is different. But it is not “normal” to have a bowel movement every other day or every few days. The main causes of constipation are lack of exercise and diet. A diet rich in animal proteins and refined grains and low in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) may be at the root of chronic constipation.
There are many potential causes of diarrhea including food allergy or sensitivity, infection, medication side effect, or after surgery. Some of these may cause loose stools in the short term and hopefully will resolve quickly, but when it becomes chronic you should definitely pay attention and look for the underlying cause of the symptom. Very soft or liquidy stool is a sign that inflammation is occurring in the gut. Without resolution to the symptoms of inflammation, the damaging process will continue and symptoms may begin to appear in other areas of the body as well.
What is “normal?”
Again each person is different, but normal should look like Type 3 or Type 4 in the Bristol Stool Chart. A bowel movement should occur one to three times each day. A day may vary based on your exercise or eating habits, but you don’t want to see the other types of stool occurring on a regular basis.
Other things to watch for
The Bristol Stool Chart is a good place to start, but there are other characteristics of your stool that tell you something about your health. For example, if stool floats or has a very strong smell this may be a sign that fat is not being absorbed properly. This could be caused by low stomach acid or gallbladder problems. If you see undigested food particles in stool this may also be caused by a lack of stomach acid or could simply be you are eating too quickly and not properly chewing your food before swallowing. Different colors in your stool can also be an area of concern. Black stool could be simply dietary choices such as blueberries or beets, but could also be caused by bleeding in the GI tract. Green stool may be due to poor absorption or a problem with the gallbladder as bile produced by the gallbladder starts out green and turns brown as it moves through the GI tract. Mucus in stool may be caused by an infection.
Poop may still not be a topic at the dinner table, preferably not. You should, though, pay attention and be aware of changes that occur to determine if long term your gut is in good health. This may provide motivation to make changes if needed to your diet and lifestyle to maintain a happy gut so you can get back to feeling great!
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