Bowel movement, feces, poop…whatever you want to call it, it is very important and can be a big indicator of our gastrointestinal (GI) health. Blood work, different tests, and even provider visits can add up and get quite pricey. But did you know that your body gives you a FREE daily test result? Poop! By looking at your poop it can give you a lot of information as to what is going on in your GI system and a deeper insight into your health. But poop tends to be a “shhh” topic that people are scared of or embarrassed to discuss, so let me answer the most common questions that I get asked.
What is normal poop?
This is what “normal”/healthy GI function looks like:
- Medium brown color
- 12-24 hour transit time*
- Little to no strain for elimination
- Toothpaste consistency
- Little to no odor (!)
- Goes into water smoothly/floats or falls slowly to the bottom
- 1-3 well-formed bowel movements daily (!)
*Transit time: the time it takes from ingestion to digestion, absorption, and finally elimination from the body.
What if I’m not normal?
Unfortunately a lot of people have been told that their bowel habits are “normal” by providers, when in fact they are not and could be a symptom of a deeper issue. Introducing the Bristol Stool Chart, a recognized tool for helping categorize bowel movements. Using this chart is useful in determining your type and giving you a direction to start investigating the “why”.
Does color mean anything?
Yes, the color of your poop can be another indicator to your overall health. But sometimes it is simply an innocent and temporary change in color.
Red poop could indicate rectal or large intestine bleeding but it could also just mean that you ate beets or drank (lots) of red wine that day.
Green poop could mean you have too quick of a transit time (which can lead to nutrient absorption issues) or it could just mean you had a lot of cooked greens in your meal.
Dark poop could be indicative of bleeding in your upper GI tract, embedded metals, or oral intake of certain items (blackberries, charcoal, aspirin, black licorice).
Yellow poop can be seen with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), fast transit time, bile output issues, or bacterial infections.
Pale poop can be indicative of bile output issues.
If you have one weird colored poop, don’t panic! You should begin to worry or investigate if you see a few days of this or if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
What do I do?
Before you get super concerned that you are not meeting the “normal” criteria, it is important to know there could be various contributing factors. Some much less serious than others. For example constipation could be something as simple as dehydration or due to something more complex like yeast overgrowth, food sensitivities, or digestive insufficiencies. There can also be functional causes like sphincter spasms or nerve issues. Constipation could even be due to issues totally outside of the colon itself, like dietary and lifestyle habits or even medications. See?! A lot of different individual or cumulative factors.
This is why approaches to relieving constipation and diarrhea, along with the rest of it, should be managed on an individual basis. In other words, there is no “magical” approach for everyone, which is why working with a professional (like me!) can help you get to the root of your own body and digestive function.
In the meantime make sure you cover some of your own basics:
- Drink plenty of fluids, primarily water. Your urine should be clear or very pale yellow.
- Eat fiber from real food (vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, legumes, certain grains). OR pay attention to whether high-fiber foods irritate you or cause symptoms, which can be indicative of gut dysbiosis or other GI conditions.
- Document your bowel movements alongside a food journal * this is the most important thing in the entire poop journey to identify triggers, correlations, and patterns.
- Keep the gut-mind connection in mind for potential contributors (stress, anxiety, depression).
- Pay attention to your menstrual cycle, if applicable. Hormone levels can impact our GI health, so note if your symptoms are more prominent at certain times of your cycle or investigate further if you have known hormone imbalances.
- Review your medication and supplement list. Some pills are known to contribute to GI issues as a side effect (narcotics, calcium, iron, psych. drugs, vitamin C) or if at certain doses.
Should I do more content on GI health?
Image from: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/the-bristol-stool-scale/