What's Your Poop Telling You?
This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”
Poop. There – I said it. It may be an awkward topic to discuss, but our poop is one of the best diagnostic tools that we have available to understand the health of our digestive system.
So since you’re safely behind your screen, let’s give it a go, shall we?
Poop can be a weird, uncomfortable topic, and because of that, some people might not even know what normal is. I had a roommate in college who insisted that she never pooped – that’s how uncomfortable this topic can be.
But have no fear, Hingers, we’re going to get to the bottom (pun intended) of it today!
Digestion is the most significant daily stressor that we put on our bodies. So far, we’ve been talking about a lot of things that can be done up front to improve digestion: preparing and chewing your food, reducing sugar and processed foods, and drinking healing bone broth.
Now, it’s time to get familiar with what’s coming out the other end. Before we talk about poop itself, let’s first discuss the transit time you should expect in a healthy digestive system:
- 50% of the stomach contents are emptied about 2 ½ - 3 hours after eating
- Total emptying of the stomach occurs 4-5 hours after eating
- 50% emptying of the small intestine happens 2 ½ - 3 hours after the food reaches the intestine
- Transit time through the colon occurs about 16-40 hours after eating (best is the shorter end of this range)
Ideally, a person eating three meals per day should have three bowel movements per day. Seriously? Yes.
I know that might be a lofty goal, so shoot for 1-3 easy bowel movements per day. Yep, at least one per day, and it should be as easy to poop as it is to urinate. If you’re not going that much, you’re constipated.
Now that we’ve established the optimal frequency, let’s talk consistency.
Introducing…the Bristol Stool Chart >
Your goal is type 3 or 4; if you’re somewhere else on the scale, it’s a sign that your digestion is off. I’ve referenced this quote before and I’ll reference it again – 2000 years ago, Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” So if your digestion is off, it’s a sign that something is “off” with your whole system.
If your stool is on the softer side – types 5, 6, or 7 – you’ve got diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea are food allergies or food sensitivities; if you’ve got chronic loose stools, it may be that your body is eliminating something that it interprets as toxic.
In this case, you may want to try food journaling to see if you can find a pattern. Besides being uncomfortable, if you’re eliminating too quickly, your body may be missing out on absorbing the nutrients from your food.
If you’re straining or feel incomplete after a bowel movement, you’re likely constipated. Types 1 and 2 from the Bristol Stool Chart indicate constipation. Commonly, constipation is due to low fiber intake, insufficient exercise, inadequate hydration, or an overscheduled day (read: no time to go!).
Why is it important to poop regularly? Let’s think about what poop is…it’s waste. When you’re constipated, this waste is spending extra time in your intestines, and as long as it’s there, the toxins in the poop will get reabsorbed back into your body. Yuck. I don’t think that my college roommate considered this alternative when insisting that she didn’t go!
Here’s a fun Dr. Oz segment on this topic.
If this is the first time you’ve been introduced to the Bristol Stool Chart, take time this week to become familiar with what you’ve got going on. If this is not new to you, use this as a reminder to bring it back into focus to make sure your trains are running on time.
And because this is a goofy topic, I’ll leave you with this…as a mom of two young children, my husband and I have recently adopted a new manifesto:
“Did everyone crap?”
“Then it’s going to be a good day.”
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the answer to this question would be indicative of the kind of day that I’d have, but becoming a mom and nutrition coach will do things to a person…
Happy pooping! If things aren’t coming out well, stay tuned – next week I’ll share some tips to improve your digestion.