Have you taken a peek into the toilet bowl these days - or ever?
Well, it could tell you a lot more than you think! The quality, and quantity, of our bowel movements, are determinants of our health. Though this topic may make a few of us shudder or cringe, shoving it under the carpet is not serving us, rather it is keeping us sick.
Healthy and regular bowel movements help to keep our insides clean of toxins and waste that can accumulate as well as harmful pathogens.
By becoming aware we can then take the necessary steps to take care of our digestive health - the root of health or disease.
Today we are arming you with the information you will need to be able to determine if your bowels are working properly or if they need a little TLC!
What is poop?
What comes out in the toilet bowl is more accurately known as stool or feces, which represents a collection of water, fiber, dead cells, bacteria, remnants of undigested food, and toxins. This accumulates in the large intestine until you receive the signal that it is time to evacuate.
Having regular bowel movements is a foundational aspect of health that should not be ignored or overlooked. This means when you feel the urge to go, don't delay! This will help prevent constipation and the reabsorption of excess hormones as well as toxins that need to be eliminated from the body and which can cause problems.
Problems with elimination can come as a result of a poor diet, toxin exposure, dehydration, and a sedentary lifestyle.
If you are not feeling the urge to go at least once daily, we encourage you to investigate further.
What your poop says about you
Adopting good bowel habits is key to a healthy digestive system and a big step starts with investigating what's in the toilet bowl. Knowing the color and consistency of an individual's poop can help to provide clues on the current state of digestion and health.
Some signs of an unhealthy digestive system include:
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Bloody stool
- Oily or greasy stools
- Chronic gas
- Bowel incontinence
- Anal fissures
- Bacterial infections
- Inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or diverticulosis/diverticulitis.
The bristol stool chart is used by many health professionals to classify and assess bowel movements to uncover digestive issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, and chronic diarrhea. Read on to discover what a normal poop should really look like.
Image by Lorna Vanderhaeghe
Resembling hard pellets, this type of bowel movement indicates constipation and lacking frequent bowel movements. Though this form may be common it is not an indicator of a healthy functioning bowl with feces spending the longest time in the colon. This is common with those lacking in fiber and beneficial bacteria in the colon.
Constipation is not a rare occurrence, affecting up to 20% of North Americans (1).
Bowel movement frequency is an important factor to consider. Though you may have heard you don't need to go to the bathroom every day, constipation is actually defined as less than one bowel movement over a transit time of 24 hours. Optimal transit time should take place between 12 and 24 hours and is an important indicator of good health.
What you can do: increase your fluid intake and include a variety of high fiber fruits and vegetables such as leafy greens, berries, avocado, oats, and asparagus. You should be aiming for 35 grams of fiber per day. While increasing your dietary fiber consumption, plenty of water should be consumed daily. You may want to avoid certain foods such as dairy products and gluten in order to assess whether or not they may be an issue for you. You can also supplement with a synbiotic blend of prebiotic fiber and probiotics that help to maintain a healthy digestive balance.
Another type of constipation, type 2 represents overly packed feces in a sausage shape but lumpy. This can be difficult to pass and cause irritation in the intestinal tract and anus due to increased straining and stool capacity.
What you can do: In addition to the above, committing to regular exercise can make a real difference to your digestive regularity as well as adopting a stress management practice. Magnesium citrate or oxide can also be an effective supplement to include in your regimen as it supports peristalsis - proper contraction of the digestive tract to move waste through the colon and out of the body.
What is a normal bowel movement? Sausage form, but with multiple cracks on the surface, this type is one of the ideal types of bowel movements.
This should pass without difficulty or straining, and you shouldn't need your phone on the toilet to pass the time otherwise you are probably constipated. Leave the scrolling out of the bathroom!
Another ideal type you should be aiming for at a frequency of at least once daily, yes that's right! It should be a brown color and look smooth and soft like a banana. A greater diameter usually indicates a higher fiber diet.
These more ideal types should sink like a submarine to the bottom of the bowl.
This type of poop is typical for bowel movements of 2-3 times per day, these clear-cut blobs are soft and easy to pass, however, they do indicate too low fiber in the diet. Focus on a balanced diet with a higher intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and look into supplementation if needed.
Known as a "mushy" stool, this type is characterized by ragged edges and a messy consistency. Due to an increased transit time, it can be difficult to control the urge with type 6. This can be caused by excess spices, stress, or minerals. Dehydration may also be another cause of type 6.
What you can do: Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids and practice stress management to calm the enteric nervous system of the gut.
Watery, also known as diarrhea, these types of loose stools and watery stools lack any solid pieces. Type 7 would indicate an overactive system that moves the feces way too quickly before it can be properly formed.
What you can do: Investigate any food reaction you may be experiencing, whether it be an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, and eliminate the food for at least 3-4 weeks. Dairy is a common culprit that can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea for many people.
Probiotic supplements can also help to normalize bowel function, support colon health, and replenish healthy bacteria which often become depleted.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.