Yes, I'm serious! (And don't you sometimes wonder anyway?) You may already know that your stool can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health. You may have noticed that you get constipation or have diarrhea when you eat something that "doesn't agree with you," or when you're super-nervous about something. This is why I'm a firm believer that we are what we digest...
And what about fiber and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your stool. What about the all-important gut microbes? If they're not happy, it'll probably show in your poop.
Here’s a trivia question for you:
Did you know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Meet the Bristol Stool Scale: it was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997. You can see the chart here:
The scale breaks down type of stool into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhea:
1 - Separate hard lumps (very constipated).
2 - Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).
3 - Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)
4 - Smooth, soft sausage (normal).
5 - Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fiber).
6 - Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).
7 - Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).
Other “poop” factors to consider: You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health. Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day? Less than one, or more 3 can mean there is something going on.
What about the effort you put in when you go? You want it to be as effortless as possible. And the color? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. This is why having a healthy gallbladder and liver are super important in the quality of bowel movements.
And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or that one time my youngest had cake with neon green frosting on it, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine. But if you see an abnormal color, like red or even black, that you can't explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.
What do you do when you have "imperfect" bowel movement?
Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while, things aren't going to be perfect, and that's A-OK. If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that.
Offending foods that lead to inflammation, and over long periods of time to leaky gut, are the first things we must eliminate from our diets. If your stool is not looking like a 3 or 4 most of the time, try eliminating the following inflammatory foods for a few days or weeks;
conventional dairy foods - conventional milk or yogurt for example
gluten (found in all wheat products, nearly all processed foods, and anything containing rye and barley) this is a biggie
processed soy - found in energy bars, TV dinners and lots of processed snack foods
high amounts of sugar, which bad bacteria love and thrive on and cause havoc in your gut
If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them. If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath. After removing the offending foods, the next two basic pieces of nutrition advice would be:
● First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fiber in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful bacteria that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
● The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly; the more we break down the food we eat before it hits our stomach, the better.
These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop! Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don't suffer from irregular stool issues for too long before seeking help.
Recipe (dairy-free probiotic): Super-Simple Coconut Milk Yogurt
Note: Fermenting food is not an exact science. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or probiotics.
'til next time!