It might not be a conversation at the dinner table. Still, your poop can tell you a story about the well-being of your gut specifically and your whole body. In fact, looking at your poop can be literally a lifesaver. To understand the story that your poop is telling you, you need first to take a look at the toilet bowl before you flush, and.. You need to learn what to look for.
Like with every other message that your body sends your way, some of the signals are unique for your body, and some are patterns of either well-being or dis-ease. To learn “your normal,” you need to take a look daily and establish a baseline of understanding your body.
One more thing before we dive into the toilet bowl, although I do not have anything against conventional physicians when I speak of medical advice, I do not mean just a conventional physician. I have a lot of respect for people who practice functional medicine, dietitians, and herbalists. It does not matter what certificate your caregiver got; if you feel comfortable with them and their advice serves you well, you are in good hands.
How many times should I poop a day?
Many health caregivers consider pooping three times a week to be normal. Most holistic caregivers agree that pooping every day is important. Babies poop after every meal. It makes sense since the digestive system is a long tube that starts in your mouth and ends in your anus. Every time you swallow food, it stimulates a Peristalsis, a series of contractions and relaxation of the muscles around the digestive food that pushes it down. Food that you just ate will be pushed down into your stomach. At the same time, your prior meals that are now in the colon should be pushed out of the body. For adults, one bowel movement a day is considered normal. Less than that is considered constipation.
Why is it so important for you to poop every day?
Think about your poop like your trash standing in a bag in the heat of summer on the floor of your kitchen. Soon enough, your trash is going to start fermenting. It will release fluids that will leak from the bag on the kitchen floor. It will also release gases that will make the air in the kitchen putrid or stinky. That is precisely what happens in your colon when you do not eliminate your stool daily. Your stool is made out of substances that the body does not know what to do with. Some of these substances are toxic for the body, so it tries to get rid of them. Now they are sitting in your colon, fermenting and leaking back into your body.
As my Herbal teacher Thomas Easley said, “if you do not poop every day, you are full of shit.”
Most people that do not poop daily will experience bloating, gas, feeling full and heavy, and fatigue.
A healthy bowel movement should be stress-free with minimal to zero strain. You might be sitting there for up to five minutes, but anything longer or you need to push is considered stress.
What stool shape is normal?
To evaluate if your stool shape is normal, consulate with the Bristol stool chart. Typically, a standard stool shape looks like type 4 or a smooth log or snake.
Whenever you look back at your toilet bowl and find mushy, broken up, or liquid stool, you have diarrhea signs. On the other hand, if your stool comes out as small marble-like balls (like goat poop) and is hard to eliminate, you show symptoms of constipation.
What is a normal stool color?
Your stool color could be influenced by what you have been eating or by the medication you ingested.
The normal stool color is dark to light brown. The brown color comes from the pigment bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver by the breakdown of hemoglobin and excreted in bile.
Sometimes half-digested food will show up in your poop. When that happens, it means that your body could not break down those foods, so it did not get the nutrients from them. It could be a temporary thing that happens following an illness or after antibiotic treatment when the digestive system is weakened. Or it could be that your body just can not break down certain foods. For me, it’s oats and corn. If you find half-digested food in your poop, consider avoiding those foods either temporarily until your digestion is stronger or permanently. You anyway do not get the nutrients from them, and they put a strain on your digestion.
Black stool can happen if you use bismuth medication such as Pepto Bismol or if you take iron tablets. This is a normal reaction to these medications and supplements that you are taking. If you did not consume one of these (or had black licorice), it could be a sign of upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. If that is the case, seek medical care as soon as possible.
White/grey/clay color could happen when your liver does not secrete a sufficient amount of bile. If you are not taking any medication that can explain the change in the color of your poop, seek medical advice. It could happen because of a problem in the liver itself, a blockage in the liver ducts, or the pancreas. https://www.healthline.com/health/stools-pale-or-clay-colored
Green stool can happen if you eat a large portion of healthy green leaves, primarily if your body is not used to it. Consuming green food coloring will paint your poop green too. (food coloring will change the color of your poop). This might be an indication that food is moving too quickly in your system. You might want to check the transit time – how long does it take your food to move from head to tail.
Professor Kerryn Phelps Professor Kerryn Phelps, a leading medical academic and author of The Mystery Gut, says:
“It can take between four and 11 hours for food to pass into the large intestine (six to eight is average), and it will spend up to 70 hours there before being excreted (the average is 40) – the exact timing depends on your metabolism and what you’ve eaten, and it may vary day to day. The sum of these two figures is your gut transit time or GTT.”
Another sign that food comes out too quickly is if it comes out not fully digested. In that case, you might want to saute or steam the green leaves lightly (start digestion in the pan), chew well, and add some fiber to your diet.
Red stool might be scary because you might relate it to blood, but it could happen if you ate beets, drank beet juice, or had red food coloring. Another reason that you might find blood in your toilet bowl is if you are menstruating. If you did not have any of these, red stools might be a sign of bleeding in the lower GI, hemorrhoids or tearing in the anus. You want to seek medical advice.
Orange stool is rarer and usually happens with people who consume a lot of food that is rich in Beta Carotene – a food pigment that is found in carrots and oranges. Orange stool is a normal reaction for consuming (either eating or juicing) a substantial amount of foods high in Beta Carotene.
Yellow stool is common for babies. It is a sign that your fat digestion is impaired, and too much fat is in your stool. It could be a sign of malfunction in the liver, gallbladder, or digestive tract. You want to make sure to consult your doctor, herbalist, or dietitian. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-do-different-poop-colors-mean
What does mucus in your stool mean?
The mucous membrane of the large intestine helps the stool to pass. A “normal” bowel movement will not produce much mucus. Yellow or clear mucus is present in such little amounts that the naked eye would not notice it. Mucus in your stool could look like a transparent or milky substance that coats your stool. It can be a normal result of constipation or dehydration. But in the same way that excess mucus in your sinuses is a sign of inflammation in your upper respiratory organs, so does excess mucus in your stool is a sign of inflammatory process in your GI tracts. That could happen due to food sensitivity (Crohn’s disease), bacterial infections, anal fissures, a bowel obstruction. If you see an increase of mucus in your stool and if the increase accompanies diarrhea and abdominal pain, you might want to seek medical advice.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310101
Should your stool float, or should it sink to the bottom of the toilet bowl?
Most of the time, your stool should sink. If your stool is floating, it is a sign of gases in your stool. If your stool is floating on a regular basis and especially if you are constipated and bloated, you want to seek help. Foods that commonly cause gas contain large amounts of sugar, lactose, starch, or fiber.https://www.healthline.com/health/stools-floating#causes
If you are worried about what you see in the toilet bowl, snap a picture is a good idea. Please do not be embarrassed about your poop. I heard that even the queen of England has them. A picture is often worth more than a hundred words. Your caregiver will be happy to see the real thing.
In my program, Aging With Grace – The Wise Women Way to Holistic Wellness at any Age, I share a template for the Food, Mood, Poop Journal where you can record the regularity of your bowel movement, the consistency, shape and color of your stool and analyze it with the bigger picture of what you have been eating, and your mood.