Poop. Such a taboo subject to some, but today we're gonna go there!
Why? Because it turns out that No. 2 is an important indicator of health. Yup, you heard me right. Who would have thought that Mr. Hankey could provide so much valuable information!
It goes without saying, we're going to talk about what goes on in the toilet bowl. So if you're more curious than squirmy, then let's continue!
Your poop, or stool as medical professionals call it, can give you several insights into what is happening inside your body.
As pictured above, the Bristol Stool Chart is a chart used by doctors to get an idea of how long the transit time of your stool is. As depicted by the cool sunglasses and thumbs up signs, Type 4 is where you want to be. Type 4 is easy to pass and usually stays in one long snake-like shape.
Above Type 4:
- Signs of diarrhea
- Moving too quickly through the body
Less than Type 4
- Signs of constipation.
- Stool being held in the body for too long.
Factors in Stool Changes
What could cause your stool to go from awesome to suboptimal?
1 - High Stress
Wrapped around your gut, you have a division of your autonomic nervous system called the enteric nervous system.
According to an article in Neurogastroenterology and Motility, people who are susceptible to stress are more prone to develop diarrhea. So it turns out your stress may not just be all in your head. Experts don't nickname the gut the "second brain" for nothing.
So, if your stool’s ride through your insides takes too long, or is too quick, stress management might be a factor to consider.
2- Low Fiber (ANot enough Veggies)
As we discussed in our post 5 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Fruits and Veggies, fiber is extremely important.
Remember those big slides at the fair when you were a kid? The ones where you would sit on a blanket and shoot down the rickety metal slide really hoping you didn’t fly off to your death at the end? Well, you can think of fiber being that blanket that shoots the stool right to the finish line. Without that blanket, not only will you get a gnarly friction burn, but you won’t move down that slide fast enough to grab some of the cotton candy before your annoying brother eats it all.
The American Heart Association recommends 25-30g of fiber per day. The average American intake is only 15g per day. Meaning there are an awful lot of Americans suffering from a gnarly friction burn.
3- Inflammatory foods
Everyone’s body is different and can tolerate different foods.
Some foods can irritate and inflame certain people’s bodies. Some common examples are: Dairy, gluten, eggs, nightshade vegetables, and grains.
Another highly inflammatory item is processed sugar. Think back to the last post 5 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Fruits and Veggies, when we talked about the "Wild West" style showdown between good and bad bacteria in your gut. Those bad bacteria thrive off of excess added sugars in your gut. Spoiler alert: This means the good guys don’t win in the end.
We’re not necessarily suggesting you go and eliminate entire food groups, but keeping a journal of what you ate and drank the on days you had issues can help to show what foods might not completely agree with you.
4- ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE
Anyone who drinks alcohol and/or caffeine already knows what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway.
While some people can have increased ability to defecate, others have a decreased ability. They both can dehydrate the colon, which is no bueno.
If your stool isn’t sporting the sunglasses and thumbs up like the chart above, it might be a good idea to take a look at how many Starbucks double espresso macchiatos you’ve been throwing back.
How to get to Type 4 (aka "the cool stool")
Increase Fiber Intake
I’ll say it again for those in the back: Eat your fruits and veggies!
They are not only filled with many vitamins and minerals your body requires to function properly, they are all packed full of stool bulking fiber.
A word of caution: Stay away from artificially created fibers in “high fiber” products. The ingredients usually aren’t the best and they don’t have the same beneficial ingredients as fruits and veggies do. It’s also easy to accidentally overdo the artificial powder fiber products, leaving you stuffed full like a Thanksgiving turkey– Yikes!
Stool can harden if you’re not drinking enough water. Because you’ll be increasing your fruit and veggie intake (wink, wink) you’ll be increasing your fiber, which also requires more water.
Added bonus, increasing water intake helps to keep things moving along more quickly, which in turn helps to flush toxins out of your system. (No weird juice cleanse required.)
If there is an imbalance of good vs. bad bacteria in your gut, it can become completely chaotic.
One of the easy ways to keep the bad bacteria in check is by making sure you have more of the good bacteria (called probiotics) than the bad bacteria.
Good news, you can easily add some probiotics to the team while sitting on the couch binge watching your newest Netflix show. Just snack on the many delicious foods naturally high in probiotics. Some of these foods include: Kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, and miso, to name just a few.
Exercise stimulates the bowels and lymphatic system, which helps push waste out. It relaxes the mind and helps to reduces stress.
So don’t be scared, and start taking a look after that number 2. Will you see sunglasses and thumbs ups? Or sad faces? Your stool can give you insights to your insides sometimes far sooner than other symptoms.
Last, but not least: These suggestions are not meant to be taken as medical advice. Suffering long term with stool issues can be an indicator of serious medical conditions and should be evaluated by your doctor.
Howland , G. (2019). Bristol Stool Chart . Retrieved from www.Mamanatural.com/poop-chart/
Tache, Y., & Perdue, M. H. (2004). Role of peripheral CRF signalling pathways in stress-related alterations of gut motility and mucosal function. Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 16(s1), 137–142. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-3150.2004.00490.x