The Poop Scoop – A Guide to Healthy PoopsPrint This Post
Not much older than eleven or twelve, my friend had us in stitches after her first day of her new babysitting gig: The mom came home and asked if the child had a BM while she was gone. Intuiting that the mom must have been referring to ‘poop’ but never having heard the term ‘BM’ before, my friend answered, “You mean a big mess?”
Sadly for most, pooping is a big mess. Ranging from diarrhea to constipation, Americans suffer pain and embarrassment around moving their bowels. Worse is what’s happening internally: unhealthy bowel movements are an indication of unhealthy digestion. We can laugh and tell jokes about sitting on the pot for hours reading a newspaper, but in the end, improper digestion is no laughing fecal matter. As they say, “You are what you eat”, but you are also what you don’t digest.
What Makes a Healthy Poop?
Healthy bowel movements actually feel good to pass, in which there is an absence of discomfort on both a physical and emotional level. In order for the act of pooping to feel OK emotionally, we need to rid ourselves of the embarrassment associated with it — be it the smell, having to excuse ourselves, sitting too long in the bathroom, or making funny noises.
Bowel movements change with what we eat; they are not going to be perfect everyday. You can, however, learn to gauge what you eat on how healthy or unhealthy your poops look.
In order to monitor your poops, you have to be willing to really look at them instead of turning a nose up and flushing as fast as you possibly can. While on the pot, notice how it feels. After every poop, take a moment to look at it, and also notice how it smells. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to identify a poop that feels good to pass, and how it should look in the toilet.
Signs of Healthy Poop
- Soft, but formed
- Medium-light brown in color
- Consistent shape and color throughout
- Easy to pass
- Natural smell, not repulsive (I’m not saying that it will smell good)
- 12 inches per day (whether in one big 12-inch poop, two 6-inch poops or three 4-inch poops)
Signs of Unhealthy Poop
- Undigested food particles may indicate that food hasn’t been broken down well. There really should be no undigested food in the stool.
- Loose stools mean that the food hasn’t had significant time to move through the intestines. Too much water has remained in the stool (water that was supposed to be absorbed and given to the cells).
- Hard stools point out that food has remained too long in the colon. Most of the water has been extracted, leaving a hard (and hard to pass) stool.
- Intermittent hard and soft stools are a tell tale sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The bowel is sporadic and spastic, never knowing what it’s going to do next.
- Small pellets may be an indication of dehydration; not enough water is present to keep the stool soft enough to stay formed in the midst of peristaltic motion.
- Thin, skinny stools may indicate a tight or tense anal sphincter. The tighter the opening, the thinner the stool will be.
- Clay or pale colored stools show that there may be a sign of elevated bilirubin – an indicator of poor liver function. If yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice) are also present, a liver test is recommended.
- Dark or black stools shows that the stool might have been sitting in the colon for too long. The longer poop stays in the bowel, the more dark and compact it will be.
- Pain or burning around the anus may simply be due to eating spicy foods, but if spices weren’t eaten, and the burning persists for more than a few days, the possibility of intestinal or colonic disease should be considered.
- Noxious smelling stools may point toward toxicity in the digestive organs, namely in the colon where an overgrowth of bacteria may be nesting.
Bowel Transit Time
Digested food should move through the colon in approximately 18 hours, from start to finish. If transit time is considerably longer, the fecal matter will be harder and harder to pass. Intestinal flora may feed on the mass, causing gas, bloating and ultimately damage to the intestinal lining. Toxins may seep into the bloodstream through the permeable bowel lining.
If transit time is too quick, stools will be on the loose side, and you may run the risk of malabsorption, as the digestive system is pressured to absorb nutrients in a hurried manner.
To check bowel transit time: Drink 8 ounces of beet juice or take 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Note the time, and check your poops consistently for the next day or two. You should be able to see a reddish hue if you drank the beet juice, or see the little seeds. If you see the evidence well before 18 hours, your transit time may be too quick. If two days have passed before seeing any evidence, you transit time may be too long.
10 ways to improve transit time and overall digestion:
1. Chew your food well to help the stomach in the digestive process.
2. For slower bowels, try eating more raw fruits and vegetables.
3. For a quick bowel, slow the process with more protein and fats with each meal.
4. Drink More Water! A general rule is to drink half your body weight (in ounces) per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water.
1 pint = 16 fluid ounces
1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
1/2 gallon = 64 fluid ounces
5. Eat more high-fiber foods (see recipes below) to aid peristalsis and to sooth the lining of the intestines. Roughage like celery, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, as well as flax seeds, chia seeds and sea vegetables are healthy, high-fiber options.
6. Find out if you’re low in stomach acid. If gas and bloating are present immediately after eating, you’re probably low. Read my article on Stomach Acid for more information.
7. Take enzyme supplements to help the pancreas and small intestine better digest food that has just left the stomach. Papaya, pineapple and pancreatin (from animal sources) may help.
8. Help the liver in its daily detox by eating bitter greens, lemon and cruciferous vegetables. My rule is: one bitter, leafy green and one cruciferous vegetable a day.
9. Keep intestinal flora balanced. On a daily basis, stay away from refined foods, overly sweet foods and foods that you think you are reactive to. Antimicrobials like garlic, oregano and thyme, as well as probiotic formulas help keep the bad bacteria at bay.
10. Exercise. Moving the body moves the bowels.
OK… One more… 11. Reduce extraneous stress in your life. Stress can throw off hormones and neurotransmitters that have a significant say in the digestive process. When stressed, digestion gets put on hold to deal with the immediacy of the stressful situation.
A jumble of crisp celery, tart apples, onions and raisins combine with a tangy yogurt dressing for a refreshing summer or fall salad. High in soluble fiber, it’s a winner for boosting digestion. This salad also targets liver health: Sour foods kick-start liver metabolism; lemon helps break down gallstones, and parsley is a potent detoxifier…
Figgie Plum Parfait with Macadamia Nut Cream
Sweet, ripe, fresh plums are pureed with dried figs and dates to make a smooth, mildly sweet chilled pudding. Topped with a healthy whipped cream replacement, it makes a “good for you” treat with a lovely presentation. This dessert is high in fiber to help slow sugar absorption and promote healthy bowel flow..
1.Jensen, Bernard. Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care. New York: Paragon Press. 1999.
2. Chek, Paul. How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. San Diego: CHEK Institute. 2007.
3. Rubin, Jordan S, NMD and Brasco, Joseph, MD. Restoring Your Digestive Health. New York: Twin Streams Books. 2003.
4. Palmer, Melissa, M.D. Hepatitis and Liver Disease-What You Need to Know. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc. 2000.
5. Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. Natural Chef Instructor Slides. Penngrove: Bauman College. 2009.
6. Lipski, Elizabth, Ph.D. Digestive Wellness. New York: McGraw Hill. 2005.
7. Gershon, Michael, M.D. The Second Brain. New York: Harper Collins. 1998.
BowelMovement.org. Burning Bowel. 2009.
Health Castle. Fiber 101: Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber. 2009.
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