Is Your Poop Normal?
I know, I said poop. I’m a Registered Nurse and Nutrition Coach you guys, poop is a big part of the job. Our digestive function is absolutely critical to our overall health. Food does not simply go in your mouth and out the other end. There are many complex processes that play a role in how food is broken down, absorbed and assimilated into the body. Elimination give us so much information about how our digestive system is working as a whole and is definitely something we need to pay attention to.
So today, we’re talking about poop.
Every nutrition coaching client I have fills out a 5-Day Food Diary complete with symptoms and details about bowel movements using the Bristol Stool Chart as a guide (I really am a nurse).
In this chart the ideal poop is a Type 4. Anything above it indicates some level of constipation, and anything below it means loose stools.
Where do your bowel movements measure up? When evaluating your poop you want to look at color, consistency, presence of undigested food particles etc. to tell you what is going on in your digestive system.
When it comes to troubleshooting elimination everyone is so very different and there are many underlying factors that it takes time to figure out. However, here is a quick and dirty guide with a few tips to get you to a Type 4.
If you are Type 1-3:
You should be having 1-3 bowel movements a day (yes, really!). If you are not having (regular) daily bowel movements, or find yourself straining, having pain or incomplete bowel movements - you are likely constipated.
Common underlying causes of constipation:
- Food allergies/ intolerances
- Lack of “good” bacteria in the gut
- Impaired digestion/ absorption
- Certain prescription drugs
- Stress or anxiety
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Thyroid or hormone imbalance
A few general tips to improve constipation:
- Stay hydrated
- Consume more fiber (in the form of colorful fruits and veggies): Insoluble fiber from these sources helps to move stool along the digestive tract to be eliminated.
- Eat good fats: Good fats (olive oil, avocados, salmon, coconut) help to lubricate the digestive system and keep things moving.
- Try probiotic rich foods or supplements to help balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut.
- Exercise is key to keep things moving!
If you are Type 5-7:
If you are having loose, watery stools that occur more than 1-3 times per day and experience urgency, cramping or pain with elimination - that’s diarrhea. (I probably don’t have to tell you what diarrhea is, I feel like when you know you know am I right?) Diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying issue. Loose stools are usually a way to get rid of something the body views as toxic.
Common underlying causes of diarrhea:
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Food poisoning or viral infection
- Lack of “good” bacteria in the gut
- Lactose intolerance
- Impaired digestion/ absorption (especially with fats)
- Stress and anxiety
To improve diarrhea you need to find the underlying cause (if you are experiencing severe, chronic diarrhea stop reading this blog and definitely talk to a doctor as you can experience dehydration and malnutrition). Here are a few common examples:
- Stress and anxiety: The gut brain connection is a powerful thing. To address stress as the underlying cause first evaluate sources of stress and implement real stress reduction techniques such 4-7-8 breathing.
- Food intolerance: work with a practitioner to obtain food sensitivity testing or go through an elimination diet to uncover potential intolerances in a systematic way.
- Antibiotic use: antibiotics happen. They kill the bad bacteria making us sick or infected, but wipe out the good guys too. During a round of antibiotics make sure to repopulate the gut with probiotics rich foods or supplements.
Alright you guys, thanks for talking about poop with me. Here’s to perfectly consistent Type 4’s all the time!!!
If you want to talk more about optimizing digestion and finding the right foods for your body, I offer free, 30-minute discovery sessions. Schedule yours by clicking on the button below!