Your digestive health reveals a ton about your eating and lifestyle habits, and your poo is a clue. If you’re normally feeling sluggish, having trouble losing weight or getting in shape then digestion is worth the investigation. When you're working with me as a 1:1 client you can bet I'm going to ask you about your doody duties because it helps us get to the *bottom* of things (ha!).
How do you assess your poo quality? Turn around and look down! Make it a daily habit so you can track any trends and refer to this chart below as a primer:
Your bowel movements are not up to par if you continuously experience:
• A day without pooping, or pooping too much in a day (1-3/day is optimal)
• Extremely foul-smelling poop
• A huge effort or a long time to evacuate
• A different colour other than brown (unless your last meal involved spinach or beets for example, the hue will change and that's OK)
• Different shapes and textures (the perfect poo should look like Type 4 in the chart above)
• If it floats or sinks isn't a huge issue but rather an indicator of fat (float) to fibre (sink) ratio
A good-looking poo means:
• You've got strong core muscles
• Your digestive system is working well
• You’re getting enough fibre and other nutrients
• Your hormones are balanced
• You aren’t overly stressed
• Your gut environment is happy and balanced
Sub-optimal bowel movements are trying to tell you something important. Where can you improve in the following?
Poor diet and food sensitivities: Consuming sugar, processed foods, refined grains, food preservatives, lack of hydration, food sensitivities, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables can cause bowel dysfunction. Keep a food diary for a couple weeks to track what you eat and any symptoms you notice. Talk to a qualified health practitioner about an elimination diet to help track the culprits.
Stress: Delaying bathroom time because of a busy schedule is a common reason people get backed up. Never ignore the need to pass a bowel movement as too much water can be absorbed from the stool and it can become dry and impacted leading to constipation. Irregular eating patterns, eating on the run and making less healthy food choices, all can contribute to constipation. A more direct affect of stress is its impact on the nervous system which causes an interruption of normal signal functions. When you are tense, your colon restricts leading to constipation. Nervousness and anxiety can have a strong effect on the gut and intestinal muscle commonly leading to diarrhea. A qualified health practitioner can help pin point stress hormone imbalances and work with you to resolve them.
Gut flora imbalances and poor digestive health: When we have a good supply of friendly bacteria in our intestines we are much more regular. However, antibiotics, stress, certain medications, jet lag or shift work, travelling, aging, blood sugar irregularities, and a poor diet can all lead to gut flora imbalances which may predispose us to constipation. Health issues like Crohn’s and colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and low thyroid function can cause havoc on our digestive system and it's best to work with a qualified health practitioner to uncover what's going on. Eat fermented foods and consider a high quality probiotic to help get you started.
You're exercising too much or not enough: Physical activity favours intestinal mobility and so a sedentary lifestyle can lead to constipation. However, overtraining can cause major stress on the body too, causing loose or watery stool since blood flow to the gut is being reduced during exercise. Notice if you are experiencing constant muscle aches or fatigue and instead reduce intense workouts days and add more active recovery days like an easy swim, yoga, or a walk.
BONUS TIP: Pop a Squat! Humans were evolutionarily designed to squat when defecating and the modern day toilet does not favour this posture for complete elimination. One action you can take today if you are commonly spending too much time in the bathroom is to prop your legs up on a step stool when sitting on the toilet to help align the rectum and anal canal for easy pooping. If you think I'm talking shit then read about it here ;)
As you can see there are many factors in play when it comes to achieving the holy grail of a perfectly formed poop and its relation to hitting your health goals. If you'd like personalized guidance on achieving your health and fitness goals, book a complimentary consultation with our in-house nutritionist Maya Eid today.