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  • Writer's pictureKirsty Bednar

Let’s talk about Poop and what it can reveal about your digestive health.

Updated: May 24




Hey, let's get excited about poop! Your bowel movements can reveal so much about your digestive health it's amazing! Don't just assume you're good because you go every day, have you checked out what it looks like? It's crucial to keep an eye on the colour and consistency of your poop, and it's even better to teach your kids about it too, so they know what's healthy and what's not. Let's break the taboo and start talking about poop like it's the best thing ever! My husband often jokes as we're sitting down to dinner, at some point I typically mention bowel movements in some way and he says "ahh there it is, it wouldn't be right if you didn't mention poop at least once at the dinner table" lol!


But all jokes aside even if you don't suffer with any digestive symptoms you still could have poor digestive health. Your poo is your best indicator for this.


Let's dive into what's ideal and a sign of good health:

 

The ideal stool consistency: is soft but formed, not too hard or too loose and easy to pass. We shouldn’t be taking 10-15 min or longer sitting on the toilet to pass a bowel movement (unless of course it’s your only time for peace away from the kids 😉). Ideally not sticky (you know when it takes half the roll of toilet paper to get clean or if you need wet wipes), or watery, lumpy or too small like pebbles. Have you seen a Bristol stool chart? I’ve attached one below, it’s a great idea to print one out and laminate it and stick it to the back of your bathroom door. Type 3-4 is ideal.


The ideal stool colour: Stool colour can vary from person to person and can be affected by your diet and supplements or medications (think iron supplements and beetroot). However, the ideal stool colour is generally a shade of brown, ranging from light to dark but again not too light or too dark. Did you know that black, sticky stools can be a sign of bleeding higher up in the digestive track, they are black as the blood has been digested.

 

The ideal stool frequency: To ensure optimal digestive health, it is advisable to have a minimum of one bowel movement per day. If you consume 2-3 meals a day, 2-3 bowel movements are considered normal. If the frequency of bowel movements is less than once a day, it is recommended to take measures to improve digestion.

 

The ideal stool size: The quantity of waste we remove is also significant.

Fun fact: Hunter gatherer communities in Africa have a stool size of approximately 1 kilogram, while their urban counterparts have a stool size of just over 100 grams and the hunter gatherers barely suffer any of the chronic diseases we see in the city dwellers. This is because the African hunter gatherers consume an average of 100-150 grams of fibre per day, while most Westerners consume only 8-15 grams per day, with only 5% meeting the recommended daily intake of 30 grams.


Here are some reasons why your poop therefore your digestive health may not be at it's best:

 

When we don't make enough digestive acids and enzymes, our food takes longer to digest and break down in our stomach. But, did you know that digestion starts in our brain and mouth? So, before we eat, we need to use our senses of sight and smell, and chew our food really well.

 

Did you know that the amount of stomach acid we had at 20 is halved by the time we are 50 so just getting older reduces our digestive function.

 

Improper breakdown of food in the stomach can result in undigested food passing down to the small intestine. This can lead to fermentation and the growth of undesirable bacteria, causing damage to the intestinal lining, also known as "leaky gut." As a result, autointoxication occurs, which means reabsorbing toxins from bacteria. This can trigger systemic inflammation as the immune system is constantly activated to fight these toxins. (Note: Leaky gut is a separate topic that can be discussed another time.)

 

If you're not producing enough digestive acids and enzymes, you might miss out on some important vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and calcium. Fun fact: you need zinc to make hydrochloric acid in your stomach, but lots of people don't get enough of it.

 

Medications such as Nexium, used for heartburn and reflux, can decrease stomach acid production, resulting in various health issues, including osteoporosis and slow bowel elimination. These medications should only be taken for a short period, typically three months, while identifying the root cause of heartburn reflux. Unfortunately, many people are prescribed these medications for extended periods without addressing the underlying problem.

 

The group of anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAIDs, such as Aspirin, Naproxen, and Ibuprofen can cause inflammation in the lining of our gut. Additionally, antibiotics, the contraceptive pill, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods can have a negative impact on our gut microbes.

 

Foods we may be sensitive to or incompatible with can cause changes to our bowel movements.


Not eating enough fibre and variety of plant foods to feed our microbes. As can dysbiosis which is the imbalance of good and bad bacteria and/or a low diversity of microbes meaning not a high variety of different species.

 

Lack of physical activity can significantly slow down our bowel transit time.

 

Did you know that even stress and the amount of sleep we get all can affect our microbes and digestive function.

 

I have witnessed numerous cases of people experiencing a significant improvement in their health by enhancing their digestive system. One of the most recent cases was of a 6-year-old girl who had been suffering from constipation since birth. After our first consultation, I prescribed some herbs to enhance digestive juices and key nutrients, and without any laxatives, she started having bowel movements every second day. We also identified incompatible foods and fed good bacteria with prebiotics, which helped her to have daily bowel movements. This transformation was life-changing for her, and it's hard to imagine how uncomfortable she must have been before.

 

Another case is a woman in her thirties who had chronic diarrhea for four years and had seen multiple specialists and undergone various tests with no improvement. After taking herbs and strain-specific probiotics, her diarrhoea improved quickly. A thorough stool test revealed several harmful bacteria, which were treated to restore balance. She is now able to lead a normal life, she doesn't miss work anymore, she can socialise, and she even went on a holiday with her family for the first time in years. She tells me everytime I see her how grateful she is that I helped change her life!

 

You can see that maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is crucial for good digestion and a healthy gut, which is the foundation of overall well-being. If we neglect this vital system we can end up with:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Poor digestion can lead to malabsorption of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which can result in nutritional deficiencies.

  • Digestive issues: Poor digestion can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, heartburn, and reflux.

  • Weakened immune system: The gut plays a significant role in the immune system, so poor digestion can compromise immune function and make individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

  • Skin problems: poor digestion can manifest in skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis.

  • Fatigue and low energy: If the body is not properly digesting and absorbing nutrients, it can lead to low energy levels and fatigue.

  • Mental health issues: There is emerging research on the gut-brain connection, suggesting that poor digestion could be linked to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

 

It's Naturopathic philosophy 101 to begin with correcting your digestion. And your poop is the ultimate indication of how well your digestion is working. I focus on addressing the root cause of digestive issues through diet, lifestyle modifications, and natural remedies to support optimal digestive function and overall health. So make sure you check next time you use the loo.

 

There are some things YOU can start doing right away to improve the health of your bowels:


First of all, reducing or avoiding processed foods, alcohol, refined sugar and starches such as white flour products like breads, pastries, cakes and biscuits these foods feed our bad bugs


and eating more vegetables and fruits that contain fibre and polyphenols that feed our good bugs. Ideally, we want to aim for 40 different plant foods per week, lots of variety and all the colours of the rainbow.


we can also consume fermented foods that naturally contain good bacteria such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and natural yoghurt.


Improving how we digest food is just as important. We want to eat mindfully, sitting down in a relaxed, calm state not while driving or working at the computer. We want to chew our food thoroughly not gulp it down.


Not drinking with meals as this dilutes the digestive juices.


Eating until your 80% full.


Improving your quality of sleep, increasing your exercise and reducing stress all can have a beneficial effect on your bowel health.


If after reading this you can see that your poop is not ideal and you're ready to take control of your digestive health and feel your best again? Book a consultation with me today to uncover the root cause of your digestive issues and develop a personalised plan to support your overall health and well-being. Don't wait any longer - prioritise your gut health and start your journey towards a healthier, happier you! Click on the book now button to schedule your consultation.


Yours in Health

Kirsty





 

 


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