A Poop Blog

poopAvoidance. Embarrassment. Denial. “Digestive Stress” is not exactly a dinner table conversation. Actually, unless you have a newborn or toddler at home, any sort of “bathroom issues” tend to be swept under a blanket.

I’ve had a lot of questions lately regarding general digestion, abdominal discomfort and yes, poop. All of these questions lead me to pick up a book recommended to me: Gutbliss by Robynne Chutkan.

 

 

 

While I disagree to some extent with what she says regarding dietary fat & some protein comments, I cannot deny that it is a good book. In fact, it was simple to follow, had some good case studies and most importantly addressed nutrition as a common cause of bathroom troubles.

But what I really enjoyed about her book was the layout of tables (which I’ll get to later!) and her easy to understand summaries.

This blog is not meant to freak you out (not all irregularities in the bathroom or caused by disease!) nor is it meant to gross you out (which it may). The purpose was to simply share some good information about a subject not usually spoken about.

gas

The thing is, nutrition affects our bodies in many ways that people refuse to acknowledge.  From gas to bloating, constipation to diarrhea & from malabsorption to pain, the food we eat is responsible for our stools (or lack thereof!).

While I could spend pages upon pages giving summaries of this book there are only a few simple takeaways I want to outline:

 

IBS- Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBSThis diagnosis is often a cover for a specific problem. It seems as if any “bathroom irregularities” falls under the IBS blanket. Unfortunately, it does not provide a solution as it does not determine the cause of the problem. A few potential causes can be:

Air swallowing – Antibiotic use – Bacterial overgrowth – Bile acid malabsorption – Bile gastritis – Carbohydrate malabsorption – Celiac – Constipation – Chrons – Diet – Diverticulitis – Eating disorder – Food allergies – Fructose malabsorption – Gallbladder dysfunction – Gallstones – Gastroparesis – Gluten sensitivity – Infection – Lactose intolerance – Leaky gut – Liver disease – Medication side effects – Motility disorders – Microscopic colitis – Parasites – Small intestinal bacteria – Over growth – Stress – Thyroid disorders – Ulcerative colitis

As you can see, the lit is pretty vast on “potential causes”. In order to overcome IBS you must first understand the cause and then attempt a solution. Simply consuming medications in masses only worsens the problem.

Quick Note: yeast feeds on sugar (fermentation!). To prevent/absolve many yeast related diseases (bacterial overgrowth/Candida) try first eliminating or drastically reducing sugar intake to help stop it progressing.

Fructose

Fructose is an often an overlooked component of IBS. The average person can absorb roughly 20-50g of fructose per day (a regular pop has 23g). Once it enters the large intestine it is broken into short chain fatty acids and the resulting bi-products are hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide gas.

Quick Note: So if you’re feeling gassy and bloated a good first step is to reduce the sweet stuff.

 

Now to my favorite part of the book: The Stool Guide

poop guide

 

Below is a breakdown of what your ideal stool should look like. Basically the guide covers all the information everyone is too nervous to talk about. But here it is, the ideal stool of a well functioning digestive tract.

 

 

 

Color

Ideal: deep brown color like melted chocolate

  • Pale & chalky can be a sign of liver disease or clogged bile ducts (normally accompanied by dark urine)
  • Yellow stool can mean a parasite or excess fat in stool
  • Green stool can be result of infection or antibiotics
  • Red stool occurs from bleeding color or beets
  • Black stool can signify bleeding from higher in the digestive tract or from an iron supplement
  • Lighter brown can mean not enough leafy greens
  • Blue stool is normally from blue food coloring

 

Consistency

Ideal: Soft & bulky. It should exit easily but is not too loose that it leaks out

  • Plant fiber (veggies/beans/fruits) add bulk making it easier to push out
  • Kale, berries, lentils & rice give amazing bulk and ideal consistency
  • Too loose can mean inflammation in the colon or infection
  • Under active thyroid is associated with hard stool and overactive with loose
  • Narcotic pain relievers cause hard stools where as antibiotics, magnesium containing antacids and diuretics cause diarrhea
  • Loose stools can also signify lactose intolerance or food allergies

 

Clarity

Ideal: a stool that sinks to the bottom of the bowl and doesn’t float

It is normal in a plant based diet if there are bits of vegetable matter in the stool. However, people with chrons or ulcerative colitis may have lots of undigested food and signified malabsorption. In that situation there are normally more symptoms: weight loss, diarrhea, blood ins tool, abdominal pain.

Oily stool that float can be a sign of fat malabsorption from problems with pancreas, liver or gallbladder.

 

Cut

Ideal: thick stool and several inches long

  • Pencil thin can be a sign of inflammation of the colon or diverticulitis,
  • Small pebble like stools are signs off diverticulitis
  • Not enough fiber can also result in pebbly stools

 

Clean Up

Ideal: odorless stool with clean wipe and no messy residue

  • Clean wipe  is a signal of a high fiber diet
  • Should be virtually odorless (though cruciferous veggies may cause smelly gas)
  • Beans and dried fruit can smell because of incomplete digestion and additional fermentation
  • Foul smelling bacteria could be the result of inflammation, bacterial overgrowth or infection

 

So there you are, a great stool reference! Are you mortified yet? Instead of ignoring your stool- earn from it! A few more things I’d like to point out though:

 

Fiber is your friend. In today’s modern diet, we are often missing fiber on all accounts. Soluble fiber is great as it attracts water and helps you feel full. It also helps prevent diarrhea or loose stools by creating a sticky, gel like bind that aids in slowing digestion. Things like oatmeal, lentils, flaxseed, psyllium husks are all awesome sources.

Insoluble fiber can have a laxative effect and prevent constipation (a common problem with all the processed food we eat). Great sources include: wheat bran, seeds, dark leafy veggies, coconut etc.

 

Regularity is key. While this will vary slightly from person to person daily bowel movements are normal. The longer it is between movements the more fecal matter can become backed up in your intestines. As matter sits in your colon it becomes harder & harder making it more difficult to pass. This can cause bloating & abdominal pain. Since many medications can cause constipation, ensure that you’re diet is top notch to keep a healthy digestive track.

devil sugaSugar is a hindrance. Not only is sugar poorly metabolized within our system but it is also responsible for a host of other problems (bloating, gas, diabetes, poor skin etc). My biggest advice to start making a change within your stools (and health in general) is to eliminate hidden sugars. Fruity yogurt, sugar filled drinks, granola bars. They all add up and wreak havoc on your system.

On that note, I’ll finish up  my poop blog. The thing is, our stools tell us a lot about our bodies, our digestive system and ultimately our health. Don’t be shy if something is consistently wrong. Take the steps to find the cause and not the band aid solution.

Happy Pooping!

 

References: “Gutbliss: A 10 Day Plan to Ban Bloat, Flush Toxins & Dump Your Digestive Baggage” by Chutkan, Robynne. Avery, 2013