I account my career to poop. I'm serious.
Over 11 years ago, I did a comprehensive stool test with a naturopath because I knew that something wasn’t quite right. The results were an eye-opener. I had high amounts of candida (a yeast overgrowth), most like related to the drugs used during my fertility treatment.
This insight kick-started my love for natural medicine and away I went. Today, there is potty talk with each and every client, at each and every appointment.
You see, your “poop” is a reflection of your physical and sometimes even emotional health. It’s why you experience constipation or diarrhea when “something doesn’t agree with you,” or you are nervous/anxious about a situation.
The intestinal tract not only digests food (as we discussed in my article on digestive enzymes), it eliminates toxins. If you are not eliminating properly, it can indicate problems with stomach, liver, gallbladder, diet and overall health.
Remember, 70% of your immunity is found in your intestines and there are as many neurons in your intestinal tract as your spine. Your gut is your second brain. If your poop is giving you problems, it can trigger a cascade of issues. This is why there is so much interest and research in the "microbiome" of the intestines. Your digestive tract is paramount to health.
Don’t believe me?
Your poop can tell you if you’re getting enough fibre and water. It will let you know if the microbes in your gut are happy or waging a war with dysbiosis (yeast overgrowth, bacteria, parasites). Gut inflammation? Food intolerances? Those too.
So how do you know if your poop is normal?
The Bristol Stool Scale And Other Considerations
Poop health is so important to your overall health that a university created chart to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.
You can see the chart here.
The scale breaks down the appearance of poop into seven different categories, ranging from type 1 (very constipated) to type 7 (diarrhea). Here’s what the scale looks like.
1 - Separate hard lumps (very constipated - lacking fiber, water or healthy fats)
2 - Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated - as above)
3 - Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)
4 - Smooth, soft sausage (normal)
5 - Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fiber)
6 - Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation)
7 - Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation)
The shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only things to consider when looking at stool health. “Sink or float,” frequency, colour and smell are also insightful.
Think about how often you go. Up to three times per day is pretty good. Less than one or more than three can mean there is something amiss. What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.
Colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. If it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine. If you see an abnormal colour (red, yellow, green or even black) and you can't explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you should get that checked out.
Undigested food particles suggest that you’re not chewing as much as you should, and therefore, not absorbing what you’re eating.
Is it a floater or a sinker? Floating can indicate a problem with fat absorption somewhere upstream.
And smell. Did I really have to go there? Sorry, but it’s also important. Little or low smell typically indicates healthy dysbiosis. A foul odour can indicate fermentation, improper digestion and bacterial overgrowth.
10 tips for better bowel movements
The first thing to consider is how imperfect your poop is, and how often it is like that? If things go amiss once in a while, that’s o.k. Use the Bristol Myers Scale to help troubleshoot in the bathroom.
Increase more fiber and water. Healthy fats also helps with constipation.
If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, probiotic supplements), add more to your diet.
If you’ve been super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.
With inflammation, try to pinpoint why – dysbiosis, food sensitivities, autoimmune symptoms, emotional stressors, have you been travelling and perhaps picked something up? There can be many different reasons. Keep a diary.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their fibrous skins, wherever possible). The fiber is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but it also feeds those millions of amazing helpful critters that live in your intestines (friendly gut microbes). I often tell my clients to take 2 tablespoons of ground flax or chia (for men) daily – split between servings. This is a super dose of fibre that is easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Cut out key inflammatory foods – sugar, diary and wheat are notorious for inflaming the gut.
Lastly, eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly. The more we chew, the easier it is to properly digest our food because we increase surface area, making it easier to break down.
Long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don't suffer from stool issues for too long before seeking help – see your doctor. There could be a medical condition at the root of the issue.
If your doctor isn’t able to help, then consider a comprehensive stool test.
If your medical doctor is at a loss as to WHY you are having digestive issues, I recommend a comprehensive stool test with a naturopath or functional practitioner. It is worth its weight in gold.
Comprehensive stool tests identify bacteria, pathogens, worms, parasites and other factors that can undermine your health, aggravate autoimmune issues, cause rashes, headaches, joint pain/muscle pain, brain fog, and make it extremely difficult to lose weight. This is different from the free stool test that your medical doctor orders, which typically covers only 5 – 10 things (important things, but not as complete).
In my case (11 years ago), my results showed overgrowth of candida, which is why I was having eczema outbreaks, unable to lose the “last 15 pounds” post baby and suffering from mild depression. I had asked my MD about the rashes and symptoms. She told me to put some Canestin on it. That didn't sit well. Working with a natural health practitioner was a game changer, and here I am today. In fact, I do a stool test every couple of years as part of my health plan.
For those of you who know my family - you also know we are dealing with some autoimmune challenges. A stool test has been incredibly helpful in identifying potential autoimmune triggers and other sources of gut inflammation. We are now addressing those and treating those with the help of a functional medical doctor. It will not "cure" the disease, but we can now remove irritants that exacerbate the disease and allow other autoimmune conditions to flourish.
If you have persistent bathroom challenges, an autoimmune condition (even hypothyroidism), skin issues, find it difficult to lose weight, or have travelled to a semi/sub-tropical climate in the past couple of years, I strongly recommend a comprehensive stool test at a natural health clinic as part of your next “check up”.
For those who know my family, know we are dealing with some autoimmune challenges. A stool test has been incredibly helpful in identifying potential autoimmune triggers and other sources of gut inflammation. We are now addressing those and treating those with the help of a functional medical doctor. It will not "cure" the disease, but we can now remove irritants that exacerbate the disease.
It prioritizes changes to diet and supplements so you can quickly get your digestive and immune system back on track. While, I don't advocate for people to follow status quo (normal is boring and we should all be unique), you DO want your poop to be as normal as possible, so you can focus on being the most awesome version of yourself.