Understanding Your Poo
It’s possible to assess your digestive health purely by understanding the signs and symptoms your faecal matter present. The Bristol stool chart is a fantastic guide to understanding our stool and getting to know how our bowels react to stimuli from our lifestyle and dietary routines. The chart uses seven different classification/groups and images to categorize the health of our bowel movements.
Types of stools
Ideally, we want to easily pass a brown-coloured type 4 bowel motion without any strain to the body, with a feeling of full evacuation afterwards. Bacterial imbalances and misalignment of the colon may be causations of incomplete evacuations and further investigations are important to assist with these issues.
Healthy transit time can range from 12-24 hours; anything less may indicate a lack of absorption of vital nutrients from the foods we eat. On the other hand, longer transit time can increase potential toxic build-up within the colon. Constipation (type 1-2) can arise for a number of reasons including dehydration, diet, bowel flora, food sensitivities, and some medications. Cracks in the stool highlight the level of dehydration also. Diarrhoea (type 5-7) can be a result of factors including antibiotic use, food sensitivities, viral infections, and chronic inflammatory bowel conditions. Diarrhoea can cause microtrauma to the mucosa of the digestive tract, creating inflammation and malabsorption of micronutrients and macronutrients.
Discolouration of the stools
Our bile creates a healthy brown colour that’s the gold standard. Light or clay-coloured stools tell us the production of bile is not optimal or can be the side effect of some medications. Green-coloured stools can be indicative that food is moving too quickly through the large intestine, not allowing enough time for the bile to break down the foods completely. It can also be from the consumption of chlorophyll-rich foods or artificial colours in food.
Black-coloured stools may indicate potential bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, whereas reddish stools can be indicative of blood in the lower intestinal tract. This should be assessed by your medical practitioner; however, it may also be simply from the consumption of red wine. Yellow and greasy foul-smelling stools often indicate excess fat, mostly due to malabsorption issues.
Smell and texture
Offensive smells of either stools or flatulence (commonly known as farting or passing wind) also tell a story. They’re another good indicator of prolonged transit time causing too much fermentation in the colon, potential gut imbalances and possible parasites. Inflammation in the mucous membranes of the colon or in the gut will present as clear or white mucus in the stool or toilet bowl. An imbalance in stomach pH and digestive capacity can be seen when there are undigested food particles in the stool. An oily film in the toilet water surface may indicate fat malabsorption issues (pancreatic insufficiency) or insufficient bile production.
It pays to learn what type of faecal matter is typically considered healthy. Knowing the looks, colour, size, shape, and even the smell of your poo can help you make dietary and lifestyle changes that will not only improve the health of your bowels but also your overall digestive health.