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The inside scoop: What your Bowel Movements say about your Health

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

Frequency:The goal is 1-3 bowel movements per day. Bowel movements are one of those topics that causes the majority of us to get squeamish and want to change the subject. However, your poop is an important indicator of your overall health and gives us a lot of information about what’s going on in your body. In order to function properly your body, needs to be able to first break down the food, then absorb the nutrients, next use the nutrients properly, and finally eliminate the waste. You can be eating the healthiest diet, and taking the right supplements, but if your body can’t get what it needs from what you take in, there’s NO way it will be able to operate optimally! With digestive complaints being so common in today’s day and age I figured I’d write a post on what you need to know about bowel movements, and give you some ideas as to what might be going on for you. So what is "normal" you ask? Well, everyone should be pooping 1-3 times DAILY. Bowel movements should be brown, formed, and easy to pass. Bowels movements are our way of getting rid of of a variety of things from toxins to broken down hormones. Not eliminating waste in a timely fashion can cause a build up of waste products in the body leading to a suboptimal health.  If you’re not going every day, there are many natural, non-harmful, non-habit forming things we can do to help!Unfortunately, for the majority of people this is far from their reality and yet we wonder why so many of us don’t feel amazing all the time! Optimizing the function of your digestive system can have PROFOUND impacts on your health improving an array from symptoms from fatigue and brain fog, to skin problems, to gas and bloating to weight problems just to name a few. From here on out, I urge you to pay attention to your bowel movements, and if they're not how they should be, come see me, or a naturopathic doctor, there's so much we can do to help. It’s SO important to have your body working properly if you want to feel your best! Now with that said, let’s get right to it, here’s the scoop on “normal” poops.

Colour: Brown is the normal colour caused by the breakdown products of red blood cells and bile being metabolized by the bacteria in your intestines. Let’s talk about some other colours you need to watch out for.

Black:Black poop can be a red flag! If you have bleeding high up in your digestive tract whether it be from your esophagus, stomach or small intestine it can lead to tarry black, foul smelling stools. This should not be ignored! Other less concerning causes of black stools can include iron supplements, bismuth found in Pepto-Bismol, and dark coloured foods like blueberries and black licorice.

Red:Can also be a red flag! If you have bleeding further down in your digestive system, it will come out red. Red stools can be colon cancer and therefore should also not be ignored. Other conditions that can cause blood in your stools but should still be checked out include fissures, hemorrhoids, and ulcerative colitis. On the other hand, if after eating beets your poop appears red, not to worry! Wait a day or two and they should be back to their normal colour.

White or Gray: Light coloured stools are not normal and can indicate a lack of bile due to a blockage in your liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Blockages in bile may be caused by a tumor or gallstone and therefore something you should speak to a health care professional about.  

Yellow:Yellow poops can also be a sign of many diseases typically occurring from too much fat in the stools. This can be due to a variety of reasons from celiac disease, to liver and pancreatic diseases, to a giardia infection (aka beaver fever). If your stools move to fast through your digestive tract the process which turns them brown will not have enough time to happen which can also lead to yellow poops. This can sometimes be seen cases of stress and anxiety.

Green: The most common cause of green poops is food related. If you’ve eaten lots of kale or spinach, it’s quite possible to have green tinged stools. As long as your foods digested there’s no problem in this scenario! In fact, kudos to you, for the healthy choices. If your stools are green and you don’t think it’s from green veggies, definitely see a medical professional as it may be due to similar conditions that can cause yellow and pale stools.  

Consistency:Type 3-4 stools on the Bristol chart are the goal!

Little balls, or lots of cracks:

These indicate constipation. It’s very likely you are lacking fiber and water in your diet. Try increasing the number of fruits and veggies you eat, get yourself moving and making sure you’re drinking enough fluids are crucial first steps if these types of stools are common for you.

Soft stools: can indicate problems including malabsorption. Some common offenders of malabsorption include dairy, fructose, glut

Diarrhea: can be caused by infections, more extensive malabsorption and food sensitivities to name a few. Unsure what the cause is for you? Book an appointment, I can help! en, wheat, and food sensitivities. Removing the culprit is key in these cases! 

Buoyancy:Your bowel movements should sink!

Floating:Floating stools are typically caused by excess gas, or problems with absorbing nutrients (especially fat). Fat is lighter than water thus, if the fat you’re eating isn’t absorbed by your body, it ends up in your stools causing them to float. This can be due to many causes including, infections, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease just to name a few.

Other things to look out for:

Undigested food: If you can regularly see bits of food in your stools (other than corn this is normal) your body is not absorbing nutrients to the best of its ability. First step here is to make sure you’re chewing your food thoroughly and slowly. If this isn't the issue there are many options out there to improve your body's absorption.

Straining: You should not have to strain in order to have a bowel movement in fact this is a big sign of constipation. That said, even if you feel the need, DON'T strain! It’s the number one cause of hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the rectum) and not good for your body. Drinking enough water, exercising, and eating enough fruits and veggies are great places to start if this is a problem for you.

Unbearably bad odour: If your stools have an above and beyond terrible odour it’s likely something is going on. Possible causes include malabsorption due to celiac disease, Crohn’s and the list goes on.

As I’ve mentioned throughout, a few basic things you can do to help optimize the function of your digestive system are drink enough fluids, eat enough fiber, and get your body moving. If these basic steps aren’t enough for you, DON'T just ignore it! Optimizing your bowel movements is a crucial first step in optimizing your overall health. You’ll be truly amazed at how much of a difference it can make on how your feel. That said, there is absolutely no need to feel embarrassed when it comes to talking about poop, it’s natural process essential for living. I assure you, as a naturopathic doctor I talk about bowel movements on almost a daily basis, so there’s nothing you can say I haven’t already heard! As always, I’m all about optimizing health naturally, and would be happy to help. Feel free to shoot me a message or book an appointment if your digestive system is affecting your health


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