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By Jackie Cartier
June 20, 2016
We're going into uncharted territory here at Nutritional Weight & Wellness with a new topic—poop. Honestly, we're a bit surprised it's taken us so long to discuss such an important aspect of health. You've heard us call the gut (otherwise known as your intestinal tract, which is the path bowel movements travel through your body) our "second brain" because gut health is a true indication of whole body health. That said it makes sense that your bowel movements are a window into your body, which is helpful since we're often left guessing about what is going on in our own bodies. We have clues, yes, but none are as consistent (hopefully) as your bowel movements.
Dr. Kristin Struble, MD, FAAP, and author of the one-of-a-kind children's book How to Be A "Poop" Detective, agrees and makes the case for checking before you flush, "It's time to look for food-eating clues, as all good Poop Detectives do. Stop eating and drinking the garbage that is messing up your poo!" Dr. Struble continues with "Your pipe is warning you ... "Be on full alert! There's something you put into your mouth that made your body hurt.""
Before we go any further, it's important to note that most of the time stool variety in size, shade and frequency is directly related to what you've been eating—food you consume generally takes about three days or so to pass through your system. Dr. Struble adds, "A good Poop Detective asks himself: When and what did I last eat or drink? Was it the milk or was it the cheese? What is really making me stink?"
However, consistent changes to your bowel movements that last more than a week or two could be indicating something a bit more complicated. Now don't take this idea as an invitation to overanalyze! Just know that some variety is normal, but consistent and uncomfortable changes for the worse are not.
First, what exactly is poop? To better answer that Dr. Struble summarizes the stool process with a rhyme, "From that food, your body's pipe absorbs all the vitamins you need to grow. What's left is pushed on through the pipe and comes out down below." Of course, adults eat real food to stay healthy, not to grow. And let's not forget about all the water. In addition to the remnants of your recent meals, your stool can contain up to 70% water.
Ok, now onto the nitty gritty (literally); what should you be looking for when it comes to your poop? Dr. Struble's answer? The 5 S's! See the chart below for descriptions of what each S should ideally stand for. We'd also add that "regular" means anywhere from one to three bowel movements a day.
Sure, the graphic above shares the ideal poop ... but what about if your BMs aren't quite as they should be? Here are some common stool characteristics our nutritionists hear and what they may indicate.
To maintain good bowel movements or get back on track, our first recommendation is always to clean up your diet and eliminate processed foods. As Dr. Struble says, the first place to start is by asking, "When and what did I last eat and drink?"
Confused on what to eat? We recommend eating the Weight & Wellness Way—a variety of animal protein, carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and fruit, along with good healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olives or nuts to repopulate diverse bacteria. Additionally, we highly suggest daily probiotics, especially bifidobacteria, which helps our intestinal tract stay balanced and aids in good digestion. Bifidobacteria should make up 70% of the beneficial bacteria in your small intestinal tract. We offer a Bifido Balance that our nutritionists advise clients take one to two capsules ten to fifteen minutes before each meal. It's important to take Bifido Balance on an empty stomach so that digestion of your food doesn't interfere. Bifidobacteria helps crowd out other bad bacteria. Some people notice a difference within just a few days of starting it, while others notice they feel better within a few weeks.
For more specifics on bowel movements, check out our latest Dishing Up Nutrition podcast, The Story Your Elimination Tells with special guest Dr. Struble.