Clues to your health are in your toilet.
Not many people like talking about their #2, but, it’s an excellent indicator of your digestive and overall health.
So, what’s your poo telling you?
Type 1 and Type 2
Bowel movements (BM) that look like type 1 and Type 2 indicate constipation, and are often the result of what’s missing in your diet. However, other causes can be medications (Benedryl, for example, can dry out your bowels, while narcotics can slow down GI tract mobility), blockage from scar tissue or a tumor, or just that muscles of the rectum aren’t working well (for example, postpartum). If the latter, pelvic floor exercises can help. If not food related, or this persists for more than 10 days, head to a GI doctor for further evaluation.
Food Fix: Drink more water (at least 2.2 liters a day), and be sure to consume adequate fiber rich vegetables, fruit, and beans. Reduce, or temporarily eliminate dry foods, like cereals, crackers, toast, etc. (even the gluten-free ones), as well as meat and cheese, which can also be constipating. When babies or kids (heck even adults for that matter) haven’t poo-ed in days, it is often because they are eating too many dry foods, and not enough juicy “wet” or water-rich foods like fresh produce.
Taking a high quality probiotic, like Hyperbiotics, may also help.
This is a pretty normal BM, and shouldn’t require too much straining. You should feel completely empty after it’s out. As it’s a little on the drier, firmer side, you may want to consider softening it up a bit so it’s a littler easier to pass, with the following food fixes:
Food Fix: Consider whether you’re consuming adequate healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, coconut, coconut oil, or olive oil. Fats will usually help soften the stool a little.
If you see a sausage like torpedo in your porcelain bowl, that sinks to the bottom, you deserve a gold star. This is what poop dreams are made of. This indicates you’re consuming adequate fiber and water, and the bowels are probably working well. If you’ve got a floater, it’s an indicator of too much fat.
Type 5 poo may start off normal, and then end up like the graphic. It doesn’t involve any straining. This type can indicate a few different things, that require you to be a body detective. First, if it only lasts a day or two, it could be the result of stress, or something you ate. If it happens more regularly, than it could be an indicator of a food intolerance, such as to dairy/lactose, gluten, artificial sugars, or sugar alcohols in gums, mints, or candies. It could also be a sign of IBS. Head to a functional GI doctor if this persists more than a week, and consider an elimination diet to rule out food causes.
Food Fix: Cut out common digestive irritants, including dairy, gluten, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols (often found in gum, mint, candy, and “diet” or low calorie sweets). If you’ve been ingesting a food that has been irritating your gut lining, you will most likely have to spend some time repairing your digestive health. In addition to taking a high quality probiotic, I recommend seeing a functional medicine doctor or integrative nutrition practitioner who can help you with this.
Type 6 and 7:
Hopefully, you don’t see these too often, as it’s a sign food is moving too quickly through your digestive tract.
Type 6 is not full blow diarrhea, but it can be an indicator of a food allergy or intolerance, and a sign you’re not absorbing vitamins and minerals and could become deficient. Lactose intolerance is a common culprit. Medications, such as Metaformin or antibiotics can also cause loose stools. In the case of antibiotics, they can kill off the good bacteria in your gut, in which case it’s crucial that you repopulate the gut with good bacteria to avoid infection or further issues.
Type 7 is full blown, watery diarrhea, which is often the sign of infection, such as a virus, bacteria, or parasite (the latter of which is more common than you would think), a food intolerance, or antibiotics.
If this is recurring, whether daily, weekly, or monthly, head to a functional GI doctor for further testing.
If you experience type 6 or 7 BMs on a recurring basis OR it lasts more than a couple days, head straight to the GI doctor for further testing. While there are many less serious causes, it could be an indicator of parasites, IBS, ulcerative colitis, or Chron’s. You should consider working with an integrative nutrition practitioner as well to help heal the gut.
Food Fix: When your stools are loose, you want to eat more dry, or binding foods, like gluten-free whole grains, rice, dry toast, or crackers and cooked veggies. This is not the time for salads, raw fruit, or overdoing it on the fiber. Because you’re more prone to dehydration, ensure you’re consuming adequate water, and try sipping on a comforting, warming vegetable based soup. Eliminate common food triggers, including dairy, gluten, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohol.
Healthy #2 Habits
- It takes less than a minute to pass
- You feel no pain or straining
- Looks like Type 4 or 3
- You feel completely empty afterwards- not like you have more left to pass
- Stress can throw your digestion off – even if you’re eating healthy. Don’t overlook that as a culprit- or neglect it as an area to improve.
- High quality probiotics support healthy digestion. If your poo is anything other than 4 regularly, consider trying them for a month to see if they make a difference. If you are a #4 person, your gut flora is probably well balanced, and you don’t necessarily need to take probiotics (you’re already eating them with your healthy diet!). However, you may want to keep some on hand during stressful times or to take with you when traveling, when your digestive system can get thrown off.
When to See a Doc
- If types 1, 2, 5, 6, or 7 persist for more than a week, or recur weekly or monthly.
- Blood in stool
Additionally, after the doc has given you a diagnosis, you may want to consider working with an integrative nutrition practitioner to improve your diet and lifestyle, which can in turn minimize symptoms and recurrence.
Maria Marlowe is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach who uses real food to help her clients improve their health, weight, and skin. She offers a 28-day healthy eating meal plan that teaches you how to batch cook, as well as one to clear up acne. Her most popular program is EatSLIM, a 10-week online group glass that guides participants to develop healthy eating habits that stick – and lose weight, boost their metabolism, improve their digestion, and quit sugar.
She writes healthy and delicious plant-based recipes for her popular blog. She is also the author of the #1 New Release on Amazon, The Real Food Grocery Guide, the most practical guide to selecting the healthiest foods, without going broke, which has been praised by Dr. Oz and InStyle magazines. You can find her on instagram @mariamarlowe.