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.
If you need help eating (and enjoying!) more of these healthy foods, check out my science-backed, doctor-approved Nutrition Course which comes with a delicious 8-week meal plan that will keep the pipes moving.
Taking a high quality probiotic, 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 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 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, then 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. 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’ll most likely have to spend some time repairing your gut through specific foods and supplements, which I guide you through in my Nutrition Course.
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 blown 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 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 or herbal teas. Eliminate common food triggers, including dairy, gluten, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohol.
Signs You’re a Healthy Pooper
- 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.
- Antibiotic use affects our gut microbiome for months, and even years after they are taken. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that it took 6 months for a healthy person’s gut bacteria to rebound after a round of antibiotics, although, 9 beneficial strains of bacteria were completely wiped out and did not return, while some new non-desirable bacteria had colonized the gut.(1) This is why it’s important to limit antibiotic use to only when necessary, and avoid conventional meat from conventional livestock, which are subject to higher antibiotic use. Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO) have called for an end of the routine use of antibiotics in animal raised for meat (2, 3).
- 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
If you need help getting your poo to Type 4, join me for my science-backed, doctor-approved online 8-week Nutrition Course.