Your Poop and Your Health
Let’s chat about your poop, feces, poo, excrement or bowel movements.
Did you just cringe a bit? Let’s face it, poop isn’t anybody’s
Your Appointment With Us is a Judgement-Free Zone
Keep in mind that your naturopathic doctor cares about such things as the quality of your stool. We will not be shocked or uncomfortable if you talk about your poop. In fact, that’s part of our job! We really want to get to the bottom of your health issues (no pun intended). Sometimes that means talking about things that fall under the category of “too much information”. We need to know all of your symptoms, even things that may seem unrelated or unimportant, in order to put your health puzzle together. So, if you have a concern, no matter what it relates to, please don’t hesitate to bring it up.
Your Poop is a Reflection of Your Health
The appearance and smell of your poop is a direct reflection of your gut health. Your gut health has a massive impact on your overall health. As well as helping you absorb all of your nutrients, your digestive system interacts with your nervous system and your detoxification pathways. Changes in your bowel habits can indicate changes in other parts of your body – from excessive nervous system stress, to liver problems, to cancers.
The good news is that we don’t have to go into great detail here describing the various types of bowel movements and what they signify. There’s already a chart that shows various problems and what to look for. It is called the Bristol Stool Chart and you’ll find it here: http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/46082.pdf. It was named after the hospital that developed it in 1997.
The Healthy Poop Chart
The Bristol Stool Chart looks at:
- Your ease of passing stool – it should be fairly easy
- The smell – sure there will be a smell to it, it is waste after all, but it shouldn’t be particularly foul smelling.
- The consistency of your stool – the stool should be solid and uniform in texture without bits of undigested stool in it
colour– the colourshould be a medium or chocolate brown. Green poop can be from something you have eaten or can be because your stool is passing through your gut too quickly for intestinal bacteria to break down bile. This is what creates the normal stool colour.
- How often you have a bowel movement – anything from one to three times per day, every day is considered to be normal
- How completely you empty your bowels – bowel movements should feel complete.
- And any additional red flags – red flags include blood in your stool,
mucousin your stool, chronic constipation or diarrhea andchronic undigested food.
What The Bristol Stool Chart Means for You
To summarize the Bristol Stool Chart, you should have a daily bowel movement that is well-formed, medium brown in colour and not too smelly. If you see blood or mucus, or if you feel that anything about your stool doesn’t seem ideal, you should talk to your naturopathic doctor. We can address or rule out any issues that require medical help. The chart can help identify mild constipation, severe constipation, normal stools and inflammation in your gut.
Talk About Embarrassing!
Two of the more common but embarrassing issues related to bowels are fecal incontinence and itchy anus (or anusitis).
Fecal incontinence is where stool leaks from your rectum between bowel movements. You may notice staining of your underwear. It may happen when you pass gas or unpredictably. Incontinence may be associated with a bout of diarrhea, or may be accompanied by constipation or excessive gas. The causes of fecal incontinence include:
- Muscle damage
- Nerve damage
- Complications of surgery or childbirth
- Inflammation in your bowels
Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause and help improve your digestion, the tone of your GI tract and remove sources of inflammation.
Itchy Anus, Anusitis or Proctitis
Anusitis is inflammation of the lining of the anal canal. Proctitis is inflammation of the skin of the rectum. Rectal itching (pruritis) is a sign of inflammation or infection. You may also notice bleeding or a burning sensation. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify the cause of the itching. We can help relieve itching, remove infections and identify food sensitivities that cause itching. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore rectal itching: chronic inflammation can lead to bigger health issues like rectal cancer.
7 Simple Steps to Improve Your Poop
If you’ve ruled out a medical condition, but still feel that things are not moving quite
Pay attention to your diet
Fiber keeps things moving by adding some bulk to your stool. For extra fiber, think seeds, beans, fresh fruit and vegetables. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid upsetting your stomach or creating too much gas. Always make sure to up your water intake alongside extra fiber. In addition, make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. If food is moving through too quickly, causing loose stool or diarrhea, good fats help to slow digestion down a bit. This gives food more time to digest fully.
Pay close attention to how particular foods affect your digestion. If you experience IBS symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, try keeping a diary of what you eat, and the symptoms you experience. We can help you set up an effective tracking system to monitor your diet. Alternatively, our naturopathic doctors can order food sensitivity testing for you to efficiently pinpoint which foods are causing trouble.
Choose medication carefully
Many medications can cause constipation as a side effect. It is important to be aware of this and adjust your diet accordingly to compensate for this effect. Avoid laxative medications as much as possible. Your body quickly becomes dependent on them. Some evidence also links the chronic use of laxatives to colorectal cancer. Talk with your naturopathic doctor about natural solutions for medication-induced constipation if diet alone isn’t enough.
Drink lots of water
Aim for the proverbial eight cups of water per day. It’s particularly important to get enough water if you have recently increased your fiber intake. Not only are our stools 75 percent water, but your bowel muscles need plenty of hydration to work their best. Water in your stool also keeps it softer and easier to pass. I have seen patients where even one or two more glasses of water per day made a difference in regularity.
Increase your body movement
Exercise stimulates your digestion. Studies suggest that digestion is better if you exercise regularly and, if possible, at the same time each day.
In fact, sitting for too long overall can lead to constipation regardless of your physical activity level. This is another reason to stand up and walk around every 30 minutes or so throughout your work day. How you move your body also matters. Did you know that some yoga poses are designed to help with digestion?
Get into a routine and don’t suppress the urge to go
If you feel like you’ve gotta go, don’t ignore that feeling! Fighting the urge to poop can lead to constipation. Setting aside a specific time of the day can help you stay regular. Good digestion requires good parasympathetic nervous system activity. This is the part of your nervous system that helps you rest, digest, relax and sleep. If you’re always stressed out or on the go, your nervous system will be in sympathetic or fight or flight mode. That works against good digestion.
Squat to poop
As well, consider the way you sit on the toilet. Over the course of history, toilets themselves are a pretty recent invention. In nature, we would have squatted to have a bowel movement. Many people find that bringing their feet up onto a stool can help bring them into a squatting position which makes bowel movements easier. Check out the Squatty potty for more info on aids for better positioning.
Don’t hesitate to come into the office and have an open talk if you have any concerns or questions about your bowel movements. Your stool can be a good indicator that your body has something going on that needs attention. It’s always better to bring up a concern than to ignore it or worry about it! Call us at 416-481-0222 or book an appointment online to speak to one of our ND’s.