Your Guide to Healthy Poop
Hi Sweet Friends,
I love talking turd, and I’m not ashamed to say it! Turd, turd, turd. It’s time we all stop hiding behind our toilet paper squares and start understanding one of the most important parts of our everyday well-being — healthy poop! Sure, it’s not the sexiest of subjects, but vibrant health is pretty darn hot in my opinion. And whether you like it or not, your poo is part of that picture.
Without further a-doodoo …
The scoop on poop
Poop is made up of dead gut cells, leftover indigestible fiber and bacteria. As you know, your chow is processed in your intestines, which are lined with some very smart cells. These cells allow essential nutrients, such as sugars, amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals to be absorbed into your bloodstream. The leftovers (aka the waste) are shuttled through the rest of your digestive system, out of your body and into the toilet. Welcome to the pool, kids!
How often should you poop-a-go-go?
The number of times you should poop per day varies. On average, it’s normal to go as much as 2-3 times per day (basically after each meal) or as little as every other day. Although I’d like to add that “every other day” seems pretty uncomfortable to me! However, if you’re going more than 4 times a day or only 3-4 times per week, you should probably consult your doctor.
The glamour shot: What does a healthy bowel movement look like?
Shape: Ready for an anatomy lesson? Since poop curves around and around inside your winding intestines, a healthy poop should look like an “S” or a “C” as it lands in your toilet.
Color: Healthy poop should be a shade of medium-brown color, courtesy of the leftover bile from your gallbladder (this bile helps to break down your food). If your poop is white or grey, you could be having a problem with your pancreas or gallbladder. Yellow stool may be the sign of an infection in your intestines or inflammation, especially if you observe mucus in your poop.
Blood in your poop may or may not be cause for alarm, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The blood could be the result of hemorrhoids, which can be tender and start bleeding if you’re straining too much while pooping (Ouchies! Ease up, hotshot). In this case, you may see a couple of drops of bright red blood in the toilet water, on your toilet paper or on the outside of your poop. If you have any doubts about whether or not you have hemorrhoids, touch base with your doc to let him or her know about the issue. But if your poop contains dark red blood or is even blackish-red, this indicates blood that has come from higher up in your gut. In that case, please see your physician post-haste.
Texture: A healthy poop will be formed but soft — think toothpaste consistency (sans the mint). Hard, dry, pellet poop indicates constipation. Loose, unformed, or watery poop is diarrhea. If it’s foamy or floating on top of the toilet water, this could mean that you are not absorbing the fat in your diet very well — especially if it’s incredibly foul-smelling. This is another reason to trot to your doc.
How to be a gold-star pooper:
The “Four F’s” are a general rule of thumb for happy bowel movements: Fiber, Fluids, Flora and Fitness!
Dietary fiber rules. As you learned in my guide to fabulous fiber, it comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Lack of either creates pooper pandemonium.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel in your intestines, which bulks up your poop and makes it smooth enough to keep the trains moving. Soluble fiber also helps regulate blood sugar and can lower cholesterol levels. Add these foods to increase soluble fiber: oatmeal, apples, oranges, pears, berries, flax, beans, peas, lentils and psyllium husk.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, so it acts like the bristles in a broom to sweep poop along. It also has a mild laxative effect, which helps with healthy elimination. Add these foods to increase insoluble fiber: whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, dried fruit and root vegetable skins.
When you increase fiber, you also need to increase your fluid intake. Remember, soluble fiber absorbs water, which means you’ll need more H2O to stay hydrated and prevent constipation. There are two easy ways to estimate how much water you need each day:
- Divide your body weight by 2. This gives you the approximate amount of water in ounces that you need to drink per day. For example, a 140-pound woman should drink about 70 ounces.
- Look at your pee — it should be a light straw color. The darker your pee gets, the more concentrated it has become, which indicates that you need to drink more fluids.
Your intestines are home to over 100 trillion bacteria and a great deal of this bacteria (good guys and bad guys) end up in your poop. Good bacteria (also known as probiotics) are very important to help keep us regular. We need probiotics to work alongside our digestive enzymes and help break down food to release the nutrients our bodies need. In return, probiotics survive and multiply in our gut when they dine on the leftover fiber from our digested food.
To increase good bacteria in your gut:
- Eat fermented foods like tempeh, miso, kombucha and sauerkraut.
- Eat high-fiber foods (prebiotics).
- Take a high-quality probiotic supplement.
For more on building strong belly bacteria, check out my blog on gut health.
If you want your poop to move, YOU need to move too! Exercise helps stimulate the natural contractions of your intestines. It also tones the muscles in your core that help create healthy elimination. Gentle activities such as taking a walk or yoga can help ease constipation, but moderate aerobic activity on a regular basis is a more effective way to keep constipation at bay in the long run. Score!
A couple more tips:
- Making sure you go … on the go! While traveling, I take Magnesium Citrate to prevent constipation. It might do the trick for you too. (As always, check with your doc before adding a new supplement to your life.)
- Primo poo-sition. While sitting on the porcelain throne, rest your feet on a short stool (or the edge of the bathtub). This simple adjustment puts your body in a good position for easy-breezy elimination. Try it!
It’s your turn. Don’t be shy!
Now that I’ve opened the bathroom door and started the poop-ersation, light a match and share your tips for healthy elimination.
Peace & terrific turds,