Alright, let’s talk about poops, a topic that we all want to avoid (other than gas?) because we feel embarrassed about our poops? But come on… we eat, we digest, we poop, and we repeat! It’s as simple as that. Actually, poops can tell us a lot about our health.
How often should you poop?
The general gold standard for normal bowel movement is to poop at least once per day. It’s said that pooping less than 3 times a week is an indication of constipation. Some people don’t realize they’re chronically constipated as that’s they way they’ve been for years, making them think that it’s normal.
But you could be constipated even if you still poop!
Other than not pooping frequently enough, the following symptoms could also be warning signs of constipation:
- Having a hard time passing stools (taking too much time and effort in your #2),
- Passing very dry and hard stools (a stool chart will come in handy later on), and
- The feeling of “incomplete emptying” (you feel like you haven’t finished doing your business, but indeed couldn’t produce more no matter how hard you try!)
To find out more about the symptoms, potential causes and remedies, check out this post from Healthline.
What should your poop look like?
I recently found out about the Bristol Stool Chart which depicts the different shapes and forms of stools in a very simplistic way. And I found it a very handy tool when trying to track my gut health to see if I am making any progress when modifying my diet and supplement routine and to see if any food tends to cause me gut issues so I can try to reduce or limit those foods.
To put it simply, type 4 is ideal, followed closely by type 3. Going towards type 1 can be an indication of constipation and moving towards type 7 indicates diarrhea and thus the malabsorption of nutrients – As to why, it could be
- The lack of fibre in your diet to move things along;
- Lack of enzymes to breakdown the fibre so your stool passes “pre-maturely” without giving water a chance to be reabsorbed into your system (by the way, the root cause of lacking enzyme could be the lack of good microbes which help produce enzymes);
- Or simply the introduction of irritants like caffeine, alcohol, sugar alcohol and spicy food, bad microbes as in food poisoning, or inflammatory food like wheat and dairy into your system causing your body to kick in its defence mechanism, the almighty immune system, and kick the enemies out with the side effect of diarrhea!
- Hormonal change (I found myself having looser stool when I’m going through my monthly cycle and many of my female friends experience the same thing too!)
- Underlying health issues such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease.
What about the color of my poop?
One inherent downside of the Bristol Stool chart is that it only focus on the shape and form of your poops but not the color. Here’s a handy picture that explain poop color and what it could mean from Dr. Josh Axe’s website (This blog post also talks about some very interesting but rarely discussed topics like “how bad is it to hold your poops” and “how long should pooping take” and some facts about poop smell… Ha!)
We talked about the frequency, the shape & form, and the color, so that leaves us…
Why does my poop smell?
Well, of course our poop smells. But this article from health.com briefly touch on why our poop smells worse than usual:
- Consuming excess alcohol which increases the permeability of gut lining, and also alcohol contains a significant amount of sulfate which some gut bacteria use to ferment into foul smelling compounds;
- Taking certain medications like antibiotics can alter the gut microflora and create an imbalance;
- Eating too much sulfur-containing foods like garlic, onions which again the bacteria convert to sulfurous gas (but those sulfur containing foods are actually very good for our body so don’t completely avoid them!)
- Having a high fat diet which is very poorly absorbed by your body.
- Food intolerances and sensitivities
- Gut disease or infection (such as Celiac Disease, Pancreatic diseases, and C. difficile infection)
Fun facts on poops! …coz poops should be fun, not embarrassing 🙂
- Poops are actually mostly bacteria, not old food – bacteria, live and dead, account for up to 80% of the solid mass of our poop (excluding water). The remaining solid mass are mostly undigested plant fibers.
As a result, poops can tell us a lot about our gut microbiome. Since I have tried so many popular remedies that other people swear by but I see no improvement, perhaps my poop can give me some pointers! And it did…
Recently I spent $550 for a stool test called GI MAP (the most expensive poop I produced to date…). It’s a very comprehensive analytical test that shows the composition of my gut microbiome – what key species are present and their amount, are there virulent strains of particular concern, the ratio of good and bad microbes (bacteria, yeast & parasites)… This can help my ND come up with a well-rounded treatment plan tailored to myself. I will dedicate another post to review this test after I go through the treatments so I can share my full experience!
Here’s a video that expand on the size, shape & color of stools in relation to digestive health which I thought is easy-to-understand and useful.