It’s not a popular topic, but it’s something everyone does: poop.
What a person sees in their toilet each day can be a good indicator of their health.
Here’s how to tell what’s going on the inside by looking into the bowl.
When it comes to consistency, you should see something that’s compact, yet soft. It should be easy to pass. You shouldn’t have bowel movements are difficult to pass, broken up, or watery. All of these indicate that there’s something wrong.
Ideally, dropping the kids off at the pool shouldn’t require any straining or pushing. It should just come out. To get that kind of result, you need plenty of water and at least 25 grams of fiber every day.
If your stools are loose, you may be intolerant to something you’ve eaten, or you could have other problems, like a parasitical infection or bacterial overgrowth. The most likely culprits for food intolerance are eggs, dairy, nuts, sorbitol (it’s an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and other products), and wheat proteins (gluten).
Scour your pantry and fridge for the usual suspects and eliminate them to see if your condition improves. If not, it’s time to go to the doctor.
Your downloads should be cocoa, mahogany, burnt umber, or cafe-colored. They shouldn’t be anything other than a shade of brown, with few exceptions. Beets, for example, will turn your stool red, and Pepto-Bismol will turn your poop black. And, blueberries can turn everything bluish.
But, outside of freakish foods, color changes are usually a sign of trouble. Black usually means that there’s blood in the stool, or that there is excessive bile making its way through your system. It might mean you have ulcers or hemorrhoids.
Yellowish streaks or floaters indicate fat in the stool – you’re not digesting fats in your meal. This may also mean that you’re not producing enough bile to break down fats, you’re eating too much fat at one time, or there’s something wrong with your liver or gall bladder.
For shape, you should check the Bristol Stool Form Scale. It should ideally be a single piece with no break-offs. You shouldn’t be seeing tiny rock-hard pebbles or weird shapes that don’t look like brown submarines.
Frequency is a touchy subject. Some people sit on the throne once a day. Others go every other day. Some people have to poo twice daily, and match it with their tooth-brushing schedule. The important thing is consistency on your frequency. When you start seeing changes in your normal patterns, there’s a problem.
It’s never going to smell like roses, but it shouldn’t be so foul that you have to decommission the bathroom. In short: it should smell, but it shouldn’t be anything a Glade plugin can’t handle.
If you’re having trouble with back there, there are some things you can do to speed up the transit time. For starters, try including more fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber are important additions to your diet, and you should get a mix of both.
Focusing more on prebiotic fibers, like soluble fibers from some fruits and vegetables, is a good idea. Starches can also be a good idea. Eat more beans and lentils.
But, if you’re not used to eating these types of foods, work up to them slowly. Beans, lentils, and other foods with high amounts of fiber and resistant starches can do more harm than good if you don’t take it slow.
Slowly work up to about 30 grams of natural fiber per day over the course of a month. Stop when your bowel movements normalize.
Make sure you’re taking in extra water with the added fiber as it tends to have a dehydrating effect on the body. You could also try a natural laxative like senna if you’re constipated, but be careful as this can become habit forming.
If a change in diet doesn’t help, it’s time to see the doctor. Most doctors will prescribe a laxative to get things moving again. And, if you have diarrhea, they will prescribe something to block you up. Neither of these solutions is a long-term fix, but they’re easy to prescribe and patient compliance is high (for obvious reasons).
What you really want is a gut pathogen screen which tests for bacterial overgrowth, yeast infections, or parasitical infections.
Additionally, the pathogen screen should include a culture swab so that the lab can attempt to grow a pathogen in a petri dish. Sounds gross, right?
Well, these tests often uncover the source of your problems when other solutions don’t work. And, once you know what’s ailing you, a gastroenterologist can prescribe antibiotics (for a bacterial infection) or anti-parasiticals specific for your situation. Then, you can get back to being regular.
About the author:
Janice Richardson works as a dietician and a nutritionist. She always appreciates the chance to share her insights with an online audience. Her thoughts can be found on a number of relevant websites.
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