I know this might not be the burning question you’ve been dying for me to answer, but stay with me here, because our poo is an excellent indication of our overall health.
Although this topic has become sort of taboo and icky these days, we all poop. Repeat after me…. WE ALL POOP. We change our babies diapers, pick up after our pets, wipe our own bums. Pooping is just normal.
So now that I’ve broken the record for how many times I can say poop in a paragraph, let’s look at WHY we need to be paying more attention to our bathroom habits.
Well, first off, most of us have absolutely no idea what a healthy bowel movement is. We’ve never been told and our primary care physician usually doesn’t go over this with us in our annual checkups. Conventional medicine doesn’t look for the root cause.
That’s why one of the topics I always make a priority to discuss with my clients is how well they are going to the bathroom. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward, and after dealing with a year or more of parasite cleansing… I promise you nothing phases me when it comes to poop.
But jokes aside, your bowel movements will reveal a lot about your internal gut health. And a majority of us are not having the right amount or consistency of bowel movements every day.
To put this into perspective, between 25-45 million people in the U.S. have “irritable bowel syndrome” or IBS, which is basically a catch-all “diagnosis” given by mainstream doctors when they don’t know how to help you. You can have IBS-constipation, IBS-diarrhea or IBS-mixed. But no matter how you dice it, IBS is essentially a collection of symptoms that Western medicine doesn’t know how to explain. Because they really aren’t trained to look at the body holistically. And they likely don’t have a vested interest in your poop.
But luckily, I do! Because, as we’ve mentioned, it can be very revealing about internal dysbiosis.
Another issue people struggle with is constipation. Constipation is defined as loose or hard-to-pass stools, and this digestive issue affects nearly 2.5 million people in the U.S.
Our feces is waste, which includes toxins from pathogens like bacteria, fungi and parasites, the environment, mycotoxins from mold, and so on. When our poop sticks around in our system for too long — aka constipation — those toxins are then reabsorbed by the body in the colon and we don’t want that. By re-circulating toxins into our system, we’ll never be able to heal and we’ll end up with an IBS diagnosis or some other type of dysfunction.
However, if your stool is too loose — aka diarrhea — then you won’t be able to properly absorb your nutrients (you’ll just excrete them) and you also run the risk of becoming dehydrated and developing more serious conditions like hemorrhoids or fissures. Nutrient deficiencies can cause a whole other host of symptoms and imbalance in the body.
So, what is normal? While it varies by person, we typically consider 1-3 bowel movements a day is normal. I personally feel that 2-3 is more accurate in terms of “healthy” bowel movements.
But if you’re not going at least once a day minimum, then you likely aren’t regular. Even just one bowel movement a day could be irregular, especially if you’re not able to eliminate completely.
But the “type” of poo is also just as important as the frequency. You want your bowel movement to look like a banana, sausage or snake. It should be easy to pass (no straining) and you should feel evacuated and empty afterward. If you still feel like you need to go after using the restroom, then you need to get to the bottom of why.
Here’s an excellent visualization of healthy and unhealthy bowel movements. It’s called the Bristol Stool Chart and it’s the de-facto pooping guide.
You want the “golden poo” or a #4 on the Bristol chart. Some will argue that a #3 or #5 are also acceptable, but really aim for a #4 and make sure it’s easy to pass. Sometimes you’re going to have less-than-ideal poos, like if you ate something that didn’t agree with you, if you’re stressed or traveling and your regular routine is upset, or ladies, if your hormones change. If you’ve ever experienced loose stools during your menstruation, then you know what I mean.
However, in general, you want to be as normal as possible. And use your stool as a way to investigate underlying health issues and getting to the root cause of things. This is exactly why I have my clients spend some time documenting their daily bowel movements alongside their food, mood and energy levels.
So this is where I totally geek out. If you’ve received a diagnosis of “IBS,” it’s time to get to the bottom of the “why” which is where functional medicine really shines.
Usually, if your stool is too hard or too soft, this is an obvious sign of compromised digestive health. But we’re still not to the “why” part yet.
Irregular bowel movements can be a sign of dehydration, lack of (or too much) fiber in the diet, high stress levels, imbalance hormones and potential underlying infections/health concerns like SIBO, parasites, candida/yeast overgrowths, mold, etc.
And it’s the pathogenic side of things that is usually the most common. One of the easiest ways to take the guesswork out of your health concerns is to get a functional stool test done. I personally use the GI Map stool test from Diagnostic Solutions in my practice. It will give you a snapshot view of what’s going on inside your gut in terms of bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal activity. It also looks at the immune system function in the gut and other key markers such as inflammation and pancreatic output.
Before we wrap up, I want to go back to one specific gut issue — SIBO. SIBO stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and it’s one of the biggest reasons for irregular bowel movements/IBS-type symptoms, bloating, gas, stomach cramps and indigestion.
If you have or suspect you have SIBO, I definitely recommend you work with someone like myself who can help figure out why. SIBO is tricky to treat, and it is often tied to the brain and our neurological health, which impacts our motor functions, including peristalsis. Peristalsis is the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestines to move food throughout the digestive system and eventually expel it as feces. This is controlled by the vagus nerve, which starts at our brainstem and travels through nearly all important organs in the body, including our digestive tract.
So the gut-brain axis becomes a big focal point for those with SIBO, and it’s why this health issue requires a holistic mind-body approach.
I personally had SIBO and was able to overcome it with holistic medicine. It’s also one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about gut health and helping people overcome debilitating (and embarrassing) digestive issues. You can learn more about my personal healing journey here.
As you can see, there’s more to our poo than meets the eye. Since a majority of illness can be traced back to the gut, it’s important to find the root causes of your digestive issues (pathogens, environmental toxins, emotional trauma, heavy metals, etc.).
So many things can influence your bowel movements, and yes probiotics are great, but if you do have something like SIBO, then probiotics can actually make it worse. That’s why it’s best to take the guesswork out of your health and work with a savvy and empathetic holistic practitioner who knows her “shit.”
If you are looking for a passionate, experienced and knowledgeable holistic practitioner to help get to the bottom of your digestive issues, I encourage you to schedule a free discovery call today, and check out my “work with me page” to see my services, access my pricing & packages and learn more about me.
I specialize in gut health and hormone balance because those are two areas where I have previously struggled for over seven years! I’ve suffered from leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, parasites, adrenal dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, and anxiety and depression so chances are, I know exactly what you are going through. And I can promise you this: you CAN find healing. You don’t have to suffer alone. All you need is someone on your side, looking out for your best interests. I’d love to be that person!