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How do you know if your gut is working properly?

Did you know you can tell a lot about the state of your gut health by the look of your poop? And why is good poop an important indicator of...

Did you know you can tell a lot about the state of your gut health by the look of your poop?

And why is good poop an important indicator of gut health? Well, the gut is pretty much the epicenter of so many processes in your body. It's called your second brain (gut feeling anyone?), is responsible for digesting and absorbing nutrients to help you grow and repair, it houses up to 80% of our immune system, it allows us to detoxify, it can synthesize hormones and soo much more!

So if our gut is not working well, it can have a huge knock on effect on the rest of our body.

Now, obviously every person's body is totally different and their metabolic processes will work at different rates, but there is, in reality, a way to know if your gut is generally functioning as it should be.  

Things to consider for good gut health

  • Shape of the stool
  • Colour
  • Smell
  • Frequency of bowel movements
  • Abnormal pain/cramping

Shape

Firstly, let's talk about the shape. Ideally, you want a stool which is a nice firm sausage and which plops out with ease and sinks to the bottom of the toilet.  

Too hard a stool means the stool is dehydrated and may not contain enough water or fiber, meaning it will be hard to pass. You may notice fresh blood on the toilet paper and even suffer with fresh bleeding or hemorrhoids if you strain to go to the loo.

Too soft a stool can indicate a variety of things from again, a lack of fiber, in many IBS cases it can indicate a bacterial imbalance, an infection, possible food intolerance, insufficient digestive enzymes or low stomach acid to break down the food.

If the stool floats and is coupled with a greasy looking film on the water, it could indicate an inability to break down fats properly and/or lack of digestive enzymes. The occasional floater is ok, but if your stool regularly floats, it is worth speaking to your GP.

The Bristol Stool chart is a handy tool to see if your stool is looking like it should do. You want to aim for a 3 or 4 or on the chart.


Colour

Stools should be a typical ‘poo brown’ colour. A light or clay coloured stool can indicate a problem with bile flow from the pancreas and should also be investigated.

Consistently dark black/tarry coloured stools could be a sign of internal bleeding higher up in the digestive tract, and whilst this is very rare, it should be raised with your GP immediately.

If you notice bright red blood in your stool, this can be down to fresh blood from piles, often when constipated and in some more extreme cases, anal fissures (small tears in the lining of your rectum). Noticing blood in your stool as a one-off may be no cause for concern, especially if you are a little constipated,  but it's always worth flagging with your GP if it happens more than once.


Smell

Unfortunately, poos will always smell bad, but there is a level of a good and bad smelling poo! The most common thing to look out for is if your poo smells, how I would describe it as ‘toxic!’. 

This is more than just a ‘normal poo’ smell but may smell more like rotten eggs (sulphur smelling) or a cow pats (methane smelling).

It's common for poos to smell worse after alcohol and some processed foods too as they are essentially ‘toxins’ which are being excreted. But day to day, a vegetable smelling poop and ‘non toxic’ smelling poop is ok.  Consistently foul smelling stools can indicate a bacterial imbalance (such as SIBO) or an infection (such as a parasite) which needs to be identified and treated.

Frequency of bowel movements

This is such a common question we get in our clinic and drum roll please….

One to three times a day is considered a ‘normal’ amount to poop.

In a perfect world it would be ‘one meal in, one meal out’, but no-one is perfect!

Less than once a day and you are considered constipated. This then causes food, toxins and waste products to sit, putrefy and ferment in the bowel. The longer it sits there, the more water is reabsorbed and the harder the stool will be to pass. You may also get more gas and bloating when constipated too.

If you go more than three times a day this is a cause for concern and it would likely mean that the transit time of food is too fast and you are unable to fully digest and absorb the nutrients you need.  


Having urgency is also an indicator that something is not quite right in the gut. A mad dash to the nearest toilet would usually mean that something is not functioning as it should do and again needs to be investigated. 

Sometimes people notice that caffeine, alcohol or fatty foods can act like a trigger to send them to the loo and often rely on these things to help them ‘be regular’. But again, this is not advisable. If you are not able to go to the toilet regularly and with ease then take a look at your diet, fiber intake, hydration levels and even exercise levels, to encourage your bowels to work more efficiently.

Going to the toilet three plus times a day, especially if it is a loose stool is a red flag.  Triggers tend to be an infection, bacterial imbalance, intolerance or some sort of inflammatory immune response. In extreme cases such as with IBD (Irritable bowel disease), people may go to the toilet upwards of 6-10 times a day and this can cause rapid weight loss.

Abnormal pain or cramping

Going to the toilet should not be something to dread. 

So as grossed out as you may be by all this poop chat, next time you sit down for a number 2 in the loo, have a little look at your creation before you flush and check if it's a good looking brown sausage.



 

Written by Kelly Mulhall Dip NT, mBANT

https://www.thenaturalbalance.net

Nutritional Therapist - Gut Health Specialist

www.thenaturalbalance.net



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