Let’s talk about poop. We may call it by many names—poo, turds, feces, dingleberries, stool, logs—but no matter how many funny names we give it, it’s not a popular topic of conversation. If there’s one thing you’d rather not talk to your family, your best friend or even your doctor about… it’s poop. Yet, our poop can tell us so much about our health that it’s something we should be aware of. Even if you are healthy, changes in your poop reveal subtle hints to what's happening inside your body. And if you are having digestive discomfort, even if you don’t think it’s a huge deal, it’s something that can likely be gotten rid of with the right care. If you want to know what your poop is saying about your health, and how to make changes that will support healthy digestion, keep reading.
Know Thy Poop
Two of the fist signs about what's happening inside your body may be the color and consistency of your poop. According to the Bristol Stool Chart there are 7 different types of poop consistencies1. This tool is a helpful resource to help you describe your poop to a physician and help them diagnose any health issues, if present.
So what are the 7 different consistencies? It’s a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being lumpy and 7 being watery. Typically, type 1 and 2 may indicate that you’re constipated. Type 3 and 4 are where you want to be, aka “healthy poop”—usually sausage shaped with a smooth or slightly cracked surface. Lastly, type 5, 6 and 7 are typically soft or watery in consistency and indicate that you may have diarrhea.
50 Shades of Brown
Once you understand the consistency of your poop, another important indicator is color. As we all know, poop is normally a shade of brown. But do you know what your body may be telling your when your poop isn’t brown? A few colors other than brown that you may notice are yellow, green, red or black. This may be due to changes in diet or may indicate a digestive issue.
Green: There may be two reasons for green-ish poop. If you are eating a diet rich in dark, leafy greens your poop may naturally take on a green tint. However, if it’s on the 5-7 scale of consistency, it may be because it’s passed through your body too quickly. When this happens, your bodies’ bile, which is green, may not have had time to turn to a brown color during digestion—meaning there’s important nutrients that haven’t been absorbed as food passes through your body.
Black or Red: This may be caused by diet or bleeding in the intestine. If your poop is red or black, and it’s not because you’ve just eaten a ton of beets or iron supplements, you should investigate it further as it could be indicitive of bleeding in your intestinal tract.
Pale or White: These colors may indicate a bile blockage.
Yellow: This may indicate too much fat in your food, or malabsorption.
No matter the color, if you believe changes in your poop color are not due to diet, please document what you see and share this information with your doctor.
Tips for Maintaining Daily, Healthy Poop
Now that you know what your poop is telling you about your health, how do you support good poop? The key is a balanced diet and healthy digestive system (we’ve put together some tips for that, here). A person with healthy digestion will typically poop 1-3 times per day, and spend no longer than 1-15 minutes passing a stool If you stay on the toilet longer because you’re reading or browsing on your phone… we’ve all been there, and that’s okay.
A diet that supports healthy poop is one with adequate fiber and hydration. Adults should be getting 25-35 grams of fiber per day, yet the average American is getting only 15-18 per day2. One way to sneak fiber into your normal routine, and help you reach the minimum requirement of 64 oz of water per day at the same time, is to add fiber to your water with something like Enzymedica’s Pomegranate Lemonade Fiber Drink. You can also support healthy digestion by eating a balanced diet, rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. For an additional boost, maintaining an active lifestyle of 30-60 minutes of physical activity per day can also help support healthy bowel movements.
Now that you know what your poop is telling you about your health, implement these simple tips as a way to support your digestion and maintain healthy poop.
1. WebMD (2017). “What Kind of Poop Do I Have?”. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/poop-chart-bristol-stool-scale.
2. National Center for Health Statistics (2017). NCHS Nutrition Data, Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/factsheets/factsheet_nutrition.pdf