I credit Dr Oz with breaking the bathroom-related silence. I recall watching a show, on Oprah, before he had his show and Dr Oz mentioned our stool should resemble as “S”. I suddenly found myself feeling insecure and obsessing over the fact that I am a lowercase “l” girl (on a good day). And then, as only Oprah can do, she mentioned that everyone looks at their poop after we make it- we may not talk about it but we look! I truly think a person’s day can be affected by those 5(?) minutes in the bathroom between the scale, a look in the mirror and well…their bowel movements!
There are many factors that can affect our bowels: age, pregnancy, exercise, menstruation, travel, stress to name a few. And there is a wide range of what’s considered “normal” in terms of bowel frequency. Three or fewer movements a week constitutes constipation and one a day or more is maybe something to aspire to. Most of us fall somewhere in between. While I was reassured to be normal, I was still thinking about that “s” shape and decided to research it. One source said: “An ideal bowel movement is medium brown, the color of plain cardboard. It leaves the body easily with no straining or discomfort. It should have the consistency of toothpaste, and be approximately 4 to 8 inches long. Stool should enter the water smoothly and slowly fall once it reaches the water.”
I am not going to even comment on the “toothpaste” comparison as handling my feces is where I draw the line. There are other confusing characteristics here. Anyone who has had a baby knows that you can tell when they are “going.” They may get red or clench their hands….is this “straining or discomfort?” Don’t we all strain a little? And 8 inches long…that frightens me but I am a short person, maybe short people poop shorter. Any tall people out there who want to comment?
Another site said “in general it should be brown to light brown; formed but not hard; cylindrical, not flattened; fairly bulky and full-bodied, not compacted; somewhat textured but not too messy; and very easy to pass.” So there seems to be agreement on color with some medium brown shade. I can grasp cylindrical. In my informal research cylinders are superior to spheres. OK but “full-bodied” is a term I used to associate with wine tasting I have no idea what it means with respect to my bowels (or yours)!
There is less agreement on the buoyant bowel movements versus sinking ships and a lot of debate on that one. If stool is especially stinky it may be an indication you have too much animal protein on your diet. Very dark brown stool may mean there’s too much salt in your diet though it can also be from medication. And unless you’ve had beets recently red or bloody stools is cause for concern and you should take this seriously and contact your doctor. Conditions that can cause blood in the stool include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, diverticulitis, colon cancer, and ulcerative colitis, among others.
The PDR mentions that constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S. I discuss constipation with clients and understand the discomfort involved. I didn’t, however, realize the implications of chronic constipation which can contribute to autoimmune diseases and colon or breast cancer. “The longer stool stays in the colon, the more one reabsorbs some of the metabolic products [such as estrogen] that have been excreted in the bile.” If you tend toward constipation know lack exercise, iron supplements, calcium supplements, antacids, rushing in the morning or ignoring the need to go may be responsible. Be sure to stay well hydrated and consume up to 96 ounces of fluid a day, eat at least 2 high fiber fruits and vegetables daily and limit caffeine to 1 beverage a day as caffeine takes away ones natural urges. I also believe fermented foods such as miso, yogurt and sauerkraut can assist with gut health. At Foodtrainers, we have high fiber crackers, flax packets and what clients call “doody jelly” to help get clients “moving”. There are also a couple secret weapons such as Natural Calm a powdered magnesium supplement and triphala that are safe, non-laxative helpers.
You may wonder what the inspiration was for this post came from or maybe you didn’t. I am on raw vegan regime this week (more on that tomorrow) and was a little concerned over my bright green poop. The first explanation I found was that green stool often indicates that food has passed through the intestines faster than normal before it could be changed from green to brown. I then realize that chlorophyll (a shot of which I have been taking daily while holding my nose) also causes green poop. One of my family members snapped a photo of this freakish feces but I think I’ve shared enough for one day.
Now it’s your turn for potty talk: Do you look at your poop? Any pooping problems you’d like to share? Any foods that you feel help your poop? Do you have an “S” shape?