It’s time for “the poop talk”! Unless you’re a new parent, a doctor, or a nutritionist, you probably don’t give poop a second thought. However, I think we’ve known each other long enough now to have a serious discussion about this very important topic. After all, what goes in and what comes out can tell us a lot about ourselves. Really!
When my children were in their potty training stages, I’d read them books about poop to try to normalize the concept. “Everyone, even animals, do it so what’s the big deal?“, I’d implore them. My son had no problem using the potty to pee, but when it came to pooping, he’d run and put a pull-up on just so he could poop in it 2 seconds later. I’d have to clean up his mess. Gross! We’d read Everyone Poops over and over and over again, laughing at all the different types of animals’ dung, but he still wouldn’t do it. (Bad parenting confession: I finally bribed him by putting an enormous Tonka dump truck on his lap as he sat on the toilet and told him if he’d just poop in the potty the truck was his. It worked! I took his pacifier away that same day and never looked back.)
We read The Princess and the Potty at least six thousand times to our daughter when she was potty training. I swear I could probably still recite it off the top of my head. Being a parent definitely opens the door to talking about bodily functions. Otherwise, it seems to be a taboo topic outside of the doctor’s office. Why is that?
When we eat, our food provides us with the nutrients we need to survive. Put simply, here’s how it works: We chew our food well (hopefully!); swallow it; it travels into the stomach where hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes further break it down; the next stop is our small intestine where we absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients; and what’s left enters our large intestine/colon where some final recycling happens before the final waste exits our body through the anus (or “poop chute” as one client likes to call it).
Transit time is the time it takes for a food to enter and completely exit our bodies and can help determine if we’re absorbing our food properly or if we’re building up toxins in the body. You can determine your transit time with the following test in the comfort of your own home:
- Choose either beets (1/2 cup or more), corn (at least 1/2 cup), sesame seeds (1 Tbsp.), or charcoal capsules (4), all of which you can visibly see in your stool (beets turn your stool red, charcoal turns it black, and you can see corn and sesame seeds)
- Ingest one of the above and mark down the date and time
- Do not eat the food (or charcoal) again until the test is over
- Every time you have a bowel movement mark down the date and time. Look in the toilet bowl and observe your stool. Do you see red, black, seeds, or corn?
- Keep a log of your bowel movements until the very last sign of what you ate is apparent
- Determine the time difference between when you first ingested the substance and the last sign of it. This is your transit time.
Optimally, your transit time should be between 18 and 24 hours. If it’s shorter than that, food is moving through too fast and you’re not absorbing the nutrients from your food. If it takes longer than 24 hours, chances are you have toxins built up in your system. Either way, the issue needs to be addressed. The first time I did this test, my transit time was 96 hours! Yes, I was terribly constipated, and it was also a sign that something was wrong. Testing showed I was heavy metal toxic, had Hashimoto’s (which slows motility), had SIBO, leaky gut, etc. Not fun, but good information to have in order to heal.
Speaking of Testing
Your naturopath or GI doctor may suggest you have a stool analysis to determine problems affecting your digestive tract. Infections from parasites, H-Pylori, other bacteria or viruses, and malabsorption issues can all show up on a stool test. To do a stool test, your doctor will send you home with test kit. Every time you poop, you add a sample of your feces to the viles provided over the course of a few days then mail them into the laboratory and await the results. They’re not fool-proof as sometimes bacteria can hide out, but they’re often very useful. You can learn more about stool analysis here.
Form and Frequency
If you are blessed with happy bowels, you should enjoy regular bowel movements one to three times daily. Your poop should be firm, well formed, and sausage-like. Hard-to-pass pellets indicate too long a transit time. Mushy stool or diarrhea suggest too short a transit time. Chronic diarrhea can be a sign of a serious health problem and should be addressed with a medical professional immediately. (Sometimes though, diarrhea is just our body’s way of saying “Get the hell out!” to a food or pathogen that doesn’t agree with us.) Here’s a chart used by conventional and alternative healthcare people alike to help you determine what your poo is telling you.In a perfect world, we would all be having type 4 poops. They should be smooth upon exiting without strain or much residue on your toilet paper and you should enjoy a feeling of completeness. If you are blessed in this way, f*%# you! Just kidding, of course! You should be very proud of yourself and tell everyone you know that you are perfect when it comes to poop.
Sink or Swim?
What’s better, sinkers or floaters? In the case of poop, ’tis better to sink than swim. Why? Because if your stool floats, you’re not properly digesting fats. Here’s a quick lesson in fat digestion:
- Fat is broken down by bile. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When we eat fat, our gallbladder secretes bile into our stomach to emulsify fats, and our stools sink.
- If our poop floats, either our gallbladders are under-functioning or we’re not getting enough of the proper, healthy fats in our diets. It could be that your bile is too thick and viscous and can’t spray out of your gallbladder adequately. Or perhaps, you’ve had your gallbladder removed, in which case you’ll need to supplement with bile salts (i.e. ox bile) for the rest of your life. Most MD’s don’t tell you this.
- In the case of dietary fat, be sure you’re abstaining from trans-, hydrogenated-, partially-hydrogenated, rancid, or poor quality/highly processed fats in favor or healthy fats like real butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
Need help in the pooping department? Besides addressing the underlying cause(s) of your pooping woes, there are tools that can help with stools. If you’re just not pooping frequently enough, take some magnesium citrate at night before bed. I like Natural Calm which is readily available at many stores. Start with a teaspoon in a mug of hot water and work your way up with more as needed. If you take too much, your stools will be loose, but at least you’ll poop!
If you strain to poop too often, I’d suggest a squatty potty like the one below. You mount this at the foot of your toilet which enables you to squat over the bowl. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Squatting can help give our intestines a means to eliminate straight away! Get it? Ha!
I hope you’ve made it this far in my post and learned something about what your poo is telling you. In all seriousness, it’s very important to pay attention and realize what your body is saying. If you have kids, I invite you to open up a dialogue with them. If they’re young enough they’ll love having conversations about poop. If not, have them anyway. Let’s take the taboo out of poo!