Whether it’s taboo or not, I know it’s not a subject we are comfortable talking about. However, as an integrative nutritionist, health coach and student of functional medicine it’s an important subject and discussion point when working with clients.
This weeks blog covers why it’s important to understand what’s “normal” for bowel movement frequency and form and what you can do to help it along.
Butt first... a little bit of trivia and another proud moment for the Brits amongst us. The Bristol Stool Scale was created by the British Royal Infirmary as a clinical assessment tool in 1997. The homegrown Bristol UK tool is now used globally “as a research tool to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for various diseases of the bowel, as well as a clinical communication aid; including being part of the diagnostic triad for irritable bowel syndrome.”
I was reminded of the importance of this subject matter on this weeks open case call with the School of Applied Functional Medicine.
Did you know that if your not “going” / ”having bowel movements” / “doing waste disposal” frequently, the toxins your body is trying to dispose will start to be reabsorbed back into your blood stream…
Please bare with me, I’m not going to get too gory. Let’s just go through the basics.
Frequency - Daily is what you should be aiming for and ideally once or twice a day is good. Remember this is your body’s way of removing waste and toxins so you don’t want it lingering any more than 24 hours.
Form - Please refer to the Bristol Stool Chart.
TYPE 3 & 4 is what you should be aiming for! There's absolutely nothing wrong with glancing back to check.
TYPE 1 & 2 suggests constipation. At a basic level this is caused by dehydration (not enough water), or mineral deficiency e.g magnesium (essential for many things including detoxification) or it can also be associated with gut imbalance / IBS. In the case of dehydration, ensure that you are drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water / day - one glass soon after waking, with every cup of tea/coffee you consume during the day and of course during/after exercise. Please note that tea and coffee are dehydrating (flush water out but avoid bowels) and also contain tannins which can limit your body’s ability to absorb and use minerals from the food you consume. This can lead to things like magnesium deficiency which is important in the bodies detoxification process. Under no circumstances is regular consumption of laxatives natural or otherwise, the best way to solve this. Prolonged use of any laxatives can cause further issues with gut imbalance, cause reactions to foods consumed on a regular basis and disrupt the bodies natural detoxification process.
TYPE 5 is borderline but generally indicates that you are perhaps lacking fibre and over consuming processed foods. If this picture resonates with you, the addition of some whole foods and grains and real vegetables and fruit will go along way to getting you back to where you need to be. As you know increasing vegetable intake also feeds your stomach microbiotia and fuels your immunity so it’s a win / win.
TYPE 6 & 7 suggests diarrhoea. At a very basic level its a sign of inflammation in the body or your body is not happy with something you have consumed or you are experiencing high stress. In the case of stress, your body will automatically release what it considers unnecessary as it assumes a sympathetic nervous state “fight or flight”. This is why we often need to go to the bathroom before interviews, exams, important meetings, races etc. However, if this is happening frequently at the moment, consider what you could have eaten to cause upset. If its not an obvious food (something that upset you before) it could be your body’s way of telling you there is some underlying stress that you’re perhaps not acknowledging. Quite possible at the present moment. In any event note you are loosing more fluid and minerals than normal so will need to replace this.
I could go into a lot more detail on colour, odour or the wonderful science behind your inbuilt detox centre but I don’t want to put you off entirely! The body is an amazing thing, have faith in the system, acknowledge the signs it is giving you and service it accordingly.
In summary Type 3 & 4 is what your aiming for. Types 1 & 2 or 6 & 7 should NOT be something that is occurring on an ongoing basis. It’s not normal and could be doing you harm as are frequent use of laxatives. If you have any concerns please do reach out for some advice from your local health professional to get you back on track.
Its NOT taboo to talk about poo - its a natural and amazing part of everyday life. If you have any questions or concerns about any of this content please do not hesitate to contact me.
"Sometimes music is like poop, it just has to come out" Mark Salling