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The Scoop on Poop

Updated: Feb 18

"In my world everyone is a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!!!! - Horton Hears a Who Ayurveda is considered one of the world's oldest healing sciences. Although this "Wisdom of Life" has been practiced in India for the past 5,000 years, this holistic medical science is just starting to grow in popularity here in the US. Ayurveda uses close observation of a person's natural tendencies and temperament to restore balance to the body. Balance is the key principle of Ayurveda - the balance of opposites. In order to do this one must understand the unique nature of each person; there is no "one size fits all". In fact, Ayurveda's favorite answer to the question of treatment is, "it depends". Healing depends on the individual's natural constitution, the season, age, climate, and so on. Just like everyone has a unique fingerprint, each person has a particular pattern of energy - physical, mental and emotional. Observation of an individual may include looking at the skin and complexion, fingernails, feeling the characteristics of the pulse, assessing the urine and feces, and viewing the tongue. The tongue is considered a mirror to the body's organ system and is a map of what's happening within the body before it is manifested externally. The tongue reflects the degree of health or imbalance of the body and can signal disease before any other signs and symptoms show outwardly. Balance is the natural order; imbalance is disorder. Health is order; disease is disorder. These tools for analysis and diagnosis, describe the current state of a person as well as their tendencies. A common thread between all these observations is a healthy digestive fire (agni). Food is supposed to nourish our tissues and give us energy. If an imbalance is affecting your agni, the things that enter the body are not properly processed and toxins (ama) build up. The first sign that toxins have built up is a heavy white coating on your tongue. The second sign is odor - body odor, bad breath, odor with flatulence, smelly poop. As the body's main means of removing waste, healthy bowel movements are essential to preventing the buildup of ama and staying balanced.

Fecal Features

When it comes to toileting habits, the topic is not exactly a favorite among Americans – at least for those above the age of four. Mention poop and you can easily clear a room – or at the least, generate some unusual facial expressions, nervous laughter, and wisecracks about “too much information.”

But your bodily functions are an important health topic that deserves serious attention, regardless of the “ick factor.” In fact, if you ignore what you deposit in your toilet, you could be flushing your health down the drain!

Did you know the average person generates about five TONS of stool in his or her lifetime? Turns out, there is much to be learned from this mountain of poop.

The shape, size, color, and other fecal features can tell you a great deal about your overall health, how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning, and even give you clues about serious disease processes that could be occurring, like infections, digestive problems, and even cancer. Poop comes in just about all the colors of the rainbow... and please forgive me for using the words poop and rainbow in the same sentence.

Although there is certainly a wide variety of stool colors, textures and forms that are considered “normal,” there are definitely things that, if seen or experienced, warrant immediate medical attention. So here's what you need to know about what’s normal and not normal in the bathroom department.

What is Normal Stool?

Your stool is about 75 percent water. The rest is a combination of fiber, live and dead bacteria, miscellaneous cells and mucus. Normal stool is brown due to its composition: bacteria, water, bile, bilirubin, broken-down red blood celIs and indigestible plant matter like cellulose, along with small amounts of protein and fat. The characteristics of your poop will tell you a good deal about how happy and healthy your digestive tract is – the color, odor, shape, size, and even the sound it makes when it hits the water and whether it’s a “sinker” or a “floater” are all relevant information.

If you’re one to “poop and scoot” quickly out of the bathroom without looking in the toilet, then you might want to slow down and look down.

The Perfect Poop

I bet a lot of you out there didn’t know there was a poop chart to compare the shape of your poop, to see what it is telling you about your health. The Bristol Stool Chart is a handy tool that may help you learn what you’re going for. Ideally, your stool should approximate Types 3, 4 and 5, “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft” to “soft blobs that pass easily.” Type 4 is the Holy Grail.

Bristol Stool Chart

The seven types of stool are:

  • Type 1: Separate hard lumps of poop, like nuts (hard to pass)

  • Type 2: Sausage-shaped poop, but lumpy

  • Type 3: Poop shaped Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface

  • Type 4: Poop like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft

  • Type 5: Soft poop blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)

  • Type 6: Poop that is fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool

  • Type 7: Watery poop, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid

What’s Your Bristol Stool Chart Number

Poop types 1 & 2 will make you feel like you’re birthing a herd of baby elephants and this lumpy poop means you are constipated. Number 2 means you have still have lumpy poop and are a bit constipated. You should be shooting for poop that’s somewhere in the range of Types 3, 4 & 5. They are easy to defecate while not containing separate little lumps or any excess liquid. Number 4 & 5 are the perfect poop on the stool chart or the epitome of “taking a crap”.

Number 6 & 7 are the watery poop, tending towards diarrhea.

If your poop is too hard = constipated stools If your poop too soft = loose stools.

The common solution between the two is fiber, the daily recommendation of fiber is 25 grams. To get that into our diet each day it would be like eating 10 oranges, 6 baked sweet potatoes, 12 slices whole wheat bread and 5 cups of oatmeal. Even if one person could eat all, that they would be terribly obese.

Fiber tends to bulk up your stool and acts like glue to keep the stool stuck together, instead of in pieces. If your stool is on the softer side, short of diarrhea (“soft serve,” as some call it), it could be related to lactose intolerance, artificial sweeteners (sorbitol and Splenda), or a reaction to fructose or gluten.

What the Color of Your Poop is Telling You

What do kidney disease, stomach cancer, Crohn’s disease, diabetes and gallbladder disease all have in common? You can identify their warning signs by looking before you flush. Believe it or not, the color of your poop can be an indicator of disease. The next time you’re in the bathroom, take a second to glance down and observe the color of your poop. This guide breaks down what stool color is normal and which colors you should consult your doctor about.

The color of stool can vary dramatically and can also be a clue as to whether various disease states are present.

Red stool is most worrisome as it indicates bleeding in the lower GI tract from conditions like hemorrhoids or diverticulosis, or more serious conditions like rectal cancer. Red stool can also be caused by ingesting red food coloring or beets. While it should always be reported, it's not always an ominous sign.

Green stool can occur with rapid transit through the intestines where bile doesn't have a chance to be broken down to its final brown color. Green can also be a sign of Crohn's disease, antibiotic use, ingestion of leafy greens or iron therapy.

Yellow stool can be the result of gallbladder dysfunction which causes improper handling of bile. Infection with giardia lamblia produces a characteristic yellow diarrhea. In addition to causing diarrhea, different types of infection in the GI tract, whether viral, bacterial or parasitic, may cause changes in stool color. White stool can be a sign of fat malabsorption, as with pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, but barium used for X-rays can also give the same appearance. Mucus in the stool can give it a whitish appearance and may be due to inflammation or benign conditions like IBS. Black stool should trigger a search for bleeding from the upper part of the GI tract (esophagus, stomach or small intestine), but can also be seen with iron therapy, heavy meat consumption, and bismuth-containing compounds.

Light-appearing clay-colored stools are characteristic of liver disease and decreased bile output, but can also be caused by antacids containing aluminum hydroxide. Vitamins and supplements commonly cause changes in urine color but may also change stool color.

Look, Listen and Smell Before You Flush

What’s normal and what’s not when you look into the toilet? The following table will help you narrow down what to look for, so that you aren’t needlessly alarmed. Of course, there are a few signs that ARE cause for concern, and those are listed too. If you have a change in stools accompanied by abdominal pain, please report this to your physician.

Healthy Stool

Unhealthy Stool

Medium to light brown

Stool that is hard to pass, painful, or requires straining.

Smooth and soft, formed into one long shape.

Hard lumps & pieces, or mushy & watery,

and not a bunch of pieces, or even pasty and difficult to clean off.

About 1-2 two inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long.

Narrow, pencil-like or ribbon-like stools: can indicate a bowel obstruction or tumor – or worst case, colon cancer; narrow stools on an infrequent basis are not so concerning, but if they persist, definitely warrant a call to your physician.

S-shaped, which comes from the shape of your lower intestine.

Black, tarry stools or bright red stools may indicate bleeding in the GI tract; black stools can also come from certain medications, supplements or consuming black licorice; if you have black, tarry stools, it’s best to be evaluated by your healthcare provider.

Quiet and gentle dive into the should fall into the bowl with the slightest little "whoosh" sound - not a loud, wet cannonball splash that leaves your toosh in need of a shower.

White, pale or gray stools may indicate a lack of bile, which may suggest a serious problem (hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatic disorders, or possibly a blocked bile duct), so this warrants a call to your physician; antacids may also produce white stool.

Natural smell, not repulsive (I’m not saying it will smell good).

Yellow stools may indicate giardia infection, a gallbladder problem, or a condition known as Gilbert’s syndrome – if you see this, call your doctor.

Uniform texture

Presence of undigested food (more of a concern if accompanied by diarrhea, weight loss, or other changes in bowel habits).

Sinks slowly.

Floaters or splashers.

Increased mucus in stool: This can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, or even colon cancer, especially if accompanied by blood or abdominal pain.

Does Your Stool Have a Really Bad Odor?

If your stool has an extraordinarily bad odor, it should not be ignored. I am referring to an odor above and beyond the normally objectionable stool odor. Stinky stool can be associated with a number of health problems, such as:

  • A malabsorptive disorder

  • Celiac disease

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Chronic pancreatitis

  • Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a disease caused by a defective gene that causes your body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus, which builds up and causes life-threatening lung infections and serious digestive problems. Most cases of CF are diagnosed before the age of 2, so this is more of a concern with infants and toddlers.

Speaking of malodorous things, what about gas? Passing gas (flatulence) is normal. Not only is it normal, but it’s a good sign that trillions of hardworking gut bacteria are doing their jobs. People pass gas an average 14 times per day – anywhere from one to four pints of it! Ninety nine percent of gas is odorless, so you may even be unaware you’re passing it. Think about it – were it not for an exit, we’d all blow up like balloons!

How Often Should You Move Your Bowels?

Normal bowel habits vary. When we talk about regularity, what we’re really talking about is what’s regular for you. Three bowel movements per day to three per week is considered the normal range.

What’s more important than frequency is the ease with which you move your bowels. If you need to push or strain, something is off – moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas. The thing to watch for is a sudden change in your bowel habits. Many factors can affect regularity, such as diet, travel, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, exercise, illness, surgery, childbirth, stress and a whole host of other things.

Constipation and Diarrhea

The average body takes between 18 and 72 hours to convert food into poop and pass it on out. When this time is significantly shortened, the result is diarrhea because your intestine doesn’t have time to absorb all of the water. Conversely, when transit time is lengthened, you may end up constipated because too much water has been absorbed, resulting in hard, dry stools.

Constipation is defined as passing hard, dry stools that you have to strain to move, and it’s typically accompanied by decreased frequency of defecation. Straining is not normal, nor are experiencing feelings of incomplete elimination, bloating, crampiness, or sluggishness after going number two. If you’re over the age of 65, your risk of becoming constipated increases significantly.

Chronic, untreated constipation can lead to fecal impaction, which can be a serious medical condition. Laxatives should be avoided at all cost, and used only as a last resort. If you absolutely must use a laxative, make sure it is used for only a very short period of time.

Common Causes of INCREASED Bowel Frequency (Diarrhea)

Lifestyle Diseases and Conditions

* Eating more fruits and vegetables (increased fiber) * Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

* Increased exercise * Crohn's disease

* Drinking more water * Ulcerative colitis

* Emotional stress * Celiac disease

* Food allergies * Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

* Medication side effects * Gastrointestinal infection

Common Causes of DECREASED Bowel Frequency (Constipation)

* Change in diet, less fiber, less fruits and vegetables * Pregnancy, childbirth, or hormonal


* Emotional stress * Problems with the muscles or nerve in the

* Ignoring the urge to "go", travel and scheduling intestine, rectum or anus

factors that cause you to hold it * Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

* Insufficient exercise * Diabetes

* Inadequate hydration * Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

* Calcium or iron supplements * Local pain or discomfort around the anus,

such as from fissures or hemorrhoids

* Drugs such as narcotic painkillers (i.e. codeine). * Less often: diverticulitis, intestinal diuretics, antacids, anti-depressants, and excess or obstruction, colorectal cancer, multiple

overused laxatives sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and spinal

* Food allergies cord injury

Poo Perfection

Most gastrointestinal problems can be prevented or resolved by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you aren’t achieving poo perfection, or if you don’t feel right, then look at the following factors and consider making a few changes. These strategies will help reverse constipation or diarrhea, in addition to helping prevent recurrences.

  • Remove all sources of gluten from your diet (the most common sources are wheat, barley, rye, spelt and other grains)

  • Eat a diet that includes whole foods, rich in fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber; most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not from grains.

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, excess sugar (especially fructose), chemical additives, MSG, excessive amounts of caffeine, and processed foods as they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal (and immune) function.

  • Boost your intestinal flora by adding naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir (if you tolerate dairy); add a probiotic supplement if you suspect you’re not getting enough beneficial bacteria from your diet alone; try adding in acidophilus as well.

  • Try increasing your fiber intake; good options include psyllium and freshly ground organic flax seed (shoot for 35 grams of fiber per day).

  • Psyllium fiber, it will bulk up the stool and will help to get you to the number 4 on the stool chart. Metamucil is the way to go to get the perfect s-shaped poop. Take 7 grams of soluble psyllium fiber a day, that’s about 3 daily doses with 8 ounces of water each time.

  • Triphala is an ayurvedic supplement that serves many functions in supporting optimal health, with bowel health being one of them. I highly recommend Banyan Botanicals.

  • Make sure you stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water.

  • Get plenty of exercise daily.

  • Avoid pharmaceutical drugs, such as pain killers like codeine or hydrocodone which will slow your bowel function, Antidepressants, and antibiotics can cause a variety of GI disruptions.

  • Address emotional challenges with tools like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).

  • Consider squatting instead of sitting to move your bowels; squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle and encourages the complete emptying of your bowel without straining, and has been scientifically shown to relieve constipation and hemorrhoids. Humans have squatted for millennia - until the advent of the modern toilet. Check out the Squatty Potty.

Consider a Bidet As a practical and affordable alternative to toilet paper, you might want to try a bidet. Bidets are the norm in Europe—no bathroom is found without one. Once you experience a bidet, you’ll probably never go back to toilet paper! A bidet is refreshing in a way toilet paper will never be, is gentler and less irritating than wiping with paper, and reduces hand contamination. Whenever I travel it is one of the items that I miss most from my home. Nearly everyone that I know has received one just loves them.

The bidets pay for themselves in no time with the money saved on toilet paper, as well as helping save valuable environmental resources. You still need a sheet or two of toilet paper to dry yourself, but that is a tiny fraction of what you would need to clean yourself. But more importantly they clean your bottom far more effectively than simply using dry toilet paper. They are easy to install, as no plumber is required. Try the Soft Spray Bidet.

Who else would care about the contents of your large intestines more than yours truly? …you’re welcome. Oh, and have a “crappy day!” I mean…happy day. LOL.

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