4 Things Your Poop Could Tell You About Your Health
Updated: May 21, 2022
by Kate Daugherty, MS, CNS, Functional Nutritionist
Have you ever found yourself googling embarrassing questions about your poop? You’re not alone. Poop talk is one of our favorite topics, and there is so much to know!
Pooping is a normal, healthy bodily function. No need to be embarrassed. Your bowel movements can give you lots of clues about your health status- if you know what to look for! There’s a lot of variety to what is NORMAL.
Here is our guide to understanding your poop.
1 - COLOR
The color of your poop can be related to what you’re eating and how you’re digesting. Normal poop is anywhere from suede to dark-roast coffee. The color largely comes from bile and bilirubin; two liquid substances secreted in your gastrointestinal tract to help break down nutrients. Other colors of poop can indicate functional bowel issues.
Here’s a quick poop color breakdown:
Black: Black stools may happen with certain supplements (like iron); but it can also indicate bleeding in the upper section of your GI tract. If you’re not taking supplements, this is a reason to make a doctor’s appointment!
Green: Your poop may be green if you’re consuming a high amount of green leafy vegetables and they aren’t fully digested. You might also see food fragments. This is common if you have particularly speedy bowels- the digestive matter hasn’t been in your intestines long enough to be fully broken down and fermented.
Red: Have you had beets recently? Bright red poop can be alarming, so make careful consideration of any red foods you’ve been eating! If you can’t explain it by dietary reasons, red poop (especially if noticably bloody) is a cause for concern. It can indicate bleeding lower in your GI tract, from hemorrhoids, or other bowel disorders.
Light-Colored/Pale: If your poop is yellow, pale, and greasy it may be a result of a high-fat diet or an absence of bile. This is common in those with gallbladder problems (reminder: the liver produces bile, the gallbladder stores and secretes it). Pale and dry poop may be a side effect of medication, but can also indicate malabsorption.
2 - CONSISTENCY
The ideal log is medium brown in color, about four to eight inches, in the shape of an S or a C, and passed easily. This is gold-star poop.
Here are some weird anomalies to watch for in consistency:
No form or runny: When you’re experiencing diarrhea, you are at risk for malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. It could indicate a pathogen, parasite, dysbiosis, or food intolerance. If you have 3 days or more of loose stools per month, we recommend starting with a comprehensive stool analysis.
Oily or sticky: If you are not digesting fats, you may notice oily or sticky stools. (They may also float!) Consider changing the macronutrients of your diet to a more balanced ratio. If oily stools continue, you are at risk for deficiencies in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The Bristol Stool Chart is a helpful tool for talking about and recognizing your poop style. We reference this often in Functional Medicine as it makes the conversation a bit more civilized.
3 - FREQUENCY
According to The Journal of Gastroenterology, it is normal to poop anywhere from three times a week to three times a day.
We think of pooping as a non-negotiable in optimal health. Daily bowel movements mean you are excreting waste products, toxins, hormones, and other dietary byproducts. Otherwise, you may recirculate these things and find yourself dealing with hormone imbalance, SIBO, weight gain, or other health issues.
It is most common to poop in the morning; but your digestive rhythm may be different. It should be fairly easy and quick to have a bowel movement. If you find yourself straining, sitting for more than 5-6 minutes, or in pain while pooping… you’re likely constipated.
If you are pooping infrequently, you may need to evaluate your hydration, fiber intake, stress levels, and gut flora. If you are pooping too frequently, you may need to evaluate food tolerances, pathogens/illness, and neurotransmitter function.
4 - SMELL
No one’s shit don’t stink. But, overly foul-smelling stools can mean there’s a bigger issue going on. An infection or parasite can produce especially smelly poop. Food allergies or intolerances can also contribute to offensive poop smells. When proteins (like gluten or dairy) aren’t properly broken down and absorbed in the small intestine and make their way to the large intestine, they putrify. A sweet smelling poo can indicate blood sugar dysregulation or inability to absorb carbohydrates.
Diving DEEP Into Poop Problems
Healthy poop depends on many factors. Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress-management can make a huge impact on how well your digestive system is working. In Functional Medicine, we always start by ensuring a whole foods diet, adequate hydration, adequate fiber, and daily movement. Then, we must consider the nervous system.
Spotlight on Stool Testing: G.I. Effects by Genova Diagnostics
For helping us scientifically diagnose poop problems, we use the GI Effects by Genova Diagnostics. It's an at-home stool test that looks at what's coming out. The GI Effects is a PCR analysis of your microbiome (how much of every bug do you have?) + digestive function markers (how well are you digesting fats/proteins) + inflammatory markers (do you have inflammatory bowel disease?) + parasitic and pathogenic investigation (what infections do you have?).
With these results, we can help you deal with leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth, dysbiosis, eradicate pathogens or parasites (naturally), and start to normalize bowel habits.
First, We discover the WHAT ; then we address the WHY .
Need Help with your Poop?
We're here for you.
We always start with a Comprehensive Functional Medicine New Patient Exam. During that appointment, you'll sit with both Dr. Rasmussen (a Functional Medicine Doctor) and Kate (a Certified Nutrition Specialist) to talk through your symptoms, your diet, your lifestyle, and what you've tried. We'll order Functional Lab Testing and get started fixing your gut.
Want a free resource for understanding your diet and it's relationship to your bowel function? Click here to get Kate's 5 Day Food-Mood-Poop Journal!
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