It may be a number two motion but not many of us think about the bowel movements that we are (hopefully) doing on a regular basis. It also a fantastic indicator of not only what is going on in our gut but it can give us a lot of information about our entire digestive system.
What is poo?
While we mostly think of poo as the left over food we eat it is a lot more complex than that.
Poo is 75% water (higher in vegetarians as they eat more water and fibre based foods), living and dead gut bacteria and viruses, old intestinal lining, the breakdown of medications, oestrogen, old cells and undigested fats.
Some things to look for when assessing you poo
How often should we poo?
In a perfect world it should be food in, poo out. Three times per day is what we are aspiring too. Once per day is usually the norm. Any longer and there really are transit issues happening. The longer poo stays in your body the more fermentation there will be which will lead to bloating and gas and nobody wants that.
A perfect poo is quick and easy to pass with no straining, no mucous and no pain. You should have a feeling of complete emptiness and a feeling of what’s known as Poo-phoria. This is where a large poo triggers your vagal nerve and this induces feelings of exhilaration, intense relaxation and even goose bumps for some. Something we should all aspire to daily.
Ideally poo should be a mid to dark chocolate brown. The colour comes from stercobilin (a brown pigment from bile). Different foods you eat will affect the colour of your poo. Different colours can mean different things so it is important to pay attention to what your bowel colour looks like.
White or clay coloured poo can be a result of antidiarrhoeal medications and it can also be a bile duct blockage. If you have any associated fever, jaundice, itching, pain, nausea, vomiting or weight loss it is worth getting it checked by your doctor.
Yellow poo that is greasy and smells bad can be a signal of malabsorption. It generally means you have excessive fat in your poo and you could have a malabsorption issue like Coeliac’s disease.
Green poo can mean food is moving to fast through your large intestine and bile is breaking down to quickly or you have been eating too many foods with green food colouring in them.
Red poo can mean you have haemorrhoids, a fissure or bleeding in your lower gut or if you have been eating excessive red foods, especially beets or foods with lots of red food colouring. If there is bright red blood on the toilet paper it’s worth getting this investigated by your doctor.
Black poo can be from bleeding higher up in your stomach and should result in an immediate doctors visit. Beware poo can also be black from iron supplementation, charcoal use and from eating too much licorice.
If you consistently have one of the colours that strays from the ideal mid to dark brown don’t hesitate to get checked by your doctor.
The smell of your poo will be impacted by what you have eaten. Poo overall should smell but it shouldn’t be offensive. It has quite a natural smell. If your poo is excessively smelly you could have a parasite, malabsorption issues or even unbalanced gut bacteria.
If your poo is frothy and greasy this can be a sign of not digesting fats.
Floaters or sinkers
The perfect poo should sit on the top of the surface for a moment then sink into the depths of the toilet. If it sinks it means that you eat plenty of fibre. If it floats it means that you are not eating enough fibre and you have excess gas to keep it afloat.
It should be one wipe and easy to clean up. In fact there shouldn’t be any poo on the toilet paper to be the perfect poo. If it’s sticky and messy and takes time to clean up check out your diet and your positioning on the toilet. It is worth investing in a toilet stool to get your thighs slightly higher than your hips as this helps provide a better elimination experience.
Things that affect your poo
Most people have issues when they travel as they are eating different foods, time zones, not drinking enough water and a completely different routine are all enough to throw your poo schedule out. Medications, sleep issues, hormones, stress, surgery, changes in your daily routines and changes in your diet can also affect your poo schedule.
Poo makes a lot of us squeamish and it really is a taboo subject for most. It can give us a report card on how our body is performing digestively overall. We should be all aiming for poo-phoria and we are best to look back when we flush. Your life may depend on it!