WHAT IS AN IDEAL BOWEL MOVEMENT?
Updated: Jun 9
Your poop can tell you a lot about what is going on inside of your digestive system. It’s surprising the amount of information we you can attain from looking at poop! Let’s take a deep dive into the toilet to see what the possibilities are…
When you look at poop there is texture and color, both of which tell a story about your poop’s journey through the digestive system. The texture can be best described by referencing the Bristol stool chart (click here to see the chart). Type 1-2 poop is indicative of constipation where there is very little water left in the stool when it comes out. Although this is beneficial if you want to reduce the mess when wiping your butt, or conserve your toilet paper rations, over long extended periods of time this can be an indication of constipation and means that your body is not efficiently able to detox toxins out in an expeditious manner. On the other hand, Type 6-7 diarrhea is the body’s natural mechanism to excrete toxins out fast and immediately! Your body floods your digestive system with water when there is something that should not be there and could cause more harm if left to remain inside your gut. So when your eyes pop out of their sockets with the instant urge to head to the bathroom before it starts pushing out, know that your body is working in your favor even though diarrhea can produce unpleasant symptoms.
Within the middle of the Bristol chart, between Type 3-4, this is the most ideal according to the book titled ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders. This has the optimum water content: not too dry and not too wet like a waterslide!
After describing texture, we then go onto describing color. Stool coming from a healthy bowel will look brown, and can vary in tint from yellowish-brown to dark-brown.
Let’s get into the embarrassing conversation of what we don’t want to see in the toilet bowl. We don’t want to see…
Fresh red blood or dark black tarry stool, as this is an indication that blood is getting into the colon and if left to happen for an extended period of time could be reason for concern.
Pale tan/clay colored stool, which is likely an indication that the fecal matter has had a very long extended journey through the colon (particularly when we are constipated) and fat malabsorption could be an issue.
Yellow greasy stool, as this is likely a fat malabsorption issue as indicated in Becky Plotner’s book “Probiotic Foods vs Commercial Probiotics”.
Undigested food, as this means the digestive system is not operating efficiently and could potentially lead to gut dysbiosis or malnutrition if left unattended for a long time.
Now there are some poopy conditions that may freak people out when they are discovered in the toilet. But rest assured, these may not be as serious as they first appear to be! The first scenario is when we see that our stool is green or purple, we automatically think something is wrong. But before you worry, think back to what you’ve eaten in the past week. Did you happen to eat large quantities of green vegetables? Did you happen to eat beets? The green or purple color of your stool is often unwarranted panic, if you particularly have eaten food that caused it to come out that way (see the test outlined below). The other scenario when we freak out is if we notice mucus on the stool. When we are doing GAPS (Gut and Psychology / Physiology Syndrome) our bodies get stronger, such that unwanted mucus gets flushed out along with the stool. In the book “Probiotic Foods vs Commercial Probiotics”, Becky Plotner explains in the chapter ‘Reading Your Stool to Decipher Your Probiotics’ that “Mucus in the stool is the bowel’s way of cleaning itself”. It not only lubricates the pathway, but also entraps unwanted matter within itself so that it takes a joy ride into the toilet bowl with the rest of the poop!
In the book ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders, there is mention of “The Three-Day Rule”. For a healthy gut, it takes roughly 3 days from the time the food enters your mouth and exits the system into the toilet. Not everyone experiences this. Particularly when you’re constipated this timeframe gets much longer. A good way to test the speed at which your digestive system is operating is to perform the following test: Consume some nicely cooked beets or raw sesame seeds, write down the date/time when you consumed them, and watch to see how long it takes for purple stool or white seeds to come out. You’ll likely be surprised with how long it takes!
Now you’re going to say, its’ great that I can describe my poop, but what is the most ideal bowel movement? According to the ‘Gut and Physiology Syndrome’ book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, it is beneficial to poop 1-2 times daily to evacuate the bowels. When we are not clearing out the bowels regularly, such as in the case of severe constipation, the toxins within the fecal matter can reabsorb into our bloodstream causing us to feel worse. And equally important, over an extended period of time the fecal matter can get severely compacted and glued to the side walls of the colon. When there is enough compacted fecal matter, such that it narrows the passageway through our colon, overspill syndrome can happen. This is where soft fecal matter squeezes through the narrow passageway to form soft snake-like poop in your toilet bowel. This is not ideal, as compacted fecal matter rots and decomposes inside us causing more harm than good.
Based on the book ‘The Happy Bowel: A User-Friendly Guide to Bowel Health for the Whole Family” by Dr. Michael Levitt, the feeling of satisfaction after pooping is what matters most. He describes that there are four key characteristics that determine whether the bowel movement is satisfactory: it has to be prompt, effortless, brief, and complete. When the urge to poop is prompt (not premeditated to a specific scheduled slot on our calendars), when it is effortless to release, when it is brief (instead of muscle clinching until we’re out of breath) and when it feels complete like nothing remains to be pushed out, only then do we feel satisfied and can walk out of the bathroom with a huge smile of relief and fulfillment! I betcha the next time you use the toilet for a number two, you’ll be evaluating the experience based on this set of criteria! Remember to bust out a huge smile for everyone to see when all four conditions are met!
Although this blog posting has a ton of information describing poop, it’s hard to know where to go from here. What do we do to remedy some of the unpleasant non-pooptastic situations? By working with myself, a Certified GAPS Coach, I can help you tackle some of the unpleasant poopy situations. I am completely comfortable in talking about the subject of poop and want to encourage people to feel free to disclose their personal information on the subject at hand. If you think about it, if we poop so much and it’s such an important component of our body, why not address the issues sooner than later so that the body can function more optimally!
For interesting toilet paper facts, check out: Do you use more toilet paper than the average person?
Referenced books when writing this blog post:
- Gut and Physiology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
- Probiotic Foods vs Commercial Probiotics by Becky Plotner
- Gut by Giulia Enders
- The Happy Bowel: A User-Friendly Guide to Bowel Health for the Whole Family by Dr. Michael Levitt
This blog posting is not meant to be used for diagnosis. Nor is it meant to be an all-encompassing description of poop. Research into poop is always ongoing and new facts come up all the time. The intent of this blog posting is meant to educate the general reader on basic poop information that is available at the time the blog was written.