What is Your Poop Telling You?

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Index 1 1 | What Is Your Poop Telling You?

Everybody poops.

Including you.

I used to be super embarrassed about poop talk.

Until I got into the world of nutritionand realized poop is a vital necessity to good health.

And not just any poop.

But good poops.

There IS a difference.

What?!

The thing is, many of us go through life having no idea how to operate these bodies of ours operate.

Whats normalhealthy? Whats abnormal? How should our bodies feel? Or not feel?

Especially when it comes to our poop.

The average person poops once per day). and youre lucky if you get that.

In fact, in modern day, that number actually spans to three times per day to once every three daysand chances are if youre not going at least once per daysomething is backed up upstairs (i.e. constipation).

If youve ever wondered, Is my poop normal?or What is normal poop anyway?allow me to guide you.

POOP 101

What is poop anyway?

Poop, or fecesis a mixture of 75% water and the rest is dead bacteria that helped us digest our food along the digestive pathway, and other living bacteria, undigested food particles, fiber, and other wastes from food, cellular linings, fats, salts and substances released from the intestines and liver.

How often should I poop?

Granted you are eating three times per day, a squeaky clean digestive system would have you pooping anywhere from 1 to 3 times from day of normalformed stoolsand feeling completely eliminated (i.e. not hard to pass, loose or watery, or bits and pieces). Think about how often your dog poops when you feed him or her? Typically shortly after the meal of the day, the dog needs to do the doo-doo. Same thing goes for youin an ideal world (no laxatives needed).

What does “healthy” poop look like?

An ideal, healthy poop should look sausage like and be light brown in color. Sometimes it can be green if you ate green veggiesand thats ok too! Veggies do a body good. (However, if the stool is loose, water and green, this is not always a healthy indicatorie. diarrhea). Its ok if its a little smellyjust not foul.

What is the average bowel transit time?

The average transit time for the meal you just ate (from start to finish) is about 12-24 hours if its healthy. However, as mentioned above, for some this can be anywhere from 24-72 hours (three days)or shorter if its going straight through you.The bulk of digestion occurs in the small intestine where a healthy gut processes food over the course of 6-8 hours before finishing things up in the large intestine. It variesparticularly depending on what you eat and the health of your gut.

What does it mean if I have loose, watery stools?

Youre not digesting something appropriatelyespecially if there is a fast transit time. Loose, watery stools could indicate a bacterial overgrowth (like SIBO) in your upper bowel (small intestine), a lingering parasite in your digestive tract, or low HCL (stomach acid) to assist in break down of food in the initial stages of digestion. In other words: Your digestion is off.Frequent bouts of diarrhea and loose stools may warrant diagnosis with IBD or IBS-D. However, often times your octor wont explain WHY your GI tract got this way in the first place (other than perhaps, Its hereditary,or Its from processed foods). Digging into the underlying issues could be the missing link in indicating why stools continue to be watery, water stools happen occasionally, it may simply indicate: You ate your food too fast/didnt thoroughly chew it, youre stressed or a particular food triggered the gut reaction (dairy, nuts, gluten, etc.).

What does it mean if I am constipated?

Same thing as abovesomething is awry. Bacterial overgrowth is a dominant stressor to the GI tract and may even result in IBS-C (IBS-Constipation). When bacteria from the large intestine build up in the small intestine, in paticular, it stalls the process of through and complete digestion and by the time wastes reach the large intestine, timing has been delayed. Constipation also is an indicator you may not be drinking enough water, chewing your food appropriately, youre not eating enough fiber (a common issue on a high-fat/protein ketogenic diet, or often vegan and vegetarian diets based on grains and soy) or you have food intolerances (dairy, nuts, gluten, FODMAP foods like onions, avocados and apples, potatoes, cross-contaminating gluten grains like corn, soy, artificial sweeteners, sugar and high-doses of caffeine).  

Does protein constipate me?

Too much of any one nutrient may constipate you. This is the reason we need a balance of all threeand a fallacy of many diets that eliminate one nutrient in particular (be it low fat, low carb or low protein). Carbsparticularly veggiesadd fiber to partner with fats and proteins and assist them down the digestive tract and add bulkto stools. Fats lubricate your digestive system to make digestion possible. And, proteins help promote more stomach acid in the stomach (necessary for all food breakdown) and are actually what help break down all foods in the body in the first place (in the form of enzymeslike pepsin). Balance is key.

Why do certain foods digest better than others?

Every body is different and when it comes to what you canand cantdigestits always most important to listen to your body. A host of factors can inhibit why you can or cant digest  certain foods (like the bacterial overgrowth-SIBO- or low stomach acid, parasites we mentioned above, as well as intestinal permeabilityleaky gut, and stress). Use indigestion to question WHY certain foods trigger you or irritate your gut more than others. In addition, certain foods are simply NOT as digestable as othersfor instance, dairy products contain the enzyme lactose that, to the human gut does not readily recognize (we are the only species that consumes another speciesmilkother than our moms). Gluten, and more specifically components in gluten (like Gliadin)not just glutenirritate our gut (our gut sees it as foreign invaders). These components are found in other gluten-cross-contaminating foods, like corn, oats, rice, wheat and soy. For some, FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols)are high in tough-to-digest sugars can awaken and feedbacteira in your gutespecially if your prone to have a bacterial overgrowth. These foods include garlic, cauliflower, broccoli asparagus, onions, apples, pears, beans, breads, dairy, and chocolate. Bottom line: Certain foods can be difficult to digest if you have an underlying pathogenlike bacteria, leaky gut, stress, parasites, low stomach acid and poor digestive practices (eating on the go, not chewing your food, not drinking enough water during the day).

Why am I constipated when I travel?

The struggle is real. Travelers constipation happens when our body gets out of routine! We aren’t eating our typical foods, going to the bathroom at our typical times, moving like we usually do, or taking our digestive aidslike probioticsregularly. The result? Back up. It can take a few daysto even a weekfor travelers constipation to resolve.In addition, air plane travel is extra dehydrating as we go up in the air in the planeputting an extra stressor on the digestive system. Cure it? Pack your probiotics and digestive enzymes if you can, make sure to drink plenty of water, walkeven if your routine is not happening, and incorporate as many veggies as you can into your daily mix.

The Poop Chart

Ok without further ado, the poop chart:

Gold Standard:

Medium brown. Solidly formed in the shape of an S or C. Passing 1-3 times per day.

Leftovers.

Can you see those Brussels sprouts, sweet potato or mushrooms you ate—and still not completely broken down? This is not ideal. Shows it did not pass through the entire process of digestion. Consider your food chewing practices.

Watery.

Often times, you can see the foods you ate in this one too—semi-broken down. Watery stools usually mean you ate something that your body yells, “May day, May day! I don’t like this.” A hire incidence of increased “bad” bacteria is indicated and good to add an extra dose of probiotic power post poop to reinoculate your gut with some good bacteria.

Going Green.

Aside from green veggies that sometimes make your poop greenish, green poop may indicate your gallbladder is not thoroughly breaking down bile salts to move your poop to that brown color. Green poop is often provoked when we eat fattier foods that are more inflammatorylike vegetable oils (canola, Crisco, processed olive oil) from restaurants, processed or greasy foods (think Chinese takeout, a fast food burger or greasy slice of pizza). Processed, man-made fats are night-and-day different from inflammatory-fighting fats, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, avocado, coconut butter, fatty fish, ghee, grass-fed butter, olives and raw nuts and seeds.

Dark, Foul &/or Sinking.

Somethings toxic (i.e. not right). Processed and refined foods. High amounts of non-organic, non-fresh foods and triggers. General toxicity overload. Additives and chemicals. Poor lifestyle habits (smoking, sedentary, fast food). Use of plastics. All of these play a big role in how your poop looks, smells and floatsor not. Eliminate as many toxins as possible to lighten the toxic load.

Hard & Solid.

Difficult to pass or rock like. You still get it outbut a little straining was included. Drink more water. And make sure youre eating your veggiesand the kinds your body likes (you may be eating lots of raw veggies for instancewhich are harder to break down, or sensitive to FODMAPSlike broccoli and Brussels). Leafy greenscooked down and sauteedcan be good for hard stools. In addition, assess the quality of your proteins and other foods (have you been eating processed meats or packaged food itemseven paleobars and crackers and breads?), as well as your fat intakeare you eating fats with your meals to help lubricate your digestive tract? Sometimes your body just needs some good olmeat, veggies and healthy fatsand plenty of wateralong with time to breathe, chew and enjoy your meals (not on the go).

Pellets

These come out in bits and piecesin one setting, or throughout the day. Hard to pass and generally darker in color. Stress, low water intake, eating on the go, low fiber intake, low stomach acid and bacteria imbalance (low good bacteria) all play leading roles in pellet poop. If youve experienced this, youre often thankful for whatever the poop gods will give youbut look to lifestyle factors to dig deeper and bring things up to speed with: apple cider vinegar in water before meals, pre-biotic and pro-biotic foods, some starchy veggies and plenty of greens, chewing your food and slowing down to breathe at meals, yoga and meditationjust to name a few.

Bottom line? Poop tells you a lot about the health of your gut and overall bod. If somethings not rightdig a little deeper (no pun intended).

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