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All living things eat, so Everyone Poops. – Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
Who hasn’t read that literary masterpiece to their kids at some point along the way? As parents, we spend the first 3-5 years of our children’s lives handling poop. Every. Single. Day. Poop.
Between diaper changes and snack time, it’s easy to forget about our own poop. And if your house is anything like mine, most bathroom breaks usually involve an unexpected toddler wandering in for the party. But if we actually stop and take a look in the toilet bowl … our poop can be a very real indication of our overall health.
Healthy Poop: Does It Matter?
We all poop. It’s one of the few reminders we get about our health on a (hopefully) daily basis and yet, we don’t pay much attention to it. Not only that, but we also don’t like to talk about it. In our culture, sometimes it’s easier to talk to people about sex than poop.
But the truth is: if you’re not pooping right … something could be terribly wrong inside your body.
For example, research in 2010 suggested that your brain and the good bacteria in your gut communicate directly, influencing your mood, your immune system, and your inflammation.
A 2015 study by researchers in Belgium concluded that “stool consistency is strongly associated” with the healthy of the gut microbiome (meaning the good and bad bacteria living in the intestines).
Next, there’s good short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in your colon, which have anti-inflammatory effects and increase insulin sensitivity.
Poop Problems = Poor Digestion
Think of your poop like the annoying chirping sound your smoke detector makes when the battery is low. It’s relentlessly letting you know there’s a problem, and if you don’t do something about it, your house could burn down.
Most of us spend the time and energy to consume healthy, non-GMO, organic food. But are we digesting it well? Are we breaking down and absorbing those nutrients well? The quality of your poop is a direct indication of how well you’re digesting your food.
If you’re poop isn’t healthy, your digestive tract is either moving too slow or too fast, which can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions like neurological disease, autoimmune disease, and chronic inflammatory conditions. The rate your bowel movements move through the digestive tract also determines how many nutrients and water you absorb from your food.
However if you’re pooping well, it could be an indication your body is relatively healthy and a good sign you’re winning when it comes to health.
Digestive Health Quiz: How Does Your Poop Stack Up?
There’s four critical elements to a perfect poop. If you’ve ever had one, you know how amazing they are. But if you’re not sure, take this quiz and see where you stack up.
1. How Often Do You Poop?
The research suggests you should poop every day. In fact, the range of “normal” is typically 1-3 times a day. Poop is waste and you need to get rid of it every single day to make sure that you’re properly removing toxins and other waste material that’s gotta go.
The bottom line: If you find yourself pooping only a couple pf times a week, or on the other hand, going 5+ times a day, you could be at risk of health problems.
2. Are You Pushing Too Hard?
How easy is it for you to poop? It’s normal in our culture to take our cell phone to the bathroom or read a magazine for a half hour, battling to win the poop fight. But the reality is that a “normal” poop shouldn’t take but a few minutes. This isn’t childbirth … it should be easy! Pushing typically leads to hemorrhoids which are all too common today but not normal.
The bottom line: Normal poops strike a balance between not having to push or strain, but also not having so much urgency you barely can hold it. If you’re spending 10+ minutes on the toilet or running to make it just in time, you’re not having normal bowel movements.
3. Do Your Stools Look Like a Snake?
Did you know there are different classifications or types of poop? Yep, we’re going there.
The most important part of a “normal” poop is the quality, so part of this quiz requires you to look down and see what’s really going on. Thankfully, the folks at the University of Bristol published a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, gifting us with the Bristol Stool Chart.
Here it is in all its glory:
Start sizing up your recent bowel movements with the knowledge that anything between a 1-3 is considered constipated, while 6s and 7s are considered diarrhea.
The bottom line: A “normal” poop is like #4 on the Bristol Stool Chart: “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft.” If your poops aren’t looking like this, they aren’t normal and there’s work to be done.
4. Are You Getting It All Out?
For some people this is a non-issue, but part of a “normal” poop is having what’s so eloquently referred to as a “full evacuation.” Are you getting all your poop out in one swift motion? Do you have to keep coming back to finish the job? Or do you feel like there’s always something left behind lingering and making you feel uncomfortable?
The bottom line: A “normal” poop is a complete poop. If you never quite feel the relief I’m talking about … you’re not having ideal bowel movements.
How to Improve Your Poop
If your poop isn’t normal based on the quiz above, we know your digestive health isn’t what it should be. So here’s a few tips to improve your digestive health and get closer to perfect poops.
1. Eat Real Food
The biggest mistake we see is people that claim to eat healthy, but in reality their diet is full of sugar and low on veggies. Stick to eating real food. It’s one of the most important changes anyone with digestive problems can make.
If you’re someone who’s struggling with constipation or diarrhea, a diet like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet can help heal your gut and get control of your symptoms. The most important thing you can do is listen to what your poop is telling you and continue to make changes to improve the food you’re eating.
2. Consume Probiotics
Our gut has a TON of bacteria, and a healthy gut flora is critical for healthy poop. Consume good “bugs” every single day. Start with fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha or water kefir and see how well you tolerate them. A high quality probiotic is one supplement that can also boost the immune system in the gut and improve digestive health.
3. Eat More Fat
Fat has a direct impact on peristalsis, the waves our bodies make to get rid of poop, and can be extremely helpful for people who are constipated. Increase your healthy fats from sources like especially from quality meats, coconut oil, sardines, and foods like olive oil, avocados, and grass-fed butter. Or get healthy fats into your coffee or tea.
4. Drink Enough Water
Drink enough water! This is the most simple and most often missed step to good elimination. Actual amount will vary by person but drink enough water that your urine is lightly colored and doesn’t have a strong smell. Also take into account how much tea or coffee you drink in a day as this could be working against your water count.
5. Use a Squatty Potty
A Squatty Potty is a device you put under your feet to elevate them and change your overall posture when you poop. Simply put, it’s more like squatting (which is how our body was designed to eliminate before modern toilets came along). This post explains the benefits more in-depth, but if you or someone in the family regularly has bathroom issues, I highly suggest putting one in every bathroom. Lower-end models aren’t terribly expensive and the increased comfort level when pooping = priceless.
6. Take a Digestive Tincture
If you (or one of the kids, more likely) is closer to the #1 end of the Bristol Stool Chart (constipated), try making this herbal digestive tincture made with ginger root, fennel, and peppermint. It soothes constipation-related tummy troubles and often gets things moving (very gently).
7. Get Better Sleep
I know, for moms this one seems almost laughable. Still, it’s interesting to know several studies show there’s a possible connection between poor sleep and poop problems, specifically constipation. Even if you’re in the stage of mom life where sleep is scarce, optimize your sleep environment and stay off electronics a few hours before bedtime.
8. Test Your Poop
Yes, I did this. I took a sample of my own poop and mailed it to a lab. It wasn’t the most glorious life moment, but the insight I got into what was really going on in my gut was priceless. If you’re tired of guessing what is going on with your gut or want to know exactly the best steps to enrich your gut microbiome, I can’t recommend this step enough. Thanks to companies like Viome you can do this in the privacy of your home without a doctor (although a doctor certainly might be needed for serious gut issues). See my personalized gut health report and how to set up this test for yourself here.
Are you willing to take a peek at your poop? Is it healthy or need some work? TMI? Share below!
Discussion (100 Comments)
Hey that was a great article! I’ve always had a problem with constipation (type 1&3 poop), stomach cramps and bloating, alrhough my diet is now pretty amazing- it still continues. I’m going to try coconut oil and water kefir. Although I have a strong suspicion I have IBS.
Thanks again 🙂
Dairy was my problem for bloating and constipation
This wasn’t directly discussed in this post, but do you know what the normal frequency of bowel movements is for an infant? My son is 7 months old and he will go days without having a bowel movement. He is exclusively breastfed, and I have periodically given him probiotics, rubbed magnesium lotion on his feet, given him epsom salt baths, and rubbed castor oil on his abdomen, all in an effort to get him to poop! When he does go, the consistency is right, so this is just a frequency issue. Any ideas? I don’t know if this is something to be concerned about, or if he is ok and will become more regular when we start solids.
Hi Jenny, I saw your post & wanted to assure you that it is VERY normal for a breastfed baby to days without pooping!! I was worried my son was constipated (he was breastfed also) & called his pedi, as he hadn’t pooped in 2 days at this point. Doc said it is perfectly normal for them to do that! He also said they aren’t constipated just because they aren’t pooping. You can tell when they are constipated because they will poop solid little pebble like turds. Hope I could be of some help! If your son still doesn’t poop for awhile & it’s concerning for you, you can always stick the tip of a lubricated thermometer in his bum & wiggle it around a bit. This will stimulate a BM.
Oh, & normal BM for a breastfed infant ranges from everyday to every 10 days!
He might b lacking the ingredient in breast milk that helps babies poop take him to a chiropractor and tell them he’s not pooping right and that u want to try the powder form of the ingredient that is in breast milk that helps babies poop it works cuz my daughter was formula fed and wasn’t pooping right and I used that powdered stuff and before I was even done giving her the whole bottle of the powder stuff she was going normally on her own the powder is like $32 for just a lil jar of it but it was worth it to help my baby go poop on her own
Breast milk and formula are completely different. They can’t be compared.
and, uh, what about clean up?
Is anything other than a single, perfectly clean wipe considered healthy? Is the ease of clean-up or number of wipes something that we can read into? Do less wipes indicate healthier poops?
Awesome! This is helpful, because now I know have an idea of which foods to eat more of vs less of. I have a question about fats… I totally get that we need tons of fat, but I get constipated when I eat it. I don’t understand why, it makes me really frustrated, because I know I need the fat. I only eat organic, unrefined, healthy fats. Any ideas?
No kidding. I’ve realized eating more fat (coconut oil, mainly) really slows down my transit time. I am doing my best to keep the water going but as i transition to a modified keto, I’m figuring there’s big adjustments going on in my digestive tract!
Your mileage may vary 🙂 But, water, water, WATER is key!
As a parent of a toddler who is often constipated (type 2 mostly), this is helpful. She has been this way since infancy. We’ve tried a lot but I really don’t want her dependent on Miralax. We have an appointment with GI in two months and this article has me thinking about options to try before the visit. Thanks!
My toddler seems to have poops that are in the 2-3 range, but she goes every day and passes it without straining–her poops are always fast and clean to wipe. I am not sure what to make of it. Too many blueberries? Raw cheese? Too much salt? I’ve tried various probiotics, but we haven’t seemed to find one that works. She does not usually eat grains or beans, but I kind of wonder if she needs beans or something else? She isn’t too big on eating vegetables, but she does eat some. What does your toddler eat?
Cheese is very constipating. There’s no need for beans in anyone’s diet. Does she eat plenty of meat and fat and veggies and fruits, especially raw produce and dark leafy greens?
She eats meat, fruit, some cooked vegetables, but no, my nearly 2 year old doesn’t seem interested in the dark leafy greens, yet. She’ll eat some raw cucumber, bell pepper, squashes, sweet potato, and broth made with lots of veggies.
You might also want to read sections in the book “Gut And Psychology Syndrome” about constipation. It is written by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and is relevant also for people not having any psychological problems as it is all about digestion. Best regards, Lisbeth
You’re right … this is hard to talk about, but I do have a question. I go in the morning only, and it starts off as 4, but then I’ll go maybe about 5 minutes later, and it will be a 5. Then I’ll go again and it will be a 6. Basically, I will go 3-6 times in the morning and then not again for the rest of the day. I don’t eat junk food, organic as much as possible, drink water (probably not enough, though). I consume dairy (cream in coffee, yogurt). Any ideas?
I had the same problem when I was starting my day with caffeine (either coffee or tea). When I eliminated caffeine, they normalized. Caffeine is a stimulant, which causes your body to speed up the digestive process, making you poop faster.
So that’s it! Thank you so much. I always start my day with coffee. I’ll cut it out too and see what happens.
i have that same problem but i dont drink coffee and never have what can i do to help me out
That was very good suggestion… I also drink coffee every morning for “p***” reason, but should avoid it seems.
Very interesting,,,sorry, I don’t feel like sharing the results of the quiz, bit I did have chronic diarrhea for years until I went on a grain free diet
Thank you for this!!! I do notice that when I eat Real meals, type 4 no problem. But after I eat that junk food, awful, awful problems begin. I guess it’s nice to have a constant reminder of the consequences of my choices. This chart is also helpful because now I know what I’m supposed to be looking for and when I’m supposed to be looking for it. Thanks again!
What if mine’s like a snake, but I don’t have BMs every day?
If your poop is thin or snake like it could be a precurser to bowel cancer. I’d recommend seeing your GP asap.
Snake like is actually recommended!
Strange as it feels to say (I tend to avoid talking about poop), thank you for the article, and the tips to help normalize. Very helpful!