Gut health. You’ve probably heard these words being thrown around and you possibly already have an understanding of the important role gut health plays for your overall health and wellbeing. Well this is true! How our gut is functioning and the health of our gut (the lining, the gut microbiome, the movement of the gut and more), plays a huge role in our mental, emotional and physical health outcomes.
The digestive system, the gut, gastrointestinal tract or gastrointestinal system are all terms that encompass everything from the mouth, esophagus, stomach to the small and large intestines. It also includes accessory organs; the pancreas, liver and the gall bladder. All of these organs play a role in breaking down foods into micro and macro nutrients, absorbing and assimilating these and then removing unwanted waste, toxins, byproducts and creating poop!
It is a common belief that gut health is only determined by what happens or symptoms experienced in the stomach/intestine region, but this is not the case. Healthy digestion and the health of your gut begins in the mouth and ends in the colon, which means there are a lot of factors that need to be considered.
But instead of writing a novel about each determining factor of gut health, I’m going to give you one easy tip that can help you understand a lot about how your gut is functioning or if your digestive system may need a little help!
HOT TIP: WHEN YOU DO A POO, LOOK IN THE LOO. It’s as simple as that!
SO, WHAT DOES YOUR POOP SAY ABOUT YOU?
The normal colonic transit time from ingestion (chomping on the food) to defecation (yes, poo) should be 24-36 hours.
Having an understanding of what to look for and getting to know how your poo should look is a wonderful way to begin understanding if you are digesting and absorbing food and nutrients optimally and if your gut is happy and healthy. So here are a few things to look out for:
How many times a day should I go to the toilet?
You should be pooing every day; each person is different but 1-3 times per day is ideal. If you aren’t going every day, you are constipated, but if you are going more than 3 times a day, this is considered diarrhoea. First thing in the morning, on waking is optimal and you shouldn’t need a digestive simulant like coffee to be able to do a poo.
What should my poo look like?
The happy poo: This poo will bring you happiness because it is easy to pass and will feel like a complete evacuation (like there is nothing left). It is well formed like a smooth-ish sausage/log and it is consistent in contour. It will be a slight C or S shape and be medium brown in colour. It should smell natural and almost earthy, but not smell foul.
Signs that your digestive system may need some help.
- Undigested food visible in your poo: Firstly ask yourself am I chewing my food properly and am I taking the time I need to eat? In our fast-paced society, often the answer will be no. Undigested food can also be a sign of low digestive enzymes, specifically pancreatic digestive enzymes or even a sign of inflammatory disorders.
- Pellets: usually dark in colour, separate or stuck together hard lumps resembling rabbit or sheep manure. This could be as simple as: drink more water, you are dehydrated!! But it can also be a sign that peristalsis (gut muscle movement) may not be functioning well, your gut microbes may be out of balance, you might not be eating enough plants or consuming too much protein.
- Mucous on your poo, or passing mucous separately: this means inflammation is present and you need to address the problem.
- Pale brown, grey/ yellow/ white-ish poop. Or an oily film on the water: This means you are not digesting fats well. Your liver and gall bladder are not functioning optimally and need to be supported. Investigations like blood tests can also be done to determine if there are any other underlying issues or possible virus’s running through the system.
- The straining kind: when your poo is thick, hard, medium to dark brown and shaped like a lumpy sausage. This is also a sign of dehydration, inadequate fiber, too much protein, peristalsis is sluggish and/or digestive enzymes are low.
- The skinny, mini: this poo seems to be well formed but it is very skinny or thin. This is very common when the large intestine wall is compacted with old matter and only small amounts of poo are able to move through. This is a sign you need a clean out and your gut motility needs some help.
- Mush or diarrhoea: these can both be signs of food intolerances, a reaction like an allergy or food poisoning, or possibly the presence of a parasite. Even if you are dehydrated your body will scavenge for extra water in order to flush/detox the irritant, or what it being identifyed as “toxic” out of your system.
- The stinker: this poo is usually dark, foul smelling and sinks like a ship. This can be due to toxic exposure, too much processed or packaged foods in the diet, medication or antibiotic use or recreational drugs. Your gut flora needs some help and a whole-body detox may be in order.
* Common occurrence of dark coloured or black poo needs to be addressed immediately as this could mean there is blood present. See your GP.
One last note, before you head off to do some further investigations in the loo; your mental and emotional state (nervous system function) plays a huge role in how the gut functions. Stress does NOT favour the digestive process whatsoever and induces reactions within the body that draws blood away from your digestive system, slowing & sometimes halting functions. When you are in a calm, non-stressed environment and state of mind, this is when eating, enjoying and digesting will be optimal. Taking the time to chew, swallow, rest, chew, swallow, rest… this will not only keep you in a relaxed state of mind but your digestive system will be working happily and when you are looking at your poo next, hopefully “The happy poo” will be there!
WORDS : Luisa Kidner | Nutritionist