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What’s Your Poo Telling You?

Have you noticed how dogs sniff their stool on a walk? They are using their sensitive sense of smell to assess how their insides are doing. We humans can gain some useful insight by looking in the toilet bowl. Our stools can be a helpful assessment tool that doesn’t require any invasive techniques, costs nothing, and only takes a moment! Here are some things to look for:

Stool shape: 

  • Sausage-shaped stools are optimal. They can vary in thickness from person to person, but they should be at least the thickness of your thumb.

  • Stools that come out in balls, pellets, or clusters of pellets are probably because your large intestine is sluggish. Magnesium and Vitamin C may help, so check out Happiness is a Good Poop 

  • Unformed loose stools tell you that something is not right in your digestive system. This is usually either due to something you have consumed that disagreed with you, or you may have picked up unfriendly bacteria or parasites.


You can check out the Bristol stool chart to see pictures for comparison!


Does it float?

  • If your stool floats, but isn’t greasy, it is usually due to having plenty of fibre in your diet, so that’s a good thing. But if it’s due to gas in the stool, that’s not so good. If there is a lot of gas coming out with the stool, or between stools, that’s likely due to fermentation in your gut. 

  • If your stool floats and is greasy, it is fat that is making it float. Remember how oils float above water? This usually means that you are not digesting your fats well, so they go straight through you.

  • If your stool sits like porridge at the bottom of the toilet bowl, or floats around in the water, you could benefit from an assessment of your digestive system from top to bottom, to find out why and fix it.

Mucus on or with the stool

An irritated gut creates mucus to protect itself from its inflammatory contents. Mucus may be a sign of food sensitivities that are irritating your gut. Or it may might indicate an infection, where unfriendly microbes are the irritant. People with an inflammatory bowel disease often produce a lot of mucus.

Blood in or on the stool

A little streak of bright red blood on the stool (rather than in the stool), is usually due to hemorrhoids. The fact that the blood is bright red means it is from close to the rectum. It is good to get any rectal bleeding checked out, but it’s usually nothing to panic about. 

Stool Colour: things that temporarily change your stool colour and are not concerning

  • Magenta stools can be due to eating beets. 

  • Dark stools can result from consuming more red meat, large quantities of dark green leafy vegetables, iron supplements or activated charcoal.

  • Tomato skins and corn kernels in stools aren’t a problem: we just don’t digest them well. This makes a useful tool for checking whether your digestion is operating at a good speed. If you often see undigested foods in your stool, your digestion could be better.

Colour changes that are concerning:

  • If your stool is pale, either you are not making or releasing enough bile from your liver, or your microbiome is in very poor shape.

  • A clay-coloured stool with unusually dark urine is often the first sign of hepatitis, which can come on several weeks after you caught the virus. If you see this, call your doctor.

  • A dark tarry stool is also an immediate call to action! If you experience this, it may mean there is a bleed higher up your digestive tract. The stool is dark rather than red because the iron in the blood has passed though the digestive system, just like a dark stool after taking iron supplements. 

Quantity, frequency and timing

We should all be producing between one to three good-sized bowel movements a day. Ideally we experience that action 20-30 mins after each meal. This is often true in children, but less so in adults. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says that total daily production of stool should add up to about the length of your forearm. TCM outlines an organ clock in which each organ system has a 2-hour window. Large Intestine’s time is 5-7 am, and many people find their bowels are active at that time.

The importance of water

The large intestine absorbs water, so a stool that has sat in the large intestine for longer will be drier and firmer. That’s why a delayed stool becomes harder. It really is a good idea to answer the call of nature ASAP! It is also why some laxatives work by drawing water into the large intestine.

If you have diarrhea, you are losing fluids, so it is important to replenish them. If diarrhea is for more than a couple of days, replenish electrolytes, as well as water and make an appointment to see a doctor.

Normal healthy complete elimination should be easy and almost effortless. It’s a wonderful natural biofeedback tool that offers a window into understanding your digestive system.

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