POOP – not a popular casual conversation starter, but one that is more important than you know!
One of my clients favorite first questions I ask them is, “how often are you pooping?” “what does it look like?”… it’s a sure crowd pleaser; but really it’s a SUPER important question.
As an RD, I can honestly say there’s not much that I shy away from talking about when it comes to health and nutrition, and that certainly includes POOP. In fact, this is an area that I address almost every single day.
Having bowel movements every day (…something to be proud of!) is an essential process. And it’s one of the only “report cards” we get on a daily basis about what’s going on inside our bodies. Taking a deeper look into how often, what it looks like, what it smells like, etc. can give us a TON of insight into what’s happening on a deeper level.
Believe it or not, it’s one of the best tools we use, especially when working with clients who are struggling with digestive complications. As we mentioned above, we like to think of poop as our only daily “report card” that gives us an idea of how we’re doing and what we might need to improve on.
What should our poop actually look like?
Let’s break it down!
- The color of our bowel movements can absolutely be affected by specific foods that we’re consuming. For example, if you eat a salad filled with beets, don’t be surprised if your poop has the same red/purple color over the next 24 hours. However, IDEALLY, our poop should be a light to medium brown color.
- Let’s be real, our bowel movements likely won’t smell like fresh flowers, BUT it’s actually not normal for there to be a foul smell. It should smell natural with no extraordinarily bad odor. Really smelly bowel movements could indicate larger issues like malabsorption, Celiac or Crohn’s disease, gut imbalances, food sensitivities, or even pancreatitis.
- SHAPE & TEXTURE:
- Bowel movements can come in all different shapes & sizes, often depending on a variety of different factors. What we should all be aiming for is the stool that is log-shaped with a few cracks on the surface, or snake-like, but always easy to pass. I’ve included a chart below to give you a better idea of what to look for and when to notice that something is a little off.
- An indicator that too much bile is present. Food may be moving through your body too quickly, not giving bile the time that it needs to break down.
- Too much fat may be present. Yellow stool may indicate a malabsorption disorder such as celiac disease.
- Unless you’re eating black licorice, taking iron supplements or other medications, dark black stool could be a sign of upper gastrointestinal bleeding and should be taken seriously.
- A sign that not enough bile is present. Gray or clay colored stool could indicate a bile duct obstruction in the liver.
- Foods such as beets or red drink mixes can cause bright red stools. If you haven’t been consuming these, this could be a sign of lower intestinal tract or rectal bleeding.
SHAPE & TEXTURE
- If your bowel movements are anything like small, pebble shaped pieces that are hard to pass or firm, sausage shaped with lumps or cracks, this indicates some level of constipation.
- Diarrhea bowel movements have various forms and can look like any of the following: soft blobs with clear cut edges that are easy to pass, fluffy mushy pieces with ragged edges, and watery stools with no solid pieces at all.
It can sound a little odd (and new!), but take some time each day or various times throughout the week to analyze your poop – it can tell you A LOT! Food and diet can have a massive impact on our bowel movements and small tweaks can make all the difference. If you have any questions at all or think you might need some help understanding what your bowel movements are trying to tell you, please reach out!