YOUR POO not only tells you a lot about your digestion, but also your immune function, stress levels, hydration and nutrition. Healthy bowel movements should be occurring 1-3 times per day. I know that sounds like a lot, but every time you eat a meal, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) should be signalling for digestive enzyme secretion, bile secretion, peristalsis of your intestines and bowel movements.
The Bristol Stool Chart includes 7 stages of poo, but I’ve gone ahead and added some of my own creative interpretations.
To purchase a hard cover book of “What Your Poo Says About You” click the link or image below:
What is your poo telling you? How can you get it looking and feeling healthy again?
1. The Straining Cannonballs
FEATURES: Separate hard lumps that are hard to pass and therefore cause straining and sometimes injury to the anorectal tissue and frank bleeding. In chronic conditions, prolaps of the anus can occur.
CAUSE: Delayed transit time of digesting food in the intestines causes water to be reabsorbed back into the body and out of your stool. Cannonball poo is often due to dehydration, lack of fiber, electrolyte deficiency, iron supplements, bacteria imbalance, drug use (especially after antibiotic treatment) and stress.
- Diet: Increase your water and electrolyte intake first before adding dietary fiber. Healthy fats (ie. nuts, seeds, oils) can also help lubricate the bowels excrete stool more easily.
- Supplement: Taking vitamin C with your iron helps iron absorption and soften stool. Taking daily probiotics or eating fermented foods (ie. miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt) help maintain bacterial balance in the gut. If you are taking antibiotics, make sure to leave at least 1-2 hours between antibiotic and probiotic doses.
- Herbs: Peppermint, lavender, ginger teas help relax the stomach.
- Drugs: Laxatives work well, but create dependency for your bowels. Avoid them whenever possible.
- Colonics: Are not recommended until the underlying cause and tissue health is identified. In extreme cases of fissures and cancer, colonics are contraindicated.
- Exercise: Strengthening your body, cardiovascular endurance and practicing squats are important to initiate blood flow and healthy bowel postures.
- Massage: Abdominal massages with castor oil in a clock-wise direction starting at your right hip will encourage fecal movement through the large intestine
- Mood: Stress is a huge component of constipation. When you are in a stressed sympathetic mode you aren’t able to relax, absorb the proper nutrients from your foods or have easy bowel movements. Practice taking 3 deep, long and slow breaths before you eat and while sitting on the toilet.
2. Torpedo Bum
FEATURES: Hard to pass, sausage-shaped lumpy and dry stool causes major straining and often injury to the anorectal tissue. Chronic Torpedo Bum can lead to frank bleeding, obstruction, perforation fissures and prolaps.
CAUSE: Same as the Straining Cannonballs but higher fiber intake without hydration.
TREATMENT: Same as Cannonball poo, but ensure enough water intake.
3. Half Baked
FEATURES: Sausage-like poo with cracks on the surface.
CAUSE: This is more moist than the Cannonballs and Torpedo Bum, but still drier than an optimal stool. There can be slight straining.
TREATMENT: Increase your water and dietary fiber intake (ie. raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains). An average adult requires 20-25 grams of dietary fiber.
4. Mr. Happy Squeeze
FEATURES: Sausage or snake-like shape, soft and smooth texture, like the consistency of toothpaste. Light to medium brown, slight odor (not foul), 1-2 inches in diameter and from 8 to up to 18 inches long. There is no sticking to the toilet bowl or paper and no straining or discomfort.
CAUSE: These are optimal poops, which means you are being mindful of your nutrition, physical activity and maintaining a healthy state of mind.
TREATMENT: Keep up the good work. Happy poops make for happy people.
FEATURES: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges. Slightly softer than Happy Squeeze poo but still normal. They may leave a bit of a smear along the toilet bowl or toilet paper as you wipe.
CAUSE: Lack of dietary fiber, consuming gut irritants (ie. hot sauce, spices), taking mild laxatives or diuretics, high sugar diet, fat malaborption or consuming food sensitivities can result in sticky soft stools.
TREATMENT: Increase your fiber intake from leafy vegetables and avoid food triggers, irritants and sugary foods until stools regulate.
6. The Avalanche
FEATURES: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges. Mushy diarrhea-like stool.
CAUSE: Rapid transit time in the intestines doesn’t allow for water reabsorption back into the body. Mushy stool can due to eating foods you are intolerant to, mild gut infection, mild food poisoning, laxative use, consuming artificial sugars and undigestable additives. In all of these cases, the unabsorbed molecules attract water into the intestines by osmosis causing watery stools.
TREATMENT: Increase your dietary fiber intake (especially from green leafy vegetables). Continue to drink fluids to replenish your body. Taking probiotics once the diarrhea settles down is encouraged. Avoid laxatives, artificial additives and sugars, and food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens.
7. Water Rafting
FEATURES: Watery, entirely liquid, and without solid pieces. Severe diarrhea.
CAUSE: Similarly to Avalanche poops; inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD- Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis), food intolerances, excessive use of laxatives, certain drugs, severe food poisoning or dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance) can cause watery diarrhea.
- Fluids: Most important with watery diarrhea (especially chronic) is staying hydrated! Excessive diarrhea may require hospitalization to administer fluid IVs. The most effective treatment for food poisoning or infection would be fluid and rest followed by taking probiotics or eating fermented foods to replenish good bacteria sources.
- Hypo-allergenic diet: Food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens can sometimes go undetected. Getting an IgG test can show some food sensitivities however, I prefer doing a hypo-allergenic diet for 1 month. Not only will it show you how your body experiences an intolerance, but it also gives your gut the adequate rest it needs to heal properly. Learn more HERE.
- Diet: Dietary changes once the bouts of diarrhea end will include more dietary fiber, healthy fats, and proteins. Anti-inflammatory foods will help heal the gut lining along with the hypo-allergenic diet.
- Drugs: Stop laxative use immediately.
8. Greasy Floater
FEATURES: Piece of stool floating at the top of the toilet bowl.
CAUSE: Inflammation in the gut lining from ingesting food intolerances can be contributing to fat malabsorption and greasy stools. Certain drugs and pancreatic issues are other factors.
TREATMENT: Avoiding food sensitivities, intolerances and allergens will help to reduce inflammation in the gut. Ensure proper dietary habits like eating in a relaxed state and chewing your foods properly will allow healthy digestive stimulants to breakdown and absorb fats.
Other cautionary stool presentations:
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea: classic symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pencil or ribbon-like stool: masses in the colon are constricting bowel movements into long thin stool shapes and could indicate colon polyps or cancer
- Pain shooting up the colon: Diverticulosis has that common referral of pain.
- Mucus in stool: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohns, UC), cystic fibrosis (excess mucous production in infants and children)
- Undigested foods: Improper chewing and pancreatic enzyme secretion
- Stool incontinence: Uncontrollable bowel movements from damage to cauda equine spinal cord nerve fibers that control sphincter muscles
- Foul odor: Malabsorption, Celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis
- Small white pellets within: Parasite infection
What’s with the different colors?
The color of your stool tell you a lot. Anything outside of a shade of brown should be concerning.
Let’s take a closer look:
Medium to light brown is considered a healthy color.
Red stool indicates a lower intestinal bleed, but can also be from red colored foods (ie. beets).
Red streak on toilet paper is due to a rectal bleed (ie. hemorrhoid, fissure).
Green is the color of undigested bile, antibiotics or eating a lot of leafy greens.
Yellow poo means there is a gallbladder issue (bile) or a parasitic infection (ie. Giardia)
White or a grey clay-like stool is indicative of a block in bile flow, liver disease, pancreatic disorder, or antacid use (aluminum hydroxide)
Black tarry or coffee ground appearance is most commonly due to an upper gastrointestinal bleed (esophagus, stomach, small intestine) when blood and bile mix to produce black. Black stool can also be caused by high meat consumption or iron supplementation.