Can you take a guess at what is the number one indicator of your gut health?
That’s right, it’s your poop! Yep, we’re going there. As a nurse, they taught us to be highly focused on our patients’ bowels: bowel sounds, bowel movement, color, consistency, smell and frequency. It’s a poopy job at times, but someone has to do it.
Unless you are a parent with a child in potty training, I imagine you don’t spend much time talking about your poop and how it is important to your continued gut health. But asking some questions about your bowel movements will definitely give you some insight to the current status of your gastrointestinal health.
Your gut is one of the most important organs for the health of your brain. It is estimated that the GI tract is loaded with about 100 trillion microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, and others), about ten times the total number of cells in the human body. To be healthy, the relationship of good bugs to bad bugs needs to be positively skewed—around 85 percent good guys to 15 percent bad guys. When it starts heading the other way, all sorts of physical and mental problems can arise. Keeping the good and bad bugs in proper balance is essential to your health.
Additionally, 80-90% of the serotonin in your body is made in your gut! So if your gut isn’t healthy, there’s a good chance you could start having trouble with your brain and your mood.
Here are the 4 things your poop may be trying to tell you.
If your poop is too dark or too light that can mean multiple things. For example, if your stool is black or tarry it could be an indicator of blood in your system. If it’s too light then it could be a sign that your liver and gallbladder are off somehow. Maybe you have a stone blocking the bile duct, or some other problem with digestion. It is important to be aware of the color of your poop to maintain prime health.
Do you use the bathroom once a day or twice or more? While there isn’t really a set rule to the desired frequency of bowel movements, you should be heading to the restroom at least once a day. Often frequency depends on your diet and how much fiber you consume daily. Many experts feel twice a day is more optimal, but every system is different. Excessive frequency may be an indication of irritable bowl syndrome, diarrhea, food allergies or some other digestive problem. Excessive bowel movements that are watery may also be an indication that you’re not digesting nutrients as well as you could be, which could also mean that you’re not absorbing important minerals and forming Vitamin K.
Yes, it is normal for your bowel movements to smell unpleasant. It’s natural and a good sign that your gut is abundant with healthy bacteria—good bugs—that are working to keep you healthy by eliminating toxins from your body. Additionally, your gut microbiome is heavily responsible for how healthy your immune system is. I’ve heard many patients claim that probiotics made a radical difference in supporting the health of their digestion, skin, mood and even focus.
One of the most common complaints I hear from people with GI problems is that they have constant constipation or have issues from the other end of the spectrum, diarrhea. There can be many reasons for this. Constipation has many causes such as having a shift in your diet that includes lower fiber intake, or perhaps because you’re not drinking enough water each day. Also, certain medications, such as narcotic pain meds and iron supplements, can cause constipation issues. A big problem to watch for if you have constipation (besides lack of detoxification) is painful hemorrhoids.
Diarrhea, on the other hand, also means digestive disaster. Whether it’s caused by a meal that just didn’t sit right, or a harmful bacterium or virus, it’s categorized by loose stools, a sign of GI trouble for your gut.
What does this all mean for you and your gut health? Pay attention to what your poop is telling you. I recommend you follow brain-healthy, anti-inflammatory food guidelines like The Omni Diet. For the next week try these tips:
- Eliminate most of the simple sugars from your diet that feed the bad bacteria in your gut.
- Try an elimination diet for two weeks. Eliminate gluten, dairy, soy and corn. See how it makes you feel.
- Focus on eating smart carbohydrates (low-glycemic, high-fiber), which enhance healthy gut flora.
- Also, you may want to consider taking a daily probiotic .
- Stay hydrated. Drink half of your body weight in ounces (of water). For example, if you weigh 150 lbs. be sure to drink 75 oz of water each day.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for two weeks if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
It’s not glamorous to talk about your poop but it is necessary to pay attention to it and to know that your gut is healthy. A healthy gut is the key to overall vitality and vibrancy.