What if I were to tell you that your poop is trying to tell you something? As much as you may want to flush the toilet and be over with your bathroom visit, taking a good look at your bowel movements can give you information to help figure out what’s going on in that beautiful belly of yours.
The first time my health coach asked me what my poop looked like, I realized I had no clue! I never thought twice about looking behind me before flushing the toilet. (Yes, we are getting real in this post, because if I don’t with you, who will?) But the moment I started seeing what was going on in there, I was able to gain so much more information, which I could use to work on my digestive health. Mucous, blood, undigested food, and abnormal shape can all be signals from your body that something isn’t right inside, whether it be a chemical imbalance, mechanical dysfunction, or dysbiosis.
Are you ready to get personal with your poop? Below are three criteria to evaluate your poop and below that are some tips on what to do based on what you see.
1. Frequency: Are you going too much or too little?
If you begin to notice changes in the frequency of your bowel movements, it’s time to listen up! If your bowel movements change over time, or even day-to-day, that could be a sign that either the foods you’re eating are causing an issue internally or there may be a deeper issue at hand, perhaps even the chronic effects of stress. While there is no one ‘normal’ amount that everyone should go in a day, in general, you want to have at least one BM per day. If it’s happening every few days, or perhaps way too many times in a day, that is considered irregular and warrants looking into.
Constipation and diarrhea are two major signals from your body that something is either slowing down the system (lack of water, lack of fiber, dysbiosis, internalizing stress, dehydration, etc.) or speeding up the system (inflammation, anxiety, dysbiosis, caffeine, etc.). Knowing if your BMs are too slow or too fast is good information to bring to your healthcare professional as it can give clues as to what’s going on inside.
2. Urgency: Always worried where the bathroom is?
Can’t go anywhere without first scoping out where the bathroom is? Worried you’ll have to leave the dinner table or an intimate conversation because the urge comes too strong? Unfortunately, I’ve been there, and I know how embarrassing and debilitating it can be!
If you always feel an urgency, it’s important to keep track of when it occurs. Does it happen only during times of high stress? What about when eating certain foods? Is it because your digestive condition is flaring up? Knowing when it happens and what triggers it are all important pieces of information to find out so that you can use that information as you look for ways to improve your BMs.
3. Consistency is key
If you notice that the consistency of your BMs are changing over time, or perhaps vary drastically day-to-day (perhaps based on what you ate), that’s a pretty clear sign from your body that certain foods may not be working well for you, or your body lacks proper enzymes and acid levels to break them down.
A guide I like to reference often with my clients is called the Bristol Stool Chart. It’s an easy way to see where on the spectrum your stool is on average or day-to-day, and again, is important information to know when you begin working with a healthcare professional on addressing this.
Of note, if you start to notice blood or mucus in your stools, this requires more urgent attention and should be taken seriously. While blood may mean hemorrhoids, which are treatable, it could also mean there could be a rupture internally and perhaps an infection present.
How to Address Short-Term BM Irregularities
1. Supplement with Magnesium
Whenever I feel constipated, which thankfully is rare these days, magnesium tablets are often my go-to. Especially right before bedtime, magnesium not only can help with sleep but can help you have a BM come morning time! In particular, magnesium citrate is the kind of magnesium you want if you’re looking to use it to relieve constipation.
2. Drink Lots of Water
Whether you’re struggling with diarrhea or constipation, water is KEY! If things are moving too fast, your body is losing a lot of water and you need to replenish yourself. Otherwise, you’re risking dehydration, which can cause further digestion and broader health issues.
On the other hand, if you’re constipated, check in on how much water you’re consuming. If you’re not drinking half your body weight in ounces of water (or at least 72 oz), you may be dehydrated. This can make it difficult for stool to travel down and out of your body. It’s like trying to go down a water slide with just a trickle of water. You won’t get very far very fast, and it’ll likely hurt along the way!
3. Drink These Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are effective ways to get a good dose of nutrients and health-promoting benefits straight from Mother Earth. In particular, there are several herbal teas that are particularly soothing for the digestive tract.
For constipation: dandelion root, nettle leaf tea
For diarrhea: ginger, peppermint, lemon, licorice root
See this blog post for more teas you can use: Best Herbal Teas for Digestion.
4. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are another favorite easy way to support the digestive tract on a regular basis. Easy to use and derived from natural plants, they carry hundreds of health-promoting benefits. In particular, rosemary and fennel oils blended with a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil) can be rolled onto the abdomen to provide a soothing effect. A favorite essential oil brand of mine, doTerra, also has a blend called DigestZen, which includes both of these oils plus many other digestion favorites like peppermint. You can rub the oils (I prefer to use a rollerball) directly on your stomach region to help stimulate digestion, soothe discomfort, and move things along.
5. Change Your Diet
Many foods promote healthy bowel movements and soothe inflammation of the gut, and others don’t. Some common foods to ease digestive distress include:
You’ll notice that many of these foods are the same ones I recommended above in tea or essential oil blends. That’s great news because it means you can consume them in any number of ways. Bone broth is a personal favorite of mine because it’s loaded with collagen and gelatin, two reparative building blocks of the body. Not only can they soothe the digestive tract from inflammation or irritation so that BMs can eventually return to normalcy, they also help to repair damaged cells. Fermented foods like cultured veggies and kefir are two other fantastic gut healing superfoods, which can give you natural probiotics (good bacteria) that can help promote regularity.
On the other hand, there are many foods that can make digestion more difficult, generally, because they either lack nutrients, are severely modified, or laden in chemicals (like glyphosate from RoundUp). These food items include:
Gluten (and most wheat-based products)
To learn how to avoid these digestion inhibiting foods and load up on gut healing foods, grab a copy of my free recipe guide for ideas on how to incorporate these foods into daily recipes: Gut Healing Recipe Guide
Managing Long-Term Gut Health for BM Regularity
Begin to take note of how these changes in your BMs are occurring. Journaling about food and poop may feel awkward, but it can be so enlightening to us on this health journey! In fact, in my Love Your Gut group program (which is starting soon — join us!), clients even get what’s called a Food, Mood, Poop journal to help facilitate this discovery.
Once you have a few weeks’ worth of data, you may start to see where there is a correlation between the food you’re eating, your environment, and the change in your bowel movements. In addition to food and poop, pay attention to emotions and stress. Does frequency change when work gets stressful? Do things slow down when you internalize emotions? This can be your body telling you something! Again, doing a journal like the Food, Mood, Poop journal in a setting like the Love Your Gut group program is a powerful way to get personal with your poop and begin connecting the dots so you can find out what to do about it.
Sometimes, we need to give our system a little boost or stimulation by supplementing in the short or long term, depending on what your body needs. The two most helpful and common supplements that can help both in the case of diarrhea and constipation are digestive enzymes and probiotics. Both provide consistent support for digestion and elimination.
Probiotics: Probiotics are the good bacteria that support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight disease by lining and protecting your digestive tract. Probiotics are present in our bodies from the moment we are created. When a baby passes through its mother’s birth canal during delivery, the baby is exposed to its mother’s bacteria, which kick-starts the good bacterial growth in the baby’s digestive tract.
We need to maintain healthy levels and a good variety of bacteria in order to effectively fend off bad bacteria and keep things regular. You’d be amazed at how much probiotics regulate our digestive tract! Need help picking one? Check out this post!
Digestive Enzymes: Enzymes are what help to actually break down food once it enters the body, starting in our mouth and continuing all the way down to the stomach. Enzyme levels can decrease over time due to a number of factors, from inhibiting medications to poor diet to inflammation and even stress. And even if you have enough enzyme levels present in your GI tract, sometimes that’s not enough if you’re eating a variety of food ingredients all at once. Considering that our ancestors only had access to one or two food items at a time, our bodies weren’t built to digest much more than that, as each food type requires a slightly different resource in order to break down. It’s only been in the last 50 years that have we transitioned into a highly processed/cooked diet composed of dozens (if not more) ingredients, and our systems are feeling the burden.
Digestive enzymes help our natural enzymes and relieve some stress on our bodies by providing additional enzymes to break down tough foods. Find out if you should be taking digestive enzymes and learn more about their function in this blog post.
3. Drink Aloe Juice
Aloe juice nourishes the intestinal lining and promotes easy elimination without pain or excess acidity. Similar to how aloe helps relieve a sunburn, it also helps to relieve intestinal damage from a poor diet, toxic exposure, certain medications, and more. Adding a few ounces of aloe juice into your daily routine can help keep your bowel movements more regular and soothe your intestines. I recommend having a few ounces of aloe juice before every meal to promote regularity and soothe the GI tract.
The best part about aloe is that it’s a food, not a supplement. It’s loaded with nutrients like vitamin A, C, E, B12 and folic acid, as well as minerals and contains nearly all the essential amino acids our bodies need. This makes it a highly available source of nutrition for the body.
4. Get Moving!
Exercise is one of the best ways to help alleviate digestion issues. When you move, it stimulates your insides to flush toxins. It also stimulates your intestines to keep moving, helping your body to form BMs or release trapped gas. Movements like walking or running can be effective, as are slower moving stretches like yoga that coax your body to release tension and stress. Doing what’s called a yogic twist is especially useful to the digestive tract. Here are eight posts to try.
You can also do what’s called an abdominal massage which focuses more on the movement of the digestive tract itself and is a great way to stimulate muscle contractions and promote elimination.
Getting Personal with Your Bowel Movements
Bowel movements are a great indicator of the state of your internal health. If drastic changes occur, either over time or day-to-day, that’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Whether it’s leaky gut, food sensitivities, a bacterial infection, or the deep effects of chronic stress, when you notice any of these signs begin to happen, it’s time to listen to your poop, document what’s going on, and get in touch with a certified healthcare practitioner to find out what’s going on and how you can restore balance.
Want to get rid of your bathroom fear and live without poop always on your mind? I don’t’ blame you! Join us in the next Love Your Gut group program, a 12-week live virtual program where you’ll have the opportunity to run an advanced lab test (called the GI-MAP) that looks for dysbiosis and inflammation, and then each week we work on different areas of digestion to help you find the right path to better digestive health. This is the exact program I wish I had when I was going through my own digestive wellness journey, and I hope you’ll join us! Click here for more details.