(Health Secrets) It’s not exactly the most appropriate subject for your next dinner party, but poop has a lot to say about the status of your health if you’re willing to listen. If you can get over the gross factor, analyzing the consistency, appearance and frequency of your bowel movements might help you identify underlying health problems of which you may not even be aware.
A healthy stool is composed of about 75 percent water, with the rest constituting a mildly malodorous mixture of fiber, live and dead bacteria, various cells and mucus. This compositional breakdown allows for just enough water to pass waste through the intestinal tract, eliminating it as a smooth, sausage-like snake that is firm in shape but soft in texture.
Eat Local Grown describes it as the “holy grail” of healthy poop, and you can see it for yourself on the Bristol Stool Chart here (Type 4):
As you will notice, the Type 4 “perfect” poop is positioned smack-dab in the middle of the chart — not too dry and not too watery. Under optimal circumstances, your gut is able to appropriate the most beneficial ratios, allowing for enough water to be absorbed into your cells and enough to be absorbed into your poop.
There are many factors that can throw off this ratio, of course. Dehydration, excess sugar consumption, damaged gut bacteria, parasites and viruses can all disrupt your bowel movements, leading to bulky stools that are hard to pass, for instance, or watery stools that constitute diarrhea — and everything in between.
Healthy stool color should be gentle brown; anything else points to problems
As far as color, a healthy stool should be a medium-brownish color. If a stool is black in color, this could indicate bleeding in the stomach or small intestine, says Dr. Jean-Pierre Raufman, a gastroenterologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. If a stool is blackish-green, this could indicate too much iron or overconsumption of bismuth-containing stomach medicines like Pepto-Bismol.
Bright red stools are also problematic, potentially indicating the possibility of blood in the lower part of the digestive tract, which includes the large intestine, rectum and anus. Pale white or yellow stools, on the other hand, may indicate improper levels of digestive bile being released after food is consumed.
“The reason why stool is brown is because of our normal production of bile,” said Dr. Raufman. “If there’s a problem with bile flow, which may mean a problem like cancer of the bile ducts, or pancreatic cancer or hepatitis.”
Many people aren’t making enough HCL, which leaves too much undigested food in poop
The shape and consistency of a stool is also indicative of how well the digestive system is functioning. Looser stools that contain visible chunks of undigested food — a healthy stool should only contain about 30 percent undigested material — could point to a lack of hydrochloric acid (HCl) production, which is worsened when people take antacids (which further reduce HCl levels).
Correcting these and other problems involves the usual suspects — proper diet (eating the right things and avoiding the wrong ones), supporting your gut (with fermented foods and probiotics), hydrating yourself, exercising and avoiding pharmaceutical drugs. You can learn more about this here at EatLocalGrown.com.
“The digestive tract contains more bacterial cells than there are cells in the entire body,” maintains Dr. Raufman. “It’s very important that our bowels work well to absorb necessary nutrients but also keep out any foods, chemicals and germs that could do us harm.”
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