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  • 13 September 2021
  • Let’s Talk About Poop

  • Have you thought much about your poop lately?

    If not, we recommend now is a good time to start.

    Why? Well, because your poop can tell you quite a bit about what’s happening in your body.

  • By Claire Shortt, PhD Microbiologist
  • Let’s Talk About Poop

  • Have you thought much about your poop lately?

    If not, we recommend now is a good time to start.

    Why? Well, because your poop can tell you quite a bit about what’s happening in your body.

What’s important to know?

Firstly, the smell, colour, consistency and size will vary depending on a number of factors.

These factors can include:

  • Diet – e.g. some people get red coloured poop after eating beetroot, which can be alarming, but is harmless! However, very dark coloured (dark red/black) poop could be a sign of internal bleeding so it is important to check that everything is ok with your doctor
  • Activity – light exercise helps stimulate your bowels and keep things moving
  • Travel – the stress of travelling can disrupt your regular pooping schedule, not to mention the possible change in your diet that comes with going on holiday or on a long flight
  • Dehydration – this can lead to constipation. Try to drink small amounts of water throughout the day. Too much in one sitting will not be properly absorbed by your body, so remember small amounts often is the key
  • Medications – some medications can cause constipation or diarrhea – always discuss any concerns with your doctor or pharmacist
  • Stress – getting “butterflies in your stomach” is a common phrase for a reason. Feeling stressed, nervous or upset can cause digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation or cramps
  • Disease – a small amount of blood in your poop on a recurring basis could just be a haemorrhoid but also it could be an early warning sign of something more serious. So, it is best to consult with your doctor.

 

Do you know your poop schedule?

When you know your poop schedule, it’s easier to tell if something is “off”. Any sudden changes should always be investigated, so it’s important to be aware of your regular pooping pattern. In most cases, these changes are short-lived. Maybe it was something that you ate or you’re nervous about an upcoming stressful event, like an exam or an important interview. However, if you are unsure, you should speak with your doctor. The sooner an issue is discovered, the sooner it can be treated, resulting in better outcomes.

 

The Bristol Stool Chart

A commonly used tool to help assess your stool form is the “Bristol Stool Chart”. It is widely used by doctors all over the world. Besides being used in the doctor’s office, you can use it on a daily basis to see how things are going with your digestive system.

  • Type 1: Separate hard lumps, difficult to pass – severe constipation
  • Type 2: A lumpy sausage – slightly constipated
  • Type 3: A sausage shaped stool, with cracks on the surface – “normal”, slightly dehydrated
  • Type 4: A smooth sausage, easy to pass – “normal”, this is the goal to reach
  • Type 5: Soft pieces of poop, easy to pass – lacking fibre
  • Type 6: Soft and mushy stool with ragged edges – mild diarrhea
  • Type 7: Entirely liquid, no solid pieces of poop – severe diarrhea

 

Tips to promote regular pooping patterns

  1. Eat a fibre-rich diet – this helps to bulk up the stool. There are different types of fibre, so it’s important to find the one that’s right for you
  2. Get regular exercise – this is good for stimulating the bowels, keeping things moving and reducing stress. There are also specific exercises that can help improve and strengthen your pelvic floor, to aid you in passing a stool more easily
  3. Keep stress levels under control – meditation, exercise and removing stressful triggers from your life can help you manage any digestive symptoms that are caused by stress
  4. Drink lots of water – keep hydrated, as dehydration can lead to constipation (especially after strenuous exercise or in hot weather)
  • By Claire Shortt, PhD Microbiologist

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