That quote above is a little overused, but I think the picture is funny.
They say that food can look like the body part it helps. You know, walnuts, full of omega 3s, look like brains, and kidney beans look like, you know. And those laxative little figs up there, look like our friend the poop emoji, don’t they? Yes, poop. I want to talk poop today.
If you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.
Is My Poop Normal?
Now, I don’t know if you share my sense of humour. But, if you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.
Some things that are famously from Bristol in the late 90s include Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, and loads of Drum n Bass artists like Roni Size. (Earlier, there was Bananarama. Later, there came Stanton Warriors.)
What you may not know is that 90s Bristol is the original home of grading our POO.
Yep, you heard right.
This topic may be uncomfortable, (or you might think it is Awesome!) but either way it’s so important for you to know what makes a healthy “poop” because it can tell you a lot about your digestion.
And if your digestion is off, this could be an indication that something else is going on that you need to address.
Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)
You already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.
I know some folks may get constipation or have diarrhea when they eat something that “doesn’t agree with” them or when they’re super-nervous about something.
And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop. Actually fibre is good for some folks, not so good for others…but it is good for the all-important gut microbes.
Speaking of which, if they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your poop.
Here’s a trivia question for you:
Can you name the poo grading scale I was hinting at earlier?
Did you even know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
And no, it is not the “Bristol Massive”, lol.
Meet the Bristol Stool Scale
The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.
You can see the chart here.
The scale breaks down poop by type. Seven different categories range from type 1 – which is very constipated, to type 7 – which is diarrhea.
We want to be middle of the road, thank you very much.
1 – Separate hard lumps
(What I affectionately call rabbit plops, aka very constipated).
2 – Lumpy and sausage-like
3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface
4 – Smooth, soft sausage
(Normal – extra points if you can coil it like the emoji)
5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
(May be lacking fibre)
6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges
7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces
Other “poop” factors to consider
You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health.
- Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.
- What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.
- The consistency is more than just soft or hard, too. The degree of stickiness is informative. No one wants to wipe and wipe, to be frank. We want a smooth clean exit. When your little sphincter snaps shut, we want things to be basically clean, and for the wipe to be a formality.
- And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. If it is too dull (yellowish) or too sandy, that can be a sign of oxalate dumping. If it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.
- But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.
What do you do when you have “imperfect” poo?
Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that?
Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.
If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath. If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that. If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.
Probiotics are beneficial microbes often taken as dietary supplements, and in fermented and cultured foods to help make our digestion run smoothly, but really, probiotics can be found all around us. Probiotics are in and on us, in what we refer to as our microbiome, and they are in the forest air, the dirt at the farm, and in the water at the lake too.
The diversity of our microbiomes is diminishing with each passing generation, in large part because we interact so much less with forest air, farm dirt and lake water, and also because we kill off these great bugs every time we take medicine, eat fast food, and sanitize our living space. One of the main reasons probiotic supplement are so popular, is that this lack of diversity is connected to many modern ills, and we hope to mitigate that risk.
Luckily, it is not blind hope. A 2017 review of 45 major probiotic studies concluded that probiotic consumption amongst healthy adults “can improve immune, gastrointestinal, and female reproductive health”, and that probiotics do improve the concentration of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics can even help us achieve BMs that resemble that cute, smiley poop emoji.
Well, those are not quite the words from the study, but you get the idea. Probiotics can digest some of the otherwise undigestible fibre in your sushi roll and foster a healthy gut environment, having a positive impact on several health outcomes.
So, we are clear that probiotics are legitimate stars, so be sure to get enough.
Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:
- First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, and unless you have a very irritated gut, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fibre in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
- The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.
These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop!
Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poop issues for too long before seeking help.
Dairy-free super-simple Coconut Milk Probiotic Yogurt
2 cans full-fat coconut milk
probiotic yogourt starter, or try 2 probiotic capsules,
- Open the starter or probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
- Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot – you don’t want those probiotics to die).
- Store it in a warm place, about 30 C, for 24-48 hours. If it’s not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
- Add your favourite yogourt toppings, and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science, but some strains will turn milks into yogourt and some not so much. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or especially of probiotics.