June 16, 2013
The Scoop on Poop!
For most people this is not a sexy subject. But your doo-doo is a large part of good health, and I think good health is always hot!
Poop is made up of dead gut cells, leftover indigestible fiber and bacteria. When you eat, that food is processed in your intestines, which are lined with some very smart cells. These cells allow essential nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream, and ushers out the waste through your digestive system, out of your body, and into the toilet.
On average, it’s pretty normal to drop the kids off at the pool as many as 2-3 times per day (i.e.: once after each meal) or as little as every other day. That being said, if you are going more than 4 times a day or on the flipside, only 3-4 times per week, it’s probably best to consult your doctor.
And now for the “fun” part… what does a healthy bowel movement look like?
Shape: It makes sense that, since our pool curves around inside our intestines, a healthy pool would look like an “S” or a “C”.
Color: A healthy stool would be one that’s medium-brown in color. Where does it get that color? Why, leftover bile from your gallbladder, of course! But if your poop is white or grey, you could be having a problem with your pancreas or gallbladder and should consult your doctor. Yellow stools are often a sign of infection or inflammation in your intestines, especially if there is mucus in your poop.
If you observe blood in your stool, or a couple drops of bright red blood in the toilet water or on the paper, it might “scare the crap out of you”, but it’s no immediate cause for concern. It may simply be the result of hemorrhoids, which can bleed if you strain too much while pooping. But if you witness dark red blood or a blackish-red color, this could be blood from higher up in your system, and you should definitely see your doctor.
Texture: Think the consistency of toothpaste. (Not appetizing, I know.) Hard, dry poop indicates constipation, and loose or watery stools are diarrhea. If it’s foamy or is floating on top of the water, you may not be properly absorbing the fat in your diet, particularly if it’s incredibly foul-smelling. In which case you should visit your doc. And if constipation or diarrhea consist, you’ll want to talk to your doctor as well.
These four “F’s” will have you on your way to healthy stools: Fiber, Fluids, Flora and Fitness!
We get fiber in two forms: soluble and insoluble. If you’re not getting enough of one or both, you might experience a poop conundrum.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel in your intestines. This bulks up your poop and makes it smooth enough to keep things moving. Soluble fiber also helps regulate blood sugar and can lower cholesterol levels. These foods are high in soluble fiber: oatmeal, apples, oranges, pears, berries, flax, beans, peas, lentils and psyllium husk.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, so it merely helps sweep poop along. It also has a mild laxative effect, which helps with healthy elimination. These foods are high in insoluble fiber: whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, dried fruit and root vegetable skins.
When you increase your fiber intake, you also need to make sure you’re getting enough fluids. Remember, soluble fiber absorbs water, so you’ll need to make sure you’re getting enough water to stay hydrated and prevent constipation. There are two easy ways to estimate how much water you need each day:
Divide your body weight by 2 and drink that amount of water in ounces each day. So, a 140-pound woman should drink about 70 ounces of water each day.
Our intestines are home to over 100 trillion bacteria, and both bad and good types of this bacteria end up in our poop. Good bacteria are essential for keeping us regular. The good bacteria, or probiotics, are what help keep us regular. It helps break down our food to insure we’re getting the nutrients our bodies need. In return, probiotics dine on the leftover fiber from our digested food, and they thrive and multiply in our digestive systems.
To increase good bacteria in your gut:
Eat fermented foods like tempeh, miso, kombucha and sauerkraut.
It makes sense that if you want your poop to move, YOU should move, too! Exercise helps stimulate the natural contractions of your intestines and tones the muscles in your core that help with healthy elimination. Walking or yoga can help ease constipation, and moderate aerobic activity on a regular basis is an effective way to keep things chugging along.
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