Updated: Mar 14, 2020
Yes, I'm serious!
I always laugh that as a dietitian, we talk a lot about poop...
Yes, we really do... A LOT.
But one thing I love about helping nurses is that you get it!
I know this isn't something new for you either and that you too are often asking people about their BMs (bowl movements for anyone who might not know what that is).
Just a note, I started working on this blog post a while ago, yet with all the talk about toilet paper right now... it just felt like a good time to talk about poop. I mean, aren't we all in some way or another already?
Now, as a healthcare professional, I am going to guess you might already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.
You may get constipation or have diarrhea when you eat something that "doesn't agree with you," or when you're super-nervous about something.
And what about fiber and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop.
What about the all-important gut microbes? If they're not happy, it'll probably show in your poop.
Did you 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)?
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 some images from the chart here.
The scale breaks down type of poop into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhea:
1 - Separate hard lumps (very constipated).
2 - Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).
3 - Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)
4 - Smooth, soft sausage (normal).
5 - Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fiber).
6 - Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).
7 - Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).
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.
And the color? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest.
And 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 color, 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 know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that (sometimes slow and steady is a good way to go instead of adding lots all at once).
If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.
If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.
Oh, and don’t forget a few of the most basic pieces of nutrition advice:
First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fiber in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also are known as pre-biotics which help 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.
Lastly, stay hydrated with plenty of water and unsweetened beverages.
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.
While I can't help anyone find toilet paper right now... haha, although, I wish I could.
But if you are looking for one way to help add in lots of real food plant-based nutrition for that prebiotics, then make sure to visit my Juice Plus+ page. These are real foods solutions, not supplements! Around 40 clinical research studies have already shown many amazing benefits Juice Plus+ can have with it being bio-available, supporting the immune system, reducing oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and more! And there is research taking place right now to evaluate the potential effect of Juice Plus+ on the microbiome and gut-health. If you are interested in the published research, you can find more here.
And if if you are looking for a simple way to add more plant-based probiotics without the added sugar found in many store bought yogurts, then make sure to check out this super-simple coconut milk yogurt recipe!
Recipe (dairy-free probiotic): Super-Simple Coconut Milk Yogurt
2 cans full-fat coconut milk
2 probiotic capsules
1. Open the probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
2. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot - you don’t want those probiotics to die).
3. Store it in a warm place for 24-48 hours. If it's not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
4. Add your favorite yogurt toppings (I recommend some fruit, nuts, and/or seeds), and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge. Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or probiotics.