The TMI Guide To Understanding What A Healthy Poop Should Be
It’s one of those topics we just don’t talk about. And if we do it’s always proceeded with, “This might be TMI but…”
Well, pooping is a normal activity. Everyone does it.
Yes, Dan, even women.
I recently finished reading the book, Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ. Filled with great information, and written in a sometimes comical voice. I flew through the book, trying to pick up nuggets of info to help my gut health.
What I found most interesting? Poop.
I’ve written on a lot of topics here, but I don’t think pooping has been one of them.
So why not change it? After all, it’s one of those things we are too embarrassed to talk about. But you know you’ve wondered…
Is My Poop Normal?
But first, let’s talk about how our bodies work.
How The Body Goes Icky: Sphincters
In our home, we call going poop, icky. Why? Because it sounds a bit less harsh. Yes, call us silly but we think poop sounds so heavy and dirty. Going icky sounds easier.
And no, we don’t have kids. We’re just weird.
Did you know the body actually has 2 sphincter muscles?
An internal and external.
The external sphincter is the muscle you consciously control. You squeeze tight when you’re not in a position to go.
The internal sphincter works to make sure pressure within the body is okay. If too much pressure builds, sometimes you just can’t hold back and some gas may escape.
These two muscles work together. When the body is ready to “release”, the internal sphincter releases just to tell the body if it’s gas or solid. Then the info travels to the brain for you to decide if it’s an appropriate time for whichever event to occur.
If you’re not ready, then the muscles work together to keep the floodgates closed.
Also important to note:
If you continue to tell the internal sphincter you’re not ready, you can mess things up. This can lead to constipation and a breakdown of communication between sphincters.
How The Body Goes Icky: Squatting Vs Sitting
My father-in-law is a pediatric gastroenterologist (try saying that 3 times fast). We’ve often picked his brain on gut health, probiotics and going icky.
One thing that he stressed: your knees should be higher than your bum.
I remember him telling us due to the high toilets here in the US, more people suffer from hemorroids.
I didn’t understand the correlation between toilet height and hemorroids until now.
The closure mechanism of the gut can not open completely when seated (or standing). There is a muscle that actually lassos the gut in these positions. Why? Extra protection if the sphincters give way when we’re not ready.
It’s like a kinked garden hose.
To have the best poop, it’s important to unkink the hose to allow everything to flow easier (and faster).
One study found that the average potty time for seated goers was 130-seconds. For squatting, the time was just 50 seconds. Get in, get out… we have lives to live.
With the kink, we have to push harder. This could increase risks of hemorroids, diverticulitis, and constipation.
Think about it… our primal ancestors didn’t have a porcelain throne. Nope, just a hole in the ground. Or maybe just the ground?
Squatting was the way to do things.
What are you supposed to do?
Are you supposed to stand with your feet on each side of the toilet seat, squatting? While that would be a sight, it’s not a great suggestion.
Instead, grab a stool to place your feet on so that the knees are higher than your hips.
This may be TMI, but… (ha) it makes a difference. I’ve experimented for the past month and it definitely helps.
Okay, enough about how we go. Let’s talk about if you’re normal. Or at least, is your poop normal?
Is Your Poop Normal: Color
The normal color of human scat ranges from brown to yellowish-brown.
Have you ever wondered why? I mean, no matter what you eat, it comes out the same color. Well, unless you eat beets.
The color comes from blood. Each day the body makes fresh blood corpuscles. Each day the body breaks down old blood corpuscles. As they breakdown the color changes from red to green, to yellow.
Once the old, broken cells get pushed to the gut our bacteria change the color again… to brown.
What if your poo isn’t brown?
If your bowels are light brown or yellow…
It could be a harmless disorder called Gilbert’s Syndrome.
One of the enzymes used to break down blood is working at low efficiency. This actually affects around 8% of the population!
The only downfall? These people can’t process acetaminophen properly.
Another cause for yellowish poo is a bacteria issue. Antibiotics or diarrhea could be the problem.
If your bowels are light brown to gray…
This could be a sign that the connection between the liver and gut is blocked. No blood pigment is getting in. Call the doctor.
If your bowels are back or red…
Congealed blood is black, fresh red.
This would happen if blood cells are not broken down and remain hole. Unless you’ve been eating beets (anyone else think they were dying once from beets?) see the doctor.
Here’s a TMI story…
I was taking steroids a few years back for my herniated disc. I wasn’t eating enough while on them and they ended up breaking down my stomach lining. For 3 days, I was having black tar-like icky. It was scary. Lesson learned: eat when on steroids.
Is Your Poop Normal: Consistency
In 1997 a stool scale was born. The Bristol stool scale classifies poo into 7 categories.
On the scale, people who are hydrated and healthy should have type 3 or 4’s.
Anything else may warrant a doctor’s visit.
Is Your Poop Normal: How Fast Does It Plop
And finally, the last test for normal icky is how fast does it sink?
If it plummets to the bottom this could be a sign that nutrients weren’t fully absorbed during digestion.
If it floats, it’s a sign that fat is present and may not have been absorbed. Or that the pooper is on a high fat diet.
The feces should sink slowly. Thanks to air bubbles produced by the gut bacteria. This indicates a healthy flora and digestion.
Give It A Look
Gut health is linked to everything from obesity to depression. As we learn more about the science of digestion, we learn more about our long term health.
While it’s not fun to talk about bathroom time with friends/family it is important. Make sure to take notice of your own habits and if anything should change get it checked out.
Always remember… Look Before You Flush.
That’s your PSA for the day. You’re welcome.
I first had beets when I was a medical assistant (right out of collage). Dan and I had just moved in together. I remember going to work and taking a bathroom break. I did my business, went to flush and thought I was dying. I didn’t know how to tell Dan, since we don’t talk poo.
I told one of my co-workers what happened and she immediately smiled and asked if I had beets for dinner. Thank goodness for friends!