21-Day Challenge Tip #7: Your Digestive System
Hopefully you are now feeling great after more than a week of eliminating inflammatory foods from your system.
One of the often over-looked indicators of digestive health is the end product of digestion – your stool or poop. An uncomfortable subject for sure. However, in our Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle course we learned that it’s a quick and easy reference for the health of your digestive system and an indicator of a healthy, properly absorbing diet.
Why Focus on Your Digestive System?
You’ve got options when it comes to evaluating your health. You can assess your sense of well being, or get labs run on your blood, urine or saliva. And there’s another option: looking at your poop. It can be a great indicator of the status of your health.
Here’s a quick list of reasons why people have a difficult time talking about poop:
- It smells bad (sometimes really bad).
- Even though everybody does it, you don’t want anyone to know that you do it.
- Your poop may seem different, so it’s embarrassing.
Great, so now that we got that out of the way, we shouldn’t have any issues of discomfort moving forward. Aside from showing you that you’ve recently eaten certain foods like corn or beets, looking at your poop can also give you clues about many things going on in your body, including:
- Hydration or dehydration
- Food sensitivity
- Digestion efficiency
- Abnormal gut flora
[Disclaimer: If after reading this you think you need help with your poop, we encourage you to seek help from a medical professional…we won’t be able to help you figure it out.]
There are a couple of good reference scales to use when reviewing poop: The Bristol Stool Scale and Paul Chek’s“Poopie Line Up” (see below). If you are still feeling squeamish about the topic, stop reading now.
The Poopie Line-Up, from right to left:
- The Policeman – The ideal in poops. Well shaped, easy to pass, light brown in colour, smells earthy and about 12″ in length per day (could be one of 12″, two of 6″, three of 4″, etc).
- The Flasher – You’re seeing bits of breakfast, lunch or dinner. Means that food isn’t being digested for some reason – not good. Could be a sign of food intolerance, an inflammatory disorder of the gut, low stomach acid, or that you’re not chewing enough (and if I had to guess, I suspect 95% of you aren’t chewing enough).
- Diarrhella – Your body is trying to rid itself of something toxic. Bad not only because you have something bad inside of you, but also leads to dehydration since your body will find water from wherever it needs to in order to facilitate Diarrhella’s exit.
- Pellet Man – Rabbit turds are for rabbits. If your poop looks like this you are most likely dehydrated or your gut flora is out of balance.
- The Bodybuilder – Too condensed from hanging out in the body too long. Poop should not hang around in the colon for more than 72 hours. If your system is taking more than 72 hours to pass, it can cause discomfort as the stool can push against other things. Solutions: more regular fibre (crunchy vegetables) with each meal, probiotics or digestive enzymes if you’re not digesting well.
- The Olympic Swimmer – Lighter in color, indicating a higher fat content. The undigested fats could be a sign that stools are passing too quickly, or that your bile salts aren’t breaking down the fats.
- Mr. Sinker ‘n’ Stinker – Paul considers this persistent little guy one of the worst offenders and attributes his presence to too much processed foods, toxic environment or medical drugs (think anesthesia).
What’s Healthy Poop?
- Light brown colour – not too dark, not too light
- Smells like poo, but not deathly
- Soft, well formed and consistent in shape and colour
- Easy and satisfying to pass
- Produces 12 inches/day (can be in more than one, i.e. two x 6″ or three x 4″, etc)
- Transit time (mouth to out) should be between 12-18 hours *you can test this by eating beets
- One movement per meal. Three meals a day = three bowel movements if system is working efficiently
What to Do
Here are a few steps to improve your digestive system:
- Chew your food. Hard-to-chew means hard to digest. If the food bits are too big when you swallow them, your stomach acids won’t be able to fully break them down and those macronutrients won’t be as available for your small intestines to absorb.
- Drink water. General rule is half your weight in ounces per day, plus replace whatever you lose while working out.
- Fiber or Fats. If you suffer form slow poop transit time, eat more fiber (supplement, or just eat more veggies). If you have too fast poop transit time, eat more protein and fat to slow the digestive process.
- Digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes help you breakdown foods. Remember, all of those awesome nutritious foods you are eating only help your body if you are able to digest them and absorb the nutrients.
- Probiotics. Probiotics bring balance back to your gut. These good bacteria help to keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption; and contribute to immune function.
If you’re not sure what to do next, feel free to ask. We can make recommendations on enzymes, probiotics, etc. Alternately, you can have a conversation with your doctor.
Sources: Paul Chek’s Book Eat, Move and be Healthy and the Inviticus Fitness Blog
Craig, Pepe & the Precision team