Last week we talked about keeping a Symptom Diary and how it can help you to identify patterns and triggers to your chronic illness.
Today, we are talking Poo.
And no, not cute and cuddly Pooh Bear either!
Now before you get all squeamish and click away, stick with me for a minute. I know it’s a subject rarely discussed (unless you live at my house) in polite society, and for some reason, rarely even discussed in the doctor’s office, and yet it is a really fascinating subject. Your poo can tell you so much about what is going on in your body.
We first started keeping a Poo Diary (or “The Log Log” as my husband loved to call it!) when our youngest was going through a terrible bout of constipation. At the time, it was pretty boring. There were no entries – for a month! That in itself was a huge red flag that something isn’t right. The good news though, was that they finally found and diagnosed her Hashimoto’s so we could start treating it.
After three days in hospital to “clear her out”, we were sent home and told to monitor her bowel movements. We needed to keep track of how often she went, what it looked like, did she have to strain, did it hurt, did it smell.
So, I bought a little notebook, pulled out my ruler and started to keep a tally. In the end, I got sick of ruling lines all the time, and came up with a simple spreadsheet.
The Bristol Stool Scale is a great tool for judging the consistency of your poo. Ideally you want to be about a #4. Not too hard and dry, and not to soft and sloppy. Nicely formed and easy to pass. Movicol-Half have even designed a fantastic kids version that likens each type to something kids can easily relate to. We have a printed out and laminated version of the “Choose Your Poo” chart on the wall in our loo!
The closer you get to number 1, the more constipated you generally are. The stools get more difficult to pass, more infrequent, and you are more likely to feel uncomfortable with pain, bloating and abdominal distention. If this is you, try to increase how much water you are drinking along with your intake of fibrous foods. Lots of fresh vegetables, along with pears and prunes.
If you start moving more towards number 7, you are most likely to be passing stools more frequently and possibly with greater urgency. Again, feelings of pain and cramping may be common. Here you want to try and increase your fibre intake to “bulk” it up. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids, as it is very easy to dehydrate when experiencing diarrhoea. Taking a probiotic with strains specific to diarrhoea can also be beneficial.
Keeping a Poo Diary means that you will quickly pick up any changes to your normal habits, or improvements if they have been less than desirable. If you are undergoing treatment for constipation or diarrhoea, you will soon be able to see if they are working.
Now that we’ve discussed texture, you may be wondering what the different colours and consistencies mean. Here’s a brief overview:
Black, tarry stools can be indicative of abdominal bleeding further up the digestive tract.
Clay coloured stools may indicate poor liver function, as may a greenish tinge from an increase in bile excretion (or a large recent meal of leafy green vegetables).
Bright red in the stool means bleeding near to the anus (eg haemorrhoids), or it can also mean you’ve recently eaten a lot of beetroot!
Mucous or greasiness in the water can be a sign of poor fat digestion.
Floating stools can be a sign of bacterial overgrowth in the intetines which results in increased gas formation – making your poo lighter so it floats.
Heavy, sinking poos can be a sign of bacterial die off eg if you are undergoing a detox or on antibiotics.
Very skinny stools can be a sign of a build up of faeces within the bowel, resulting in a narrowing of the passage for your stool to pass through (hence it being quite thin).
It should be medium brown in colour, sausage shaped and not have an offensive odour. You also should not have to strain too hard to push it out.
If you are concerned at all about the state of your poo,please see your healthcare practitioner ASAP and let them know of your concerns.
So now that you know more about poo than you ever thought you wanted to, make sure you get a copy of my Poo Diary so you can keep an eye on how your digestive function is working.
If you have a chronic illness such as Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Hypothyroidism, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Joint Hypermobility Syndrom) where constipation and/or diarrhoea are common symptoms, keeping a diary of your bowel habits can be a great way of tracking your digestive health, and picking up problems before they become severe. It also makes it much easier to explain the changes and abnormalities in your bowel motions to your doctor or healthcare practitioner. Rather than just saying, I think I’ve only done a poo once every 3 days, you can tell them precisely how often you have (or haven’t) been going, how much you’ve had to strain, any pain or discomfort, and also any changes in consistency, colour or texture.
Cindy Kennedy is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner & Clinical Herbalist who lives and breathes Hashimoto’s on a personal and professional level. Her true passion lies in turning gluten and dairy-free living from a restricted diet into a delicious and abundant family-friendly lifestyle.