Welcome back to More Than Healthy! It’s now Week 48, and we’re continuing to share our Full Year of Resolutions with you. Our tip this week is all about the benefits of journaling your bowel movements.
I know, I know! Here we are talking about bowel movements again! Everybody has them, but nobody likes to talk about it! But the truth is, our stools give us valuable clues as to ‘what’s going on in there’ that we simply can’t get anywhere else. Your poop tells you a lot about the health of your gut, including how your system reacts to various foods, if you’re eating enough fiber, or getting enough water. Changes in your bowel movements or habits can also be a sign that something else is going on, and you may need to consult your doctor.
A Food-Mood-Poop Journal
As a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor, the first thing I ask clients to do is to record their food, mood, and poop in a journal. Journaling is key to figuring out which foods are healthy and helpful for you and which foods your system can’t tolerate. By tracking daily food and water intake, pain and discomfort levels, and how well your body is able to discharge waste, you will be able to tell which foods work for you. Tracking is integral to healing your gut and being able to access levels of health and energy that you might have forgotten were possible.
David discovered the health benefits of journaling your bowel movements
Journaling was certainly key to David’s health journey. While I was still in school to become a functional nutritionist, I asked him to do a daily food-mood-poop journal. I knew this was an important and easy way to track data and see if what he was eating affected either his mood or his poop, which tells us so much about our overall body health.
Because David was passionate about improving his health, he agreed and started diligently filling out the journal each day. Several weeks into this journaling exercise, David complained that he had “the runs” and that his stomach wasn’t feeling so good.
I immediately went to his journal, and I saw that a couple of days earlier, he had stopped for ice cream at his favorite shake place. I called him on it, reminding him that his body simply couldn’t handle that much sugar and dairy. David had kept the journal honestly and hadn’t hidden anything. The shake was the culprit, and we had the data to prove it. And…he hasn’t had another shake since. It simply isn’t worth it!
You’re the scientist as you journal your bowel movements
This is a good example of how we can become our own ‘science experiment’ as we gather data. Journaling your bowel movements is so helpful in identifying and eliminating pain and discomfort.
How to access the health benefits of journaling your bowel movements
Daily journaling is simple to do. We’ve created a form that is accessible through your More Than Healthy membership. We’ve also created a More Than Healthy App that you can download through the App Store or Google Play. Or, you are welcome to create your own journaling system. The important thing is to find a system that works for you so that you can easily track. It’s also vital to be completely honest in your reporting. If not, the only person you cheat is yourself.
What should you record?
In your journal, you’ll record your daily activities, and anything you think might impact your health positively or negatively. This includes sleep, exercise, stress, travel, etc.
Next, write down everything you eat each day. This isn’t a typical “diet” type of journal. You don’t need to record calories, carbs, or macros. Just write down what you eat and drink, making sure to track the glasses of water you consume throughout the day as well.
Be sure to record any pain you feel, and if you experience any dizziness, bloating, heartburn or indigestion.
Then, track your bowel movements and rate them using the Bristol Stool Chart.
What is the Bristol Stool Chart?
Also known as the Meyers Scale, the Bristol Stool Chart is used by doctors and other medical specialists to measure the time it takes for food to pass through your body and leave as waste. It also helps identify the shape and form of your poop, which can point toward other problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Ken Heaton, MD, from the University of Bristol, developed this chart in 1997 with the help of 66 volunteers. They altered their diets, swallowed special marker pellets, and kept a journal about the weight, shape, and frequency of their bowel movements.
How it works
On the chart, stools are assigned a number from 1 to 7, from hardest to loosest. Normal stools are those in the middle of the chart, in the 3 to 4 range. You simply look at the chart and identify the number that most closely matches the look and form of your bowel movements.
Here is a description of the seven categories:
- Type 1: Separate hard lumps (hard to pass)
- Type 2: Lumpy, hard, sausage-shaped
- Type 3: Sausage-shaped with cracks on the surface
- Type 4: Sausage-shaped or snake-like; smooth and soft
- Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (easy to pass)
- Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges; mushy
- Type 7: Entirely liquid, watery, no solid pieces
What is a healthy stool
Have you ever wondered if your poop is normal? Turns out, there’s some variety in what is considered normal when it comes to bowel movements. But there are some parameters that define “normal poop.”
First, the size of your stool matters. A normal stool is at least a couple of inches in length. Ideally, it’s between four and eight inches. Tiny poops are problematic. Your poop shouldn’t look like that of a bunny or a deer.
The shape of your stool matters, too. There are lots of expressions used when describing bowel movements. But comparing poop to logs is probably the most accurate. The healthiest shape for poop to be is like a long cylinder. When it has other shapes, it might mean something else is going on in your digestive system.
As described by the Bristol Stool Chart, your stool should be somewhere between firm and soft. You can tell what the consistency is by looking at it. If it is well-formed and wasn’t too hard to pass, it’s probably the right consistency.
Normal poop is brown, somewhere between tan and espresso. The brown color in your bowel movement comes from bile and bilirubin.
Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The body makes bilirubin through the normal process of breaking down red blood cells. During the digestive process, these fluids mix with the foods you’ve eaten, and they usually make your poop brown.
If your poop is another color, it is generally due to something you’ve eaten. Here’s a quick breakdown of what other colors might mean:
- Green poop might mean that you’re eating a lot of leafy greens. But it might also be a sign that your food isn’t spending enough time in your digestive system.
- Black poop might come from taking an iron supplement or medication like Pepto Bismol. But a black stool can also mean you have bleeding in your upper GI tract.
- Poop can turn red from eating beets, cranberries, red gelatin, or tomato juice. But red poop can also mean bleeding in your colon.
- Yellow poop (that is often also greasy and extra stinky) can mean you’ve been eating too much fat. But it may also be a sign of malabsorption, meaning your body isn’t pulling nutrients from food during digestion.
- Pale poop (or white, chalky poop) can be a side effect of medicines. But it may mean your body isn’t producing bile. You might have an infection or that your bile duct is blocked.
If you can’t explain the color of your stool based on food choices or medications you are taking, that’s a time to get in touch with your doctor.
How often should you poop?
Let’s talk a bit about how often you should be having a bowel movement. Before he kept his food-mood-poop journal, David used to think it was normal to go days between bowel movements, and that it was normal for it to be an uncomfortable and sometimes even painful experience. Now he knows how wrong that was.
It shouldn’t be painful! Your stools should be easy to pass, no matter how often you go. A healthy gut means you should be having at least one bowel movement (at the right consistency) a day. Twice a day is even better.
I always tell my clients to think of a baby, whose little system is perfect and still unpolluted by unhealthy, highly-processed foods. A baby poops every time you feed it. That’s a really great digestive system.
The many health benefits of journaling your bowel movements
The best thing you can do to maintain a healthy and regular cycle is to eat what your gut microbiome needs. And the way you figure out what that is for you is by journaling your bowel movements.
This method has helped my clients discover the root causes of their pain and inflammation, solve skin issues like psoriasis and eczema, lose weight, sleep better, eliminate digestive issues, and have improved energy.
In order to gather enough information to draw accurate conclusions, you’ll need to journal long enough that you actually start to feel better as you begin eliminating foods that negatively affect your gut.
For most people, this takes at least 2 to 4 weeks. You will likely begin to notice some patterns in just a few days. If you recognize a food that is causing you any sort of discomfort, remove it immediately from your diet and continue to track results. You’ll start connecting the dots as you are able to identify harmful triggers that upset your particular gut microbiome.
As you begin to heal your gut, you’ll see pain levels decrease, energy levels increase, and your overall quality of life will start to improve. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes when your gut is healthy and functioning properly. It affects absolutely everything else! A food-mood-poop journal can be the beginning of truly being able to reclaim your health.
The Hair Analysis connection
You may have heard our exciting news, we are now offering hair analysis at More Than Healthy. This is an easy, non-invasive, and cutting-edge technology. With just a few of your hair follicles and in just a few minutes, we can now provide you with a comprehensive amount of health information – far more than is possible through the poking and prodding of bloodwork. To learn all about this – and you’ll want to! – please visit our website.
Journaling your bowel movements combined with the information you’ll gain from doing a hair analysis will provide you with a wealth of valuable knowledge about your health.
Take advantage of the health benefits of journaling your bowel movements
So, what do you think? Are you up for tracking your bowel movements in order to achieve your ultimate health? If you have any questions about the health benefits of journaling your bowel movements, please reach out. I’d love to help!
Also, for those of you interested in our free detox system, just go to our website and click on get the 7-day detox, and we’ll send it to you at no cost.
If you have questions about anything we’ve discussed, or any other health issue, just go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram @morethanhealthyliving and ask it there. We try to respond to all questions. We’d love to help you in any way and are passionate about coaching you on your journey to optimal health.
Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.