Before you Flush: You can be eating the best bone-healthy foods in the world, but here’s the thing. If you’re not digesting that food it will do your bones no good at all.
Your digestion breaks down food into the nutrients your body needs to absorb to build strong bones and do just about everything else.
How can you tell if your digestion is operating at full tilt?
You know something is off if you have gas, bloating, or diarrhea. I don’t mean once in a while but pretty often.
And you know it’s not right if you’re not “regular.” Now, there is no absolute rule here. “Regular” means regular for you. Most people go once a day in the morning but it’s also common for people to go three times a day. But if you only go three times a week, you’re constipated. I lean in the direction of constipation. Personally I feel sluggish unless I go every day. But that’s me.
More important than how often you go is how easily you go. It shouldn’t be a struggle or painful. If you have to strain to push out hard, dry stools, you are constipated.
I like to have my clients get in the habit of gazing into the porcelain bowl every day to make sure their digestion is on track.
That’s right. You have to spend some time – not much, but some – checking out your daily deposit in the toilet.
You see, your poop doesn’t lie. It’s a good indication of how healthy your gut is. It tells a lot about what you’ve been eating, whether you’re chewing, how much fluid you’re taking in, whether you’re exercising, and more.
Now, I get how most people get a little creeped out when you start talking about their poop.
That’s why some very clever doctors in England designed the Bristol Stool Chart. It’s a quick and easy way for you to know what your poop is trying to tell you.
The BS chart classifies poop into seven types according to shape and size. It even gives you pictures.
Your stool should resemble types 3, 4, or 5 on the chart.
Here’s what your stool is telling you:
Type 1: Small, Hard Lumps
Your gut is missing good digestive bacteria. This often happens if you’ve been taking anti-biotics or you’re on a low-carb (low-fiber) diet.
Type 2: Sausage-like but Lumpy
A little more bacteria and fiber holds together the hard lumps. Eliminating these can take a lot of straining and lead to hemorrhoids. To get to this state the stools must be in the colon for several weeks instead of the normal 72 hours. These can also be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome.
Type 3: Sausage-like but with Cracks in the Surface
This form means that time in the colon is between one and two weeks. It indicates the same problems as Type 2 but bowel movements are more regular. Some straining is required.
Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
This form is normal for someone having a bowel movement once a day. It passes easily and with no mess.
Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
This is also considered normal and is typical for a person who has stools twice or three times daily, after major meals.
Type 6: Mushy pieces with ragged edges
This form is more messy, needing lots of toilet paper. It suggests a slightly hyperactive colon, too much potassium in your diet, or sudden dehydration or spikes in blood pressure related to stress. It can also indicate a stressed-out, hypersensitive personal, too many spices, drinking water with a high mineral content, or the use of mineral salt laxatives.
Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces
This, of course, is diarrhea.
One last thing to look for. Black, tarry stools or bright red stools may indicate bleeding in the GI tract. Black stools can also come from certain medications, Pepto Bismol, supplements, or eating too much black licorice. If you have black, tarry stools, it's best to call your doctor.
To get your poop in shape and your time on the toilet more productive, making a few changes in your food and lifestyle can go a long way:
When it comes to choosing the right foods to optimize your bone health, what is the single biggest challenge, frustration or problem you’ve been struggling with?
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From my bones to yours,
Heaton, K W & Lewis, S J. “Stool form scale as a useful guide to intestinal transit time.” Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 1997; vol.32, no.9, pp.920 - 924.