When the Nutritionist Gillian McKeith, first introduced on TV the analysis of poo as a great indicator of health I was as prone to saying urgh! to the TV as the next person and wondered if we really needed to see all that excrement? Having said that, a good nutritional consultation should always include a discussion around their client’s stools and bowel movements.
Checking your own poo is a great indicator of your intestinal health. Using the Bristol Stool Chart (BSC) is a fantastic place to start analysing how well your digestive system is working. My children are well versed in knowing when their poo doesn’t look normal and on the odd occasion when something is looking abnormal I am called to inspect, (I get all the best jobs - no pun intended).
If you have ever had the pleasure of using a toilet in Germany then you will notice that your poo will land on a ‘shelf’ in the toilet designed to facilitate examination before flushing. They hold the very wise belief that a person’s best defence against intestinal disease is to become familiar with any signs of abnormality in the stool.
The consistency of our poo depends on how long it has spent in the colon, how hydrated we are and how healthy or processed our food is. The longer the foecal matter spends 'in transit', the more liquid that is absorbed through the colon into the body and so the drier the end result is going to be. A lack of water in the body will also cause dryness. The BSC is a general guide and a good indicator of your overall digestive health:
Types 1 indicates constipation. With slow transport time and / or dehydration it is likely that these stools are hard and dry in nature, painful to pass possibly with some bleeding and with the bowel unlikely to have been fully evacuated.
Type 2 also indicates constipation. As opposed to the constipated stools of type 1, the more formed type 2 stools are likely to cause extreme straining due to their hard 1 to 2cm width. These stools are likely to be indicative of piles or diverticulosis (pouches in the colon wall), if not rectified.
Type 3 are similar to type 2 but not as uncomfortable or slow to pass. Bowel movements may still be regular but there are still signs of constipation.
Type 4 are healthy, easy to pass stools. These stools are indicative of someone who eats a healthy diet and has good hydration levels. This type of bowel movement would be typical of someone who empties his or her bowels everyday. Type 4 and 5 stools are the easiest to pass and the healthiest.
Type 5 are also considered healthy and normal even though they are less formed than type 4. These bowel movements are likely to be those of someone who goes after every meal, (the ideal).
Type 6 may be normal or may indicate slight diarrhoea, possibly due to a hyperactive colon.
Type 7 may be a sign of illness. The diarrhoea of these watery type stools could be caused by many factors: food poisoning, an infection, or a condition affecting the gut or overflow from constipation (as in cases of IBS and inflammation of the bowel).
If you ever find blood in your stools then seek medical advice.
If you want to have the Bristol Stool Chart handy and feel you would benefit from interpreting your bowel movements after a change in diet or are recovering from ill health, e.g. bowel cancer, then there is a free App available to download with pictures and a graph to record your bowel movements.
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