What does your bowel motions tell us about your health?
No one likes talking about their bowel motions (unless you are a naturopath and then we love it!) however the consistency, shape, colour and odour of our bowel motions tells us a lot about not only our digestive health but our overall health.
The benefits of being able to examine our stools is that it is one of the few body systems where we can see the starting products (the food we eat) and the end product (our stools); bowel motions can show me as a naturopath whether you are consuming enough water, fibre, inflammation levels in the body, an indication of how many nutrients are being absorbed but also how effective the digestive system is at breaking down the food we eat.
I use a tool in clinic, the Bristol Stool Chart, to make the conversation less embarrassing when talking about your stool consistency.
The Bristol Stool Chart:
The chart breaks down stool types into 7 categories:
Type 1 indicates severe constipation, and is separate hard lumps, similar to nuts.
This type of stool formation indicates a lack of bacteria in the stool, and because there are no bacteria, there is nothing to retain water. These stools can be difficult to pass and can cause straining and rectal bleeding or haemorrhoid formation.
This stool type is commonly seen post-antibiotic use and those on a low fibre diet.
Type 2: Lumpy and sausage like.
Type 2 is similar to Type 1 however all of the individual lumps have impacted into a single mass and lumped together with a little bit of fibre and some bacteria. This stool type causes significant straining during elimination and can have serious consequences long term. Usually to form a stool type like this, the stools stay in the intestines for longer than 72 hours. This is a common stool type for IBS-C (constipation) due to the continuous pressure of the large intestine. Additional fibre can be harmful here as the large intestine is already at full capacity and motility of the large intestine needs to be addressed first.
Type 3: A sausage shape with surface cracks.
The speed of this stool from mouth to anus has sped up from Type 2, indicating more regular bowel motions, there can be some straining but overall the stool is of a good consistency. This is an ideal stool consistency type alongside Type 4.
Type 4: A smooth, soft sausage or snake.
This is the ideal stool consistency and indicates regular defecation with a good amount of fibre and hydration in the diet.
Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges. This stool type indicates more frequent defecation than a Type 3-4. Due to their consistency, fibre is lacking in this diet and can assist to regulate stool formation in moderation.
Type 6: Mushy consistency with ragged edges.
This stool type indicates mild diarrhoea and a hyperactive colon (fast motility). This stool type can indicate a large amount of stress also. Urgency may be of concern and needs to be addressed if this a regular bowel motion to ensure nutrient absorption is occurring.
Type 7: Liquid consistency with no solid pieces.
With this type of stool, the liquid contents of the small intestine are cleared out and the watery consistency indicates little time being spent in the large intestine where some water is reabsorbed. Rehydration is important here.
This stool type can be caused by an infection or irritation of the digestive tract. It is also quite common to have this type of stool after a type 1-2 stool to clear the digestive tract.
This stool type requires support as can signify problems in the digestive tract and hydration and nutrient absorption need to be assessed.
Other factors that can alter your stool consistency include:
- Level of hydration
- Stress levels
- What your diet consists of
- Autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis
As a naturopath, I aim for majority of my clients to experience a Type 3-4 stool regularly (once to twice daily) to ensure regular defecation, nutrient absorption is optimal and the transit time through the digestive tract is regulated.
If you want assistance in regulating your stool consistency, bookings can be made HERE.