Our bodies are pretty clued on to letting use know how it’s feeling and functioning, but you could potentially be flushing all the evidence away. Turn and take a look as your faecal matters says a lot about your health.
Just as the colour of your urine indicates your hyrdations level, your poo can let you know just what’s going on in the gut. Body and Soul shared this chart to help find out what is going on internally.
Know your stuff
Stools are made up of about three-quarters water, and the rest is fibre, bacteria and some mucous. They range in consistency and colour, and can sink or float. If you know what to look for, you can get some idea of your inner health.
Use the Bristol Stool Chart as a guide
Types 3, 4 and 5 are the healthiest, with 4 the gold standard: a smooth brown banana or snake shape that passes easily.
Types 1 and 2 usually indicate constipation, while types 6 and 7 are abnormal and indicate diarrhoea.
To aim for the gold standard, you need to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg to boost fibre, drink plenty of water to soften your stools, and avoid excess amounts of caffeine and alcohol, both of which strip the body of water and can irritate the gut.
Boost your intestinal flora with naturally fermented food such as yoghurt, and add a probiotic supplement if you suspect your beneficial bacterial may have taken a population hit, such as after using antibiotics.
If you have bouts of types 1 and 2, or 6 and 7 (usually accompanied by abdominal pain and bloating), you could be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A dietitian can help you identify foods that might be causing problems (and in some cases, eliminating these can give you relief in as little as 24 hours), and your GP can prescribe medications to address the symptoms.
Other signs to be aware of
If any of the issues below are a regular occurrence, see your GP or a dietitian with expertise in gastrointestinal health.
These are only possible theories, so don’t panic before you get checked out.
* Regular straining: May indicate constipation or an oversized bowel (megacolon or redundant bowel).
* Pain when pooing: Could be constipation, haemorrhoids or a indicator of an anal tear or fissure.
* Frequent hard/lumpy or watery/mushy stools: Could be IBS, food sensitivity or allergy.
* Very narrow or thin stools: Possible obstruction or colon cancer.
* Dark black or fire-engine red stools/water in the bowl: Certain medications/foods can cause a colour change; may be a sign of haemorrhoids or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
* White or pale stools: Could be due to liver, pancreas or gall bladder issues.
* Undigested food particles: May be due to not chewing well, or a sign of food sensitivity or malabsorption.
* Extraordinarily bad smell: Could be a sign of malabsorption, coeliac disease or an infection.
* Excess mucous around the stool: Could be an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Q: How often is considered normal?
A: There’s no average. Some people go a few times a day, others every second day – that’s still ‘regular’. The key is if your normal changes dramatically, for example, if you’re a 7.30am defecator usually but haven’t gone for four days.
Q: Is there an ideal time of day?
Q: Is there an optimal toilet position, such as squatting?
A: Some cultures use squatting, but it’s tricky to execute on our toilets, so aim for a position where you’re not straining. Sit forward with hands on your thighs, and knees bent higher than your hips (you may need a footstool). And relax.
Q: How is faecal matter used to test for bowel cancer?
A: The faecal occult blood test looks for blood, which indicates further testing is required. Eligible people aged 50-74 will be sent a free at-home screening kit (anyone can request one via their GP; visit cancerscreening.gov.au for details). Each week, about 80 Aussies die of this cancer, but if it’s caught early, up to 90 per cent are treated successfully.