Are you regular with your poos?
Poo, poop, stool or faeces? This is what we call the waste that we pass, as a result of the food and drinks we consume being digested.
What is poo?
Poo contains fibre, water, bile and bacteria. Fibre is the word given to non-digestible carbohydrates derived from plant sources in our diet. Fibre is often described as ‘soluble fibre’ or ‘insoluble fibre’.
Soluble fibre includes pectin and beta-glucans, from fruit and oats respectively. Insoluble fibre is found in whole grains and nuts. In nature, fibre-rich foods tend to include both types of fibre. Resistant starch, such as that found in grains, legumes, bananas and potatoes is also classed as fibre.
Fibre aids transit time, meaning it allows poo to be passed in a timely manner, without causing a backlog of potentially toxic chemicals as well as adding bulk to your poo. Significant bulk is one of the key components of healthy poo.
Bile or ‘gall’ is produced by the liver and stored and released in the gall bladder as a natural part of the digestion of fats. It also plays a role in the digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D & E). Once no longer needed, bile salts are excreted and form part of poo, giving it a brown colour.
The bacteria found in poo is collected from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract along its journey to excretion. A typical adult human has around 100,000 billion bacteria comprising the microbiome or microflora of our gut. Within this are around 1,000 different types of bacteria in the large intestine.
Bacteria is not a bad word when it comes to our GI tract… Some bacteria are present to create balance to the overall microflora, fighting negative bacteria that can sometimes cause infection or disease. The intestinal microflora is able to synthesise vitamin K, as well as most of the water‐soluble B vitamins, such as cobalamin, folates, pyridoxine, riboflavin and thiamine. Excess bacteria are added to our poo as it prepares to exit our GI tract.
What is a healthy poo?
Regular bowel movements are associated with ‘good’ bowel health but there’s more to a healthy bowel than the frequency of bowel movements. The first thing we should consider is how urgent we feel the need to go. A healthy bowel should be able to give the signal of needing to poo but be able to wait a short time until it’s convenient for us to pass, when we’re near a toilet. Our poo should pass fairly quickly out of our bodies without taking more than a few minutes to complete the process.
The size and consistency of our poo is a key indicator of a healthy bowel motion with the ideal being described like ‘a smooth sausage’ by the Bristol Stool Chart or Bristol Stool Scale. This formation will mean that passing poo does not hurt and no straining should occur.
The Bristol Stool Chart
As you can see from the chart, Type 7, 6 and to a degree, type 5 is diarrhoea. Diarrhoea occurs for a number of reasons but usually lasts only 3-6 days during minor infections or imbalances to your GI flora. Longer episodes of diarrhoea should be reported to your GP.
On the opposite end of the scale, Types 1 and 2 are typically associated with constipation. They produce dark, hard, very difficult to pass stools that are likely to tear the delicate tissue of the colon, and/or cause haemorrhoids. These types are a result of insufficient water or fibre in the diet. Exercise has been shown to encourage bowel movements, with lack of exercise being linked to sluggish bowel movements.
Types 3 and 4 are thought to be the ideal poo formation, soft and comfortable to pass.
What colour is healthy poo?
Poo varies in colour too – healthy poo should be brown. A high intake of green leafy vegetables or ‘superfoods’ such as chlorella, wheatgrass or barley grass can turn your poo greenish – this is also normal! Lighter yellowish stools can be associated with infection or inflammation, it would be advised to report this to your GP for investigation but don’t panic as it could be something that is easily remedied.
Darker poo that looks black can also be normal when taking certain supplements or high levels of iron in your diet. If this does not apply to you and you have black poo suddenly, it may indicate further health issues that would be better investigated by your GP.
Passing small amounts of blood with your poo could be related to side effects of constipation or haemorrhoids. More than that should be reported to your GP as it may indicate an underlying health condition.
How often should I poo?
Regularity differs for all of us and anywhere between several daily bowel motions to a motion every other day all fall within the range of what’s considered ‘normal’.
Healthy poo is of concern to many with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), both diarrhoea and constipation variations of it, which is growing in incidence within the UK population. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, seeds and legumes and drinking two litres of water per day will help to keep your bowel movements regular and in good form. Other ways that may support your bowel health include taking a daily supplement of friendly bacteria and regularly washing hands and food items when preparing and consuming food.
To recap, healthy poo should be brown, firm, smooth and easy to pass. Regular poo habits include those that happen every other day for some people or as often as after every meal for others. Although it’s not a topic we all feel at ease talking about, we should monitor our bowel habits and be confident enough to report them to our GP if we are at all concerned.
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Want to know more?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying regular please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107