By Carla Oates
Whether we’re aware of it or not, our body is always giving us hints about what’s going on inside. Our hair, nails, eyes and skin can give quite visible feedback on our wellbeing by showing vital signs of vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Our energy levels can tell a story too, as well as our menstrual cycle and sleeping patterns.
The key health indicator that is often overlooked? Our poo.
Number twos are a taboo subject. Everybody does them—if you don’t, that’s a big problem—yet most of us will shy away from the topic in polite conversation. However, bowel movements can give great insight into our health—so a healthy poo is more important than you may realise.
Let’s pull back the curtain (or should we say: lift the toilet lid?) on what an optimal stool looks like and how you can support your digestive health.
Your Poo Is Always Talking To You: Have You Been Listening?
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how often an average adult should pass a bowel movement, one 2018 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that anywhere from three times per day to three times per week can be an indicator of good health.
What’s important is to note what “normal” is for you. Are you familiar with the frequency of your poos? This is your baseline. If this changes, you may need to do some problem-solving or consult a doctor if the problem doesn’t rectify itself.
There are other lifestyle factors that can disrupt our bowel habits. For example: constipation is common at Christmas time, due to significant dietary shifts, larger portion sizes, increased sugar consumption and irregular eating patterns.
A 2018 study found that increased alcohol consumption can also irritate the lining of the gut, leading to inflammation and increased permeability of the intestinal lining. Ever noticed a change in your bowel habits after a boozy weekend? It’s not all in your head. One recent study found that beverages containing spirits (with over 15 per cent alcohol content) can cause constipation while drinks containing low alcohol doses (beer and wine) can lead to diahhrea.
Stress is another factor that can wreak havoc on our digestion, all year round. Your brain and your gut are in constant communication via the gut-brain axis, and this can impact digestion. When you’re stressed, this triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, slowing down digestion so that the body can focus its attention on fighting the perceived threat. In cases of severe stress, digestion may stop altogether, says Harvard Medical School.
The Bristol Stool Chart
One way to decode your poo at a glance is by consulting the Bristol Stool Chart.
Formulated in 1998 by University of Bristol researchers Stephen Lewis and Ken Heaten, this easy-to-understand graphic charts the seven most common stool consistencies across the spectrum from constipation to normal gut health and diahhrea.
Types three and four are considered to be optimal—if you’re not already there, this is what we should all be aiming for.
What Does A Normal Poo Look Like?
Every person’s digestive system is unique, so there’s a spectrum of what is considered normal toilet behaviour.
How long should it take to pass a bowel movement?
A 'normal' poo should pass without extreme urgency and should expel easily. The Beauty Chef’s resident Customer Service Advisor & Naturopath Jessie Hoeschle recommends spending no longer than 10 minutes on the toilet: “If you’re feeling constipated, try sitting on the toilet and taking 10 deep belly breaths in order to relax and ‘let go’. If the urge to pass a bowel movement does not occur, then don't stay any longer—try again at a later time.”
She adds: “Once you have finished a bowel movement do not stay any longer, as this can lead to haemorrhoids.”
Is the timing of a bowel movement important?
Do we need to pass a bowel movement at the same time each day to be considered regular? “This will vary between individuals and does not need to be at a set time each day,” Jessie shares. “While there is no ideal time, if you are going roughly around the same time each day, this is usually a sign that your digestive system is functioning well.”
Is it normal for poo to smell?
While all poo has some sort of odour, “If it is consistently foul, overpowering, or has a smell you’re not used to, it may require further investigation,” Jessie explains.
What does our poo colour say about our health?
Just as poo comes in all shapes and sizes, it can come in a variety of colours too, such as brown, black, green, red, yellow or even pale white.
We should all aim for a medium brown coloured stool, Jessie says, “However, this will vary depending on your diet and the amount of bile present (this is what gives poo its brown colour).”
“Green, yellow and red poo can be caused by specific foods and medications. That said, there are some changes in colour that you should watch out for—white, yellow or clay-coloured poo may indicate changes in bile production or release.”
“Tar-coloured or black poo may indicate the presence of blood within your digestion, and bright red blood is often the sign of a fissure or haemorrhoid. Any unusual changes in poo colour should definitely be consulted with your healthcare practitioner.”
Support Your Digestive Health With The Beauty Chef
At The Beauty Chef, we believe that ‘beauty begins in the belly’®—that when you are healthy on the inside, your skin radiates a natural glow that no amount of cosmetics can replicate. But it’s not just about skin health—when you feed your gut with beneficial bacteria, it leads to better digestion and yes, better poos.
If you’re in need of a “reset”, consider CLEANSE Inner Beauty Support—a daily super-greens powder designed to help realign the body. CLEANSE can be taken alone or as part of our 14-day Cleanse Program, which is a fast-track to improved gut health and elimination.
CLEANSE supports a healthy gut microbiome thanks to Flora Culture™—our unique bio-fermentation process that supercharges wholefood ingredients, making them more bioavailable and creating a natural, broad-spectrum probiotic with postbiotic compounds.
It is also a great source of fibre to help keep you regular. With broccoli sprout, barley grass, spinach, kale, spirulina and milk thistle, this naturally apple-flavoured blend is a potent serving of green goodness and the ideal gut detox for combatting sluggishness after times of excess.
5 Tips For A Healthy Poo
Ready to get things back on track? Jessie shares her top five tips for a healthy poo.
- Practice more conscious eating. “Chew your food thoroughly, sit down to eat, (away from screens), don’t rush your meals, and try to consume liquids away from food. Remember that digestion begins when you see and smell your food!”
- Consume plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre. “CLEANSE is a fibre-rich greens powder, containing nutrients that support liver function and digestion, as well as prebiotics and probiotics which help to maintain a healthy gut.”
- Keep hydrated with at least two litres of water daily. Faecal composition is approximately 70-75 per cent water—the more water we drink, the softer the stool.
- Include fermented foods in your diet to promote a healthy gut. We know that fermented foods are teeming with beneficial bacteria to help nourish our gut microbiome.
- Manage your stress levels. “Do whatever works for you—e.g. exercise, meditation, breath work. The gut-brain axis can have a huge affect on your digestive processes!"
Download the free 14-day Cleanse Program here.