This is something I actually hope to hear from clients who have complained about irregular bowel movements; whether it is diarrhea or constipation. Or both! For the next three weeks I will be talking about bowel movements, what’s “normal”/ “abnormal” and to get you, I, and everyone to start talking about bowel movements! Why? Too often, if we have a problem, err, down there, we are too embarrassed to talk about it or assume that that’s “normal” and try to forget about it. When in fact, you are uncomfortable and embarrassed. Why not start talking about it? We all poop, so wouldn’t it be great if we could all have “normal” poo? :)
What do I mean when I say “normal”? Also, what’s with all the air quotes?? Well, it’s because we all have our own version or a normal bowel movement. How often you can have a bowel movement ranges quite a lot. Most people think that we “should” have one at least daily. Well, let me bust this myth! It can be as much as three times per day to as little as once every 3 days or more!! Also, the transit time (the time it takes your food to pass from your mouth to your anus) also varies. This can range from 18 to 72 hours. This means your supper meal tonight could stay in your system for 3 days before being excreted. Is that bad? Not necessarily. But what we do know is that a diet that’s higher in fruits, vegetables and whole grains tend to have a positive effect; meaning more frequent bowel movements and a faster transit time.
Did you know that your poo generally consists of 75% water?? Most people that come into my office who complain about being constipated on average only drink about 1 litre of water per day. By reviewing the importance of adding even just half a litre (500 mL) a day of water, they can see a benefit in the frequency and consistency of their bowel movements. (Sometimes we need to add more than just 500 mL). So, if you are feeling a little constipated, take a quick look at your fluid intake and add 1-2 more cups per day (to start).
We talked about the frequency, now what about color and consistency? The typical color of a bowel movement is a medium brown – not too light and not too dark. We don’t want to see other colors either, therefore no yellow, orange, silver (yes I said silver), red (unless you’ve just eaten beets) nor black. A green tinge may happen if you’ve eaten something that really didn’t agree with you. If these colors remain, consider seeking some professional help.
Have you ever heard of the Bristol Stool Chart? This is the best way to see what a “normal” poo should look like. The closer you are at either end of the chart, the less “normal” your poo is. Ideally, we are aiming for a nice banana-like poo! Now, I’m not suggesting to bend down and do a full examination of your poo, just take a quick glance before you flush.
There are many factors that can affect your digestion, from your probiotic makeup, psychological factors like the appearance, smell and taste of foods to our emotional state (.e. fear, stress, anxiety, worry). If you are feel that your bowel movements are a little “abnormal” and you feel that your diet is balanced and active enough, consider looking at the other factors. Consulting with a Dietitian can definitely help you along the way too!
Next week, I’ll be addressing constipation and we will finish our discussion with diarrhea/loose bowel movements.
If you have any questions about this topic, I would LOVE to hear them!!
I work as a Dietitian and definitely walk the talk. I love to cook and help people get back to being healthy again.