It’s not commonly known that, when it comes to assessing our health, looking to the toilet is often a good place to start –  turning around to look and smell your own feces after spending some time on the toilet will give you a good indication of the state of your health.

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The average person generates about five tonnes of stool in his or her lifetime, and again, by looking at the shape, size, colour, and more, a person might be able to learn a lot about their overall health and how their  gastrointestinal tract is functioning. Looking at your feces can also provide insights into what diseases you may be carrying.

The Bristol Stool Chart

The Bristol Stool chart, classified as a “medical aid,” groups the characteristics of human feces into seven different categories. It was created by Lewis and Heaton at the University of Bristol and was originally published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 1997. It’s also commonly referred to as the “Meyers Scale.” (source)

This chart is used today as an effective tool to evaluate treatments for various diseases within the bowel, and it’s also considered a useful “clinical communication aid.” (source) (source)

Not to say that the chart does not come without criticism – the validity of it has been questioned before – but despite this fact it is still widely used and is believed to be an effective tool by many health professionals.

Here is the chart:

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Healthy Stool

  • Medium to light brown
  • Smooth and soft, formed into one long shape, not separated into little pieces
  • About one to two inches in diameter and up to 18 inches long
  • S-shaped, which comes from the shape of your lower intestine
  • Quiet and gentle dive into the water, it should fall into the bowl with the slightest little “whoosh” sound, not a loud splash
  • Natural smell, not repulsive
  • Uniform texture
  • Sinks slowly

Unhealthy Stool

  • Stool that is hard to pass, painful, or requires straining
  • Hard lumps and pieces, or mushy and watery, or even pasty and difficult to clean off
  • Narrow, pencil-like, or ribbon-like stools: these can indicate a bowel obstruction or tumor – or worst case, colon cancer: narrow stools on an infrequency basis are not so concerning, but if they persist, this definitely warrant a call to your physician
  • Black, tarry stools or bright red stools may indicate bleeding in the GI tract; black stools can also come from certain medications, supplements, or consuming black licorice: if you have black, tarry stools, it’s best to be evaluated by your healthcare provider
  • White, pale, or gray stools may indicate a lack of bile, which may suggest a serious problem (hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatic disorders, or possibly a blocked bile duct), so this warrants a call to your physician; antacids may also produce white stool
  • Yellow stools may indicate giardianfection, a gallbladder problem, or a condition known as  Gilbert’s syndrome – if you see this, call your doctor
  • Increased mucus in stool: this can be associated with an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, or even colon cancer, especially if accompanied by blood or abdominal pain

Foul Smelling Stools

No stool is going to smell pleasant, but generally, healthy stools have a common (not too foul) odor that is familiar. Stools that have unusually bad smells may be due to various medical conditions such as (source):

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Intestinal infection
  • Malabsorption
  • Short bowel syndrome

For common causes of increased/decreased bowel frequency or diarrhea, you can click here.

How To Improve Your Bowel Movements And The Importance of Diet

Ever since the medical industry switched over to chemical-based medicine, all we see being used are pills and medicines to combat various diseases, with very little emphasis placed upon the importance of diet.

There are of course herbal remedies you can take as well that help to improve your bowel movements and get you on your way to good health. But these should be combined with good diet as well.

That being said, the modern day food industry itself is being questioned daily, with most of North American food being banned in other countries due to the high amount of harmful pesticides sprayed on them, combined with the fact that they are genetically modified.  Science is now showing us that pesticide accumulation in the body is significantly (I emphasize “significantly”) higher when eating conventional foods compared to organic. You can read more about that here.

“Most gastrointestinal problems can be prevented or resolved by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you aren’t achieving poo perfection, or if you don’t feel right, then look at the following factors and consider making a few changes. These strategies will help reverse constipation or diarrhea, in addition to helping prevent recurrences.” – Dr. Joespeh Mercola

Dr. Mercola outlines some tips for improving your bowel movements:

  • Remove all sources of gluten from your diet (the most common sources are wheat, barley, rye, spelt and other grains)
    Eat a diet that includes whole foods, rich in fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber; most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not from grains
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, excess sugar (especially fructose), chemical additives, MSG, excessive amounts of caffeine, and processed foods, as they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal (and immune) function
    Boost your intestinal flora by adding naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir (if you tolerate dairy); add a probiotic supplement if you suspect you’re not getting enough beneficial bacteria from your diet alone
  • Try increasing your fiber intake; good options include psyllium and freshly ground organic flax seed (shoot for 35 grams of fiber per day)
  • Make sure you stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water
  • Get plenty of exercise daily
  • Avoid pharmaceutical drugs, such as pain killers like codeine or hydrocodone, which will slow your bowel function; antidepressants and antibiotics can cause a variety of GI disruptions as well
  • Address emotional challenges with tools like EFT
  • Consider squatting instead of sitting to move your bowels; squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle and encourages the complete emptying of your bowel without straining. It has also been scientifically shown to relieve constipation and hemorrhoids.

Sources used:

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