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Have a good look at your poo. It’s a great insight into the state of your health

Have a good look at your poo. It’s a great insight into the state of your health

| JUN 10, 2024

Our digestive system plays a critical role in our health. It impacts not only how we break down food and absorb nutrients, but also our:

  • Mental health; an estimated 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. And when the gut is inflamed or under distress, it sends signals to the brain that can worsen many mental health disorders. 
  • Immune health; 70-80% of the immune cells are housed in the gut as well as plenty of different types of healthy bacteria that are vital for good immunity.
  • Hormone health; gut health plays an important role in oestrogen and insulin regulation. With its connection to inflammation control, mood/stress regulation and nutrient absorption, it impacts the body’s hormone production as a whole.

We can tell a great deal about our health by observing the colour, shape and consistency of our stools. A great resource to look at if you’re not sure what a healthy stool should look like is the Bristol Stool Chart which can be easily found through a quick online search. Generally, a healthy stool should be a smooth, banana shape that is brown, but not too dark or not too light. 

How to have healthy stools & digestion

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with a large variety of fruits and vegetables is important for good gut health. The fibre in many of these foods helps to nourish the gut microbiome and keep things moving through the digestive tract. In addition to this, adequate hydration is required for stomach acid production, to aid in nutrient absorption and to form healthy stools. Avoiding things that can damage your gut microbiome as much as possible (ie. alcohol, unnecessary use of antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials, sleep disturbances, excess sugar or stress, smoking, etc.) is also important.

Signs in your stools that things aren’t right

Important things to look out for in your stool include:

  • Colour: your stool should be a shade of brown, although sometimes certain foods can cause your stool to have a different shade depending on what you eat (ie. green/dark red as an example from high amounts of greens or beetroot); black and red stools should not be ignored and you should speak to a doctor.
  • Shape/Consistency: should be a smooth banana shape; loose or watery stools that are chronic can be an indicator of IBD or IBS and should always be checked by a doctor Acute or occasional loose stools may be nothing to worry about but can be an indicator of a bacterial or viral infection, parasites, microbiome imbalance, inflammation in the gut, food allergies/sensitivities or a poor diet. Hard stools, either in large lumps or small pebble-like pieces is a sign of constipation. Constipation is often caused by either a lack of hydration or a lack of fibre, and increasing both of these as well as introducing an exercise routine can be very helpful to reduce symptoms. Please note that excessive laxative use is not recommended and can have serious long-term health consequences so opting for a natural solution is the safer route.
  • Other factors to look out for: if your stools are floating this could indicate an issue with fat digestion or increased gas in the stool. This is not necessarily a cause for concern but might be worth investigating further. Mucus; small amounts may be ok but larger amounts should be looked into further. Blood in the stool is not normal and you should see a doctor straight away

Other common physical signs that may be linked to gut health include:

  • Constant bloating: could be digestive or hormonal or both; can be linked to food sensitivities, low digestive enzyme production, stress, water retention, constipation, poor diet choices, bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract or infections.
  • Pain: caused by excessive gas in the digestive tract, infections, IBD/IBS, food sensitivities or an ulcer. Seek medical advice if the pain is chronic (meaning it’s ongoing). For less serious causes seek nutritional advice.
  • Excessive gas: the foods in your digestive tract are not being broken down properly and are over fermenting in your gut and causing gas. This can be due to insufficient chewing, poor or wrong diet choices, food sensitivities/allergies or certain medications. It can also be a sign of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
  • Nausea and/or vomiting: chronic nausea can be a sign of a parasite, hormonal changes, ulcers, infections, food allergies, medications, GERD or early pregnancy. Vomiting is usually the result of an infection and should pass in 1-3 days. 
  • Loss of appetite: could be hormonal, stress, underactive thyroid, infections, or gut microbiome changes.
  • Hair loss: a sign of nutrient malabsorption, deficiencies or anemia, stress, hormone imbalances, inflammation or insulin resistance. All can be linked to gut health/status.
  • Weak & brittle nails: may be a sign of nutrient malabsorption, deficiency, anemia or low protein intake. White spots on the nails could indicate mineral imbalances.
  • Period changes: nutrient malabsorption, deficiency or anemia can cause a change in hormone levels, making symptoms of PMS or menstrual symptoms worse. An example is oestrogen dominance (higher oestrogen and lower progesterone) symptoms may be linked to poor gut health; healthy beta-glucuronidase levels, which is an enzyme that helps regulate healthy oestrogen levels in the body, are impacted by the gut microbiome. Oestrogen dominance might look like sore/lumpy breasts, especially before your period,  heavy periods possibly with clots, bloating and water retention before your period or changes in mood, period, weight or PMS symptoms. Poor digestive health can also worsen menstrual symptoms.
  • Acne: an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria may worsen symptoms. Blood sugar balance is key to managing acne and poor gut health can increase sugar cravings.

This is not an exhaustive list but is a good starting point to investigate further.

Possible culprits & causes

  • Too little or too much stomach acid
  • IBD
  • IBS
  • Microbiome imbalance
  • SIBO
  • Parasites
  • H-pylori
  • Inflammation
  • Low enzyme production or bile flow
  • Food sensitivities
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Coeliac disease
  • Stress

Possible solutions, when to seek help and available tests 

More serious causes should be ruled out first by a medical professional. 

Functional gut testing can help find parasites, microbiome imbalances, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or candida overgrowth.Working with a Nutritional Therapist or Functional Health Practitioner can help find the root cause of issues and solutions to reduce or eliminate symptoms. This can be done through diet changes, supplements, lifestyle changes and private testing.

Food sensitivity tests can be helpful but are not always accurate. York Test is a reputable company for this.

Written by Kirsten Humphreys, Business Development Manager and Registered Nutritional Therapist at Bare Biology.

Kirsten is passionate about health and wellbeing with a specific interest in women’s health due to many of the health issues she has struggled with over the years. This includes irregular, heavy and painful periods, acne, IBS/digestive issues, hair loss, burnout, anxiety, depression & panic attacks. She has minimised most of these symptoms through diet, supplements & lifestyle changes and is passionate about helping others do the same.

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