So, I thought I should actually write a post about shit, since it is in the name of our blog. When thinking about what to write about in relation to actual shit, as opposed to the shit I’m usually waffling about, I decided to take some inspiration from my bathroom. I will admit that I have been obsessed with the way my poop looks since a close friend introduced me to the Bristol Stool Chart a few years ago. So now a copy permanently resides in my bathroom and my boyfriend and I regularly throw numbers at each other after time spent alone in there.
The Bristol Stool Chart is used in medical settings to classify patient’s stools into 7 main types as a clinical assessment tool and is also used to measure severity of bowel disease and to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments for bowel disease. In general, the form of your stools can be related to your colonic transit time (how fast food travels through your gut, put simply).
1-2 = slow colonic transit (might indicate constipation)
Did you know? Clinical constipation is defined as regularly having bowel movements less than 3 times a week (fun fact right?!)3-4 = normal colonic transit – 50% of people in the UK regularly have type 4 poops.
5-7 = fast colonic transit:
5= this might indicate a lack of fibre in the diet that helps to bulk up stools.
6= this might indicate a certain amount of inflammation in the gut. This could be related to something you ate that hasn’t agreed with you. If this is your type of poop regularly you might want to go and see your GP just to check that there isn’t anything dodgy going on in your gut.
7= no-one wants this, especially on a regular basis as it is likely that you aren’t getting anywhere near all the nutrients you should be from your food and are losing water, some of which is usually absorbed in the colon. If you have number 7s for a few poops in a row you might have an infection and will definitely want to seek some medical advice and care.
I don’t want to freak anyone out or get anyone obsessing over their shit, but it can be useful to get to know what ‘normal’ looks (and feels) like to you! There are always ways we can take better care of our gut, you’re probably already doing a bunch of them already, but I’ve got some suggestions for top-notch intestinal care.
Tips for healthy poops!
- Drink plenty – the Government recommendations are that everyone should be drinking 6-8 glasses of unsweetened drinks every day. However, some people will naturally need to drink more than this, especially if you’ve been exercising, you’re somewhere hot or if you’re constipated.
- FIBRE!! We need a minimum of 30g fibre every day for good gut and overall health. There are easy ways to up our fibre intake, e.g. add pulses to meals, go for wholegrain versions of starchy foods, get at least 5 A DAY and add nuts and/or seeds to meals or have as snacks. It can also be particularly helpful to include foods that contain prebiotics – these are particular carbohydrates that our gut microbes love to chow down on. Foods that contain prebiotics include artichokes, underripe bananas, chicory, asparagus, onions, leek and garlic.
Did you know? You can also increase the prebiotic content of starchy foods like pasta, rice and potatoes by cooking them, cooling them and then eating them. This increases the resistant starch content = winning!
- Get active and work movement into your life – if you struggle to find dedicated time to get moving the best way is to see where in your day-to-day routine you can just add in some movement. So, for example, getting off the bus a stop earlier, committing to taking stair not lifts or going for a short walk after dinner.
- Foods with live culture – these may benefit your gut health by contributing beneficial bacteria to the collection of microbes that naturally live in your gut. Although many foods are produced by fermentation not all contain live cultures when you eat them (bread, wine, beer etc), however there are some widely available fermented foods like yogurt. It’s getting easier to find fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and komboucha though, although these tend to be super expensive so make your own if you can!
- Reduce stress – self-care is super important for all aspects of our health but stress can also have very negative effects on our gut. So, take some time out for yourself to relax and if you feel like you’re too busy for this, try out the powerful word ‘NO’ for a change!
- Eat a wide variety of foods – this isn’t just exciting and interesting for you but also for the little guys that live in your gut!
Talking about our poop seems to come under the same taboo as talking about periods or any other bodily function that is super natural and important aspects of our body’s daily working. You can buy postcards and posters of the Bristol Stool Chart online so please spread the shitty love and throw out some numbers to anyone who will hear it every day 😉
For the keen readers and evidence-checkers amongst you:
BDA Food Facts – IBS and Diet. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/IBSfoodfacts.pdf
Good Housekeeping – 5 things your bowels are telling you about your health. Available at: http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/health/health-advice/bowel-health-symptoms-causes
International Scientific Association of Probiotics & Prebiotics (ISAPP) – Live microbes and fermented foods by Prof. Robert Hutkins. Available at: https://isappscience.org/fermented-foods/
NHS – Constipation. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation
Prevention (2014) – 7 things your poop says about you. Available at: https://www.prevention.com/health/a20433918/7-things-your-poop-says-about-you/
The Guardian (2018). Magical microbes – how to feed your gut. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/29/magical-microbes-how-to-feed-your-gut