When it comes to your health, your body gives you clues to communicate how it feels and what it needs. When you are in tune with how you feel, you notice these clues as physical symptoms or as intuitive gut feelings. At the basic level, when you’re tired it usually means your body needs to rest, when you’re hungry your body often needs to eat, joint pain might mean your body isn’t doing well with a specific food like tomatoes or peppers. The body is in constant communication with you.
Another tool to gain insight into our body is one that many of us might not think about but it’s a very important one. Your bowel movements are one of the easiest ways to tell if your body is in balance, depleted or overwhelmed.
What do bowel movements tell you about your health?
Bowel movements can tell us about the health of our digestive system, as changes in the color, shape or texture can be signs of dehydration, food intolerance or malabsorption. Although making it a point to notice what’s inside your toilet might not be the most pleasant way to track your health, making it a habit can reveal so many insights into your body and needs.
Although it’s a favorite topic among most first grade boys, as adults we tend to shy away from talking about our bowel movements, labeling it as taboo or impolite but it should be something we’re all comfortable discussing. Afterall, everybody poops!
This Bristol stool chart can be a helpful tool for identifying what’s normal and when something needs attention. Regularly having stools are consistent with the extreme ends of the scale (i.e. scores of 1,2, 6 or 7) may indicate digestive issues that warrant a doctor’s attention.
Our digestive system is closely connected to our nervous system and our brain, and they are in constant, close communication with each other. Our autonomic nervous system controls the digestive tract, which in turn, sends information to your brain. This is also why when you feel like you’re having a “gut feeling,” it can be hard to tell if it’s your head or your gut talking. Additionally, nearly 70% of immune cells reside in and around the intestines, making the health of the gut and the signals it is sending (via poop, gas, bloating, etc) very critical to pay attention to.
Important Signs In Your Stool And What They Mean
Important signs to look out for in your bowel movements are color, frequency and smell. A change in color most likely is from your diet. For example, you may get a reminder that you ate beets if your stool takes on a red color. Increasing your intake of leafy greens can turn your stool green. If you happen to notice that your stool is tarry black or red (and not red from beets), it could signify the presence of blood and is something you want to call your doctor about. Consistently very pale colored stools can be a sign of other problems with your digestive system and should also be brought to your doctor’s attention.
Being aware of how often you’re having a bowel movement is just as important. Ideally, you should be going one to three times a day. If you consistently go more than three times daily or less than once a day and have to strain, it could signal inflammation or constipation and should be discussed with your doctor. Sometimes simply a change in what you eat or drink can go a long way to helping these issues, especially constipation.
Odor can be another clue - infection, the simple presence of some “unfriendly” bacteria, animal fat or spices can cause an unpleasant smell. Although it might not be anything to be concerned about, a sudden change might mean it’s worth bringing up with your doctor or health coach.
Being aware and informed about your bowel movements is a helpful way to stay informed about your body and the clues that it is communicating to you. If you have an autoimmune disease like psoriasis, lupus, Crohn’s, IBD, or RA, and are struggling to find what your body is reacting to, your bowels can be a good indicator. Mymee helps those who struggle with autoimmune disease identify triggers that cause disease flares, so you can reclaim your health. Click here to learn more.