As an integrative pediatric neurologist, I'm often the first doctor to have even asked about their child’s stool, so parents are genuinely shocked by the suggestion that it might hold secrets to the problems in their bodies and brains.
But more and more studies now show that what’s happening in the gut can affect what’s happening in the body and brain, and vice versa. For example, an unhealthy gut can manifest as symptoms like anxiety, poor memory, migraines, even seizures. Even though it’s waste, stool is an external reflection of what’s happening inside of our children’s bodies — from how their bodies interact with the food they eat, to whether they have sufficient stomach acid and bile, to whether their gut microbes are in balance.
If your child has a healthy gut and digestion, here's generally what you should notice: Your child poops at least once a day, and it should take under 5 to 10 minutes between entering to exiting the bathroom (of course, bringing a book or a device might artificially increase toilet time). The stool should come out easily, without strain or pain, be brown and shaped like a tube or banana, and clean up easily. It should flush easily — no clogging the toilet or sticking to the basin. And while there may be an odor for a short period of time, it shouldn’t linger for long after the toilet is flushed. Gas, burps, and stomachaches should be minimal.
What else should you know? Here are a few common examples of what your child’s stool might be telling you about their health, and a few easy ways to respond: