4 Ways To Tell If Your Poop Is Healthy (& What To Do If It's Not)
We all go. It's a fact of life. But did you know that your bowel movements can reveal a lot about the state of your gut?
The gut is home to over a trillion microbes including bacteria, yeast, and fungi. While its main job is breaking down and digesting food, a healthy gut also plays a role in your mental health and immune system. Simply put: Gut health needs to be taken seriously. What you put into your body determines your gut health, and looking at what comes out of your body can tell you a lot about the state of this all-important system. If you feel bloated, gassy, or just plain uncomfortable, you could have a gut filled with bad bacteria.
Here are some things to pay attention to when you go, to stay in the know about your gut health.
What to pay attention to the next time you go to the bathroom
- Stool shape: Your intestines are about 25 feet long1, which is roughly four refrigerators stacked one on top of another. You want to keep your intestinal tract cleansed, not clogged. If your gut is cleansed, your poop will resemble an "S" shape. That is an indication that you are keeping things moving in your body.
- Transit time: That's the time it takes the food you eat to go from the table…to the toilet. The anecdotal way you can measure transit is by the corn test. It''s simple: If you had corn the night before but don't see it until a few days later, you might be more backed up than you think you are. Corn is high in insoluble fiber, which means it comes out just as it went in: whole. The key is to not see this too quickly after you eat it (immediately) or too long after you eat it (several days later). Both of those instances could signal something is off with your gut.
- Stool texture: If your stool has hard lumps or cracks on the surface, it can be an indication your gut health isn't ideal. On the flip side, soft blobs, liquid, or a mushy consistency are also red flags. You want to achieve a stool that is smooth and snake-like (learn more about what healthy poop looks like here).
- Frequency. The rule about how many bathroom trips are "normal" is pretty broad (between three times a week and three times a day is considered healthy). But if it's painful to go, or you are going more than three times a day or less than three times per week, it could be a clue that you need to pay more attention to your gut health.
How to get things moving like they should again
Did you notice any abnormalities when paying attention to the factors above? Here are my favorite tips to help you get bathroom trips back on track:
Use a step stool.
If you are having a hard time pooping, using a little step stool can really help. All you have to do is place your feet on the step stool to elevate your knees. This straightens your rectum, making it easier to go. (The stool helps you relieve your stool, as I like to say.)
Put on your headphones.
Go ahead, find your favorite song and sing it out loud. Scientists believe that singing stimulates your vagus nerve, which helps to activate contractions to move stool through the digestive system. So instead of singing in the shower, try singing on the toilet.
Ditch the phone.
Your phone may be helpful for passing time in the bathroom, but unfortunately, it won't help you pass anything else. A whopping 75% of people admit to taking their phone to the bathroom according to one survey, but I'm sorry to say, phones can make you sit on the toilet way longer than you need and make it a more difficult experience.
Push your "poop button."
Still need a little extra help going to the bathroom? One more thing you can try is pushing your "poop button." You read that correctly. There is a special spot on your body that can get things moving. According to acupuncturists, if you are feeling backed up, bloated, or gassy, the best pressure point to push is Conception Vessel 6, or Sea of Qi, which lies about three finger widths below your navel.
All you have to do is gently push that spot on your stomach (no more than 1 inch deep) and hold for 30 seconds. This has the power to help relieve constipation and bloating and strengthen digestion.
Bring on the fiber, fluids, and probiotics.
All in all, the proper poop is going to come down to fiber and fluids! Men should aim to get at least 35 grams of fiber per day, and women should aim for 25 grams. Adding foods like berries, oatmeal, cruciferous vegetables, avocado, and artichokes can increase your fiber intake.
When it comes to fluids, you want your urine to be a pale yellow color by the end of the day. That's an indication you're properly hydrated.
To achieve better gut health, add prebiotic foods including garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots, as well as probiotic foods including kombucha, Greek yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut to your plate. You can also consider adding a synbiotic supplement, which contains both pre- and probiotics. (Here is mbg's list of the top probiotic supplements of the year for gut health.)
Paying attention to what you do on the potty can yield tremendous insight into the state of your gut health. Check out the shape, texture, and frequency of your stool to get a sense of what's going on in your gut. It's a lot of potty talk, but the more you know, the more you'll go.
Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D., is a world-renowned expert and leading voice in health and wellness. A frequent contributor on Nationally Syndicated TV programs like Good Morning America, The Talk and Good Day LA, she is also the host of her own highly rated PBS specials. In addition, Dr. Kellyann is a regular contributor to publications like USA Today, Forbes, Everyday Health and Bloomberg. She reaches 428K people across her social media platforms and 3.2M unique visitors to her website monthly.
A New York Times Best Selling author of 10 books translated into 9 languages, Dr. Kellyann’s most recent success is The Bone Broth Breakthrough (2022). Debuting as number 1 in multiple Amazon wellness categories, The Bone Broth Breakthrough was named a number 1 new release and Dr. Kellyann is listed as a Top 10 author on the prestigious Publisher’s Weekly List.
As a naturopathic physician who works with many well-known celebrities, Dr. Kellyann helps people reduce dangerous belly fat, heal digestive discomfort, and feel slimmer, younger, and better. With her simple-to-follow lifestyle changes, Dr. Kellyann empowers others to take control of their health.