Remember back in 2004 when a certain Ms Gillian McKeith first graced our screens asking patients to defecate in tupperware tins? Oh how we chuckled!
Like some sort of fecal clairvoyant, McKeith confidentiality assured us - with a very straight face - that she could identify our ills by staring at our poop.
If you're not from round these parts, or if you're too young to recall Channel 4's finest hour, let me elaborate. Gillian McKeith is a Scottish born television personality, nutritionist and writer. Despite her title of 'Doctor' she isn't one. Well, not a medical doctor at any rate. She also took part in 'I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here' where she spent most of her time seemingly mock-fainting in the jungle, and shortly afterwards a chap called Brett Domino released a song about her, which somehow made it to number 29 in the UK charts! (in fairness it's quite amusing - have a listen)
I digress, let's get onto poo. A good seven years before Dr McKeith first graced our screens, something called 'The Bristol Stool Chart' was developed as a clinical assessment tool. There are seven types of poop according to the Bristol Stool Chart (more about these later), and it sensibly suggests that what you see in the toilet bowl is a direct result of your diet, fluids, medications and lifestyle.
We all have slightly varying habits when it comes to passing number twos, but there are some common denominators which are a solid (pardon the pun) reflection of our overall good or ill health.
How Often Should I Poo?
It's often thought we need to poo at least once a day to be 'regular', but that's actually not the case. Whilst it's normal for people to go every day, it's not compulsory, and it's actually more common to go a little more or less often. Being 'regular' really means that a slightly soft, yet well-structured bowel motion occurs anywhere from one to three times per day to just three times per week.
Signs of a Good Poo
So, now that we know how often we should be aiming to number two, what constitutes a good poo?!
- you should be able to delay things slightly and 'hold on' for a short time after you feel the first urge to go
- you should be able to pass a bowel motion within about a minute of sitting on the toilet - excluding the time to check facebook and whatsapp your mates!
- you ought to be able to poo fairly easily without straining or pain. It should not feel too hard and dry when you go
- you should be able to fully empty your bowels when you poo, so that you're not returning to the toilet again a short time afterwards
How are Poo and Skin Connected?
Pip prompted me to write today's blog post. She's a mum of two who sent in a review about my Multi Strain Biotic last week. I was absolutely thrilled to hear it's helping her little boy so much, and the thing I loved most about her review was the fact she highlighted a really important connection that just is not talked about enough ...
"This has made an enormous difference his stools are becoming firm and his skin is clearing up. His tummy is becoming stronger so he’s not getting the same painful cramps he was struggling with so everyone is getting much more sleep(thank you!!)!"
I reached out to Pip to thank her for taking the time to post such detailed feedback and share my excitement over her little boys clearing skin, she elaborated "His skin improving is obviously great but the nappies are absolutely incredible. We just were not getting solid stools, even with all the allergens out of his diet, only sugar from fruit (limited fruit mostly veg etc etc) and they smelt permanently poorly, like when kids have a flu they had that smell about them. It was just always curry consistency. Well they are so much better, mostly solid now and his tummy isn’t bloating the same. It’s literally improved his quality of life no end, thank you!!"
WOW! Such a difference from a few drops of this probiotic formula! So, how and why?
When we poo, we excrete all the stuff our body wants to get rid of. Our body can eliminate toxins through a number of different pathways: kidneys and urine, skin and sweat, and through bile and the intestines. The waste we pass when we poo is predominantly made up of water, bacteria, indigestible fibre, metabolic waste, medicine remains, cholesterol, and food colourants.
Our skin is our largest elimination organ, but it's the bowel that is often the most neglected. When our bowels are not performing as they should, everything gets backed up. This can weaken the health of our organs and overburden the kidneys and skin which desperately attempt to come to its aid.
When you're struggling with irregular bowel movements or poorly formed poo, you might notice immediate problems with your digestive health such as inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, but poor bowel health can also reflect visibly in our skin. Chronic inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne can mirror an internal problem.
Gut, Skin, Poo
I might put that on a T-shirt!
You know I've talked a lot on this blog about our gut / skin axis. The very close connection between our gut health and how that's reflected in our skin is a very real and well researched phenomenon. Now research tells us that our overall gut microbiome health is also reflected in having a regular, daily bowel movement. It can also show us that things are not quite right internally if we’re suffering from diarrhea or constipation, and this in turn can begin to reflect in chronic inflammation both in terms of digestive health and skin health.
Typically, if you're struggling with constipation, you might notice a duller and drier skin complexion due to the lack of hydration in the body. Dehydration is a common marker of constipation and as such it stands to reason that the rest of our body, and our complexion, might be parched as well. Flaky skin, dry and irritated patches and lifeless hair or brittle nails can go hand in hand with feeling blocked up.
If you’re dealing with very loose bowel movements, that commonly shows up in the opposite way on the skin's surface. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it's seen as 'damp', which can manifest in the form of excess grease. If you struggle with blocked pores, which struggle to retain fluids naturally, you might notice an unhealthy oily sheen to your skin and this could be reflective of 'damp'. It might manifest as acne or excessively greasy hair.
Diet for Healthy Stools and Skin
So far as diet goes, a combination of fresh vegetables and fruit, rich in natural fibres, are key to keeping things regular. Fresh, plant-based ingredients are also rich in polyphenols which can help keep things moving along.
If you're struggling with constipation, dried fruits such as prunes or figs, fresh apples and pears, or sweet potato and rhubarb are your friends! Make sure you get plenty of fresh water each day to encourage things to stay regular. Only use laxatives if you're prescribed these by a doctor, they can really mess with your digestive system.
If you're suffering with diarrhea, the BRAT diet can assist - that is Banana, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. BRAT foods are low-fibre and can help to firm up stools. Just as with constipation, make sure you stay well hydrated. You lose lots of water through loose bowel movements, so ensuring your take on extra is key.
Going forward, probiotics can be really useful to resolve or prevent bowel problems. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can exert a positive impact on the gut, as well as our skin. You can source these naturally from some amazing fermented foods including:
It's important that you buy fresh versions of these foods so that they really are crammed with live cultures. Processed, tinned sauerkraut just is not going to cut it! I like fellow Northerners Loving Foods which you can find on Amazon and in all good local UK health stores.
If you'd prefer a convenient, easy to take shot each morning, a spoonful of my Multi Strain Biotic will do the job effectively. Filled with fifteen bio live cultures, alongside specific botanicals to promote Clear Skin, this formula is both vegan and gluten free.
The Bristol Stool Chart
Take a look at the information below to see where you feature in the stool charts! We should ideally be aiming for Type 3 or 4.
Type 1 – Separate hard lumps, often difficult to pass, sometimes resembling nuts in shape and size
Type 2 – A lumpy sausage shape that can also be difficult to pass
Type 3 – Sausage-shaped, but with several cracks running across the surface
Type 4 – A smooth long snake shape, no cracks or lumps
Type 5 – A series of soft blobs with well-defined edges
Type 6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges, looking more like a pile than clear separate stools
Type 7 – Liquid in form, containing no solid pieces
What to do if Your Poo is a Persistent Problem
If you've made healthy changes to your diet, regularly take a probiotic and you're still not seeing changes to your poo, it might be time for a consultation. It goes without saying that any long term health worries you have around bowel movements, such as chronic diarrhea or constipation, or serious concerns such as blood in your stools, should be quickly discussed with a doctor.
If your doctor is unable to diagnose a serious medical complaint, you might like to explore the alternatives with a naturopathic practitioner. They can work with you to ensure your nutrition is correct and to identify allergens which might be causing digestive complaints. Give Jo a call at Amaranth to discuss your concerns confidentially.