Jessica Sherwood Naturopath

What is a healthy bowel movement?

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As a society, we do not usually talk about bowel movements, for many it may be a manners thing – especially around the dinner table! For others, it may be embarrassment, or just the plain old “ick” factor that seems to plague people’s minds when they think about it. So in this blog, I’m not holding back – fair warning – I will be as delicate as I can, while still giving you the information you need to determine if your bowel movements are healthy or not.

For me to tell you what a healthy bowel movement is, it is easier for me to tell you what it is not. A healthy bowel movement (BM), is not painful, does not smell bad, is not runny or sticky, and is not difficult to pass.

BMs come in all shapes and sizes (they have the Bristol stool chart to help you determine what type of BM you had), with what you eat taking 24-72 hours to travel through your stomach, into your small intestine and the large intestine before moving through your colon, and when the time is appropriate, via the sphincter and into the toilet bowl. This is called your bowel transit time, and problems with BMs arise when the food turns into chyme in the stomach and becomes faeces which can rush or slug through each area. So what is a healthy transit time? Well, if you are eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, around 30 hours seems to be the consensus.

  • Tip: eat half a beetroot and monitor how long it takes for your stools to change to a pink/red/purple colour – count the hours between consuming the beetroot and the BM and you have your transit time (please note that this is an experimental test and may not reflect your true transit time, which is determined in a laboratory).

Now if you’re the type to poop and flush as quickly as you can, I would challenge you to have a quick peek each time and see what you can observe. It is just digested food after all. You can find a bowel movement diary here when you sign up for our newsletter, or you can download different apps from your app store to help you keep track of what it is.

You may be asking why you would want to track your bowel movements? Well, it gives you (and me as a practitioner) loads of information about your health as a whole. Is that diarrhea just a once-off, or do you experience it after eating a certain food (or around “that time of the month”)? Is that painful bowel motion from not having enough water or fiber, or is it an ongoing problem that should get looked at? By tracking your BMs, you can start to see patterns – if you’re a data lover like me (I also track ovulation, sickness, mood, skin health and more) then you will love the data you start to see once you have a week or more to look at.

Your gastrointestinal tract (the “pipe” that goes from your mouth all the way to your anus), is very much a living organ in itself. The mucosal cells, receptors, enzymes, bacteria, and even fungus, viruses’ and parasites can be found in the GIT. Your body has little receptors that tell what you have eaten and what to do about it, eaten something with fat in it? (hopefully something like avocado!) Then your enteric nervous system signals the release bile from your gallbladder to break down the fat so you can absorb all the nutrients.

Speaking of the enteric nervous system, let us dig into that a little deeper. It is a nervous system very much like your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (the two parts that travel up and down your spine regulating everything from breathing, moving, to hormonal regulation). The way it has been put together means that it does not need signals from your brain to control what it does (although the signals your brain sends certainly does affect your GIT). Your GIT sends nutrients into your bloodstream, changes your mood, breathing, and more!

So now that you know a little bit more about your GIT, your Bowel movements and what a healthy bowel movement is not. If you are experiencing any difficulties HERE‘S the link to book in a get a comprehensive checkup on your health.

One Reply to “What is a healthy bowel movement?”

  1. […] Type 1 and 2 are considered constipation (Amarenco, 2014). Constipation is often accompanied by other symptoms such as bloating, incomplete evacuation, hard to pass stools, abdominal discomfort, excessive straining, and infrequent bowel movements (Costilla & Foxx-Orenstein, 2014). Type 2 is an indication of a lack of hydration but can also be a sign that your bowel transit time is slowing down (if you have not already, check out my post on what a healthy bowel movement is HERE). […]

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