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Is my poop normal? When to seek out more support.

Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.

That’s me, Katie Morra;

As always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.

If you want to learn more about supporting your gut health, I highly recommend checking out my eBook- How to Get Rid of Your $?@#*!% IBS

On to the post...

What is the purpose and function of the gut?

We are going to primarily focus and provide a general overview on the 3 main parts of the gut; the stomach, small intestine and large intestine but please note there are other organs involved in digestion and they too serve a very significant purpose.

  1. The stomach is a large, muscular, and hollow organ allowing for a capacity to hold food. It is comprised of 4 main regions, the cardia, fundus, body, and pylorus.

  2. The small intestine is a muscular, open tube, that extends from the stomach to the large intestine (colon). It's made up of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

  3. The large intestine is approximately 5 feet long, making up one-fifth of the length of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The large intestine is composed of 4 parts. It includes the cecum and ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, and sigmoid colon.

As a functional practitioner, I would be remiss not to mention that these organs serve far more importance to our overall body and wellness than solely just as holding and nutrient tanks. They play a tremendous role in relation to cognitive health, immune health, cardiovascular health, mood, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, skin health and so much more.

Common symptoms of an imbalanced gut?

  • Bloating

  • Indigestion

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Multiple food allergies or sensitivities

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Urgency to use the bathroom

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cramping

  • Mucus in stool

  • One may also experience hormonal imbalances, diagnosis of an autoimmune condition, skin conditions, fatigue, migraines, pain and more..

What is a "normal" bowel movement?

Let me first preface this section with everyone has their own version of "normal" and that "normal" can even fluctuate based on so many factors such as:

  • Diet that week

  • Fluid intake that week

  • Medications/supplements taken recently

  • Travel

  • Infection/Illness

  • Situational anxiety

  • Hormones

However, this chart does a great job at generalizing what "normal" should look like most days.

Does the color of my stool matter?

Yes, the color of you stool can tell you (and your practitioners) a ton. You may have a random day where you stool looks a bit more green or pale than usual but if it is not a consistent or frequented pattern by your body, it may just again be in relation to what you ate, acute illness and more.

Medium shade of brown: the goal and what you are aiming to see daily

Pale tan/white: may be a sign of pancreatic or liver issues, rule out side effect of any new medications

Red: first and foremost ensure you did not recently eat beets but this may be a sign of an active bleed, ulceration or hemorrhoid

Green: first and foremost ensure you did not recently eat some kind of excessive food coloring or vegetables but if this is consistent rule out bile and gallbladder related diseases

Yellow: rule out gallbladder related diseases

Black: do you take regular iron supplements? rule out gastrointestinal bleeds stool shouldn't smell?

Listen, I never said it should smell like roses but it absolutely should not take you or anyone else aback or to immediately feel like a candle needs to be burned. Will it happen occasionally? Guaranteed. Should it be happening daily, weekly or even really monthly? No.

So, what may it mean if your bowel movements have a terrible odor to them?

  1. Your eating hygiene needs some love- think about eating more slowly, cooking your food a little more and chewing more effectively.

  2. You are eating food(s) that do not agree with you, whether that be poor quality and ingredients or food sensitivities.

  3. You have a gut infection such as bacterial, fungal or parasitic overgrowth that is feeding on your food and causing the by-product of foul odors.

  4. You have low digestive output (stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and/or bile) so when you consume food you do not often break it down well enough, again leading to larger food particles to be consumed by the trillions of bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract and causing the by-product of foul odors.

  5. You have XYZ condition such as Celiac, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and more that may impact the health of your gut and bowel movements.

Can I test how quickly the food is moving through my bowels to get a better sense of if my frequency is a good thing?

Yes, you sure can. It is referred to as the colon transit time test and here is how to do it at home:

Consume 1⁄2- 3⁄4 cup of corn or beets. If you can’t tolerate corn or beets due to your gut health, consider using 4 charcoal capsules for testing purposes. You are going to note the first time you see the whole corn, redness from the beets or blackness from the charcoal in your stool and the last time you notice this. A healthy transit time should be 12-24 hours. This will give you data on your frequency and ability to track improvements from the comfort of your own toilet.

If you eat and immediately run to the bathroom or see food (outside of corn) in your stool regularly, I would venture to say your transit is too fast. This doesn’t allow the time your body needs to fully digest and absorb your food which can lead to more than just loose stools. You may suffer with chronic malnutrition meaning low vitamins and minerals, inability to gain weight, amongst a slew of other health concerns that may go hand and hand with the poor nutritional status.

If you are someone who ate the corn and sees it for the first time 24 hours later and the last time 72 hours later, we have a whole new problem occurring. Things are not moving, friend. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. You might think you are out of the woods with the malnutrition, but you likely are not.

So, go make yourselves a large beet salad for lunch today and let's get a starting point of data!

When to see a gastroenterologist or functional medicine gut specialist?

When to see a gastroenterologist:

If you have been struggling long term with gut health symptoms, please seek out the advice and care of a gastroenterologist. As a functional practitioner, I value our allopathic partners viewpoints, especially when it comes to ruling out any serious conditions, providing endoscopies and colonoscopies when appropriate and ensuring your physical well-being.

*If you are experiencing extreme pain, mucus or blood in your stool, weight loss for no known cause, vomiting or diarrhea without present illness, we always recommend starting with a Board Certified Gastroenterology appointment.

If you have seen a gastroenterologist and have been cleared, labeled with "IBS", not seeing improvements or feeling like there i more support you could be receiving while getting to the root of your gut imbalances, schedule a consultation today with our Institute for Functional Medicine trained and certified health care practitioners. Alternatively, if you are in search of a prescribing physician, head to the Institute for Functional Medicine's Find a Practitioner link and search for knowledgable professionals within your area.

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