You can be refined and call it stool, or laid back and call it poop. My social circle is comprised mostly of moms of littles, and we are so over it. Poop, it is. My husband says poop is a great equalizer – we all know it and experience it. It’s a common human bond, disgusting as that may be. But my aim here is not to be crass or gross. Rather, I want to bring attention to something that serves as confirmation that the body is functioning well, or as an alarm that things are not right.
I have spoken with more than one parent recently who has said their child “has not had a normal poop in his/her life.” This should be concerning. This should not be treated as “no big deal,” despite what your doctor or well-meaning friend has told you. If it is a chronic occurrence, and especially if it is accompanied by other conditions (like frequent illness, stomach pain, irritability, weight changes, etc), it is likely NOT due to too much fruit juice or lack of bananas or water or rice or pears or prunes or whatever. It is one of the ways the body communicates gut dysfunction, and it needs to be addressed. I’ve mentioned in other places that 80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, so if the gut isn’t healthy, it means our immune system is fired up. And that leads to a host of significant, if not life-altering problems down the road, if not resolved. And by resolved, I do not mean prescribing medication that suppresses the symptoms. I mean getting to the root of the problem, which is almost always diet-related in our modern-day culture.
From Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s Paleo Principles:
The Bristol Stool Form Scale was developed in the 1990s by researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK to help distinguish abnormal bowel movements from healthy ones. It is one way to estimate bowel transit time, but the chart can also be used to pinpoint gut disorders in a more specific way.
*Type 1 indicates problems with constipation from lack of fiber (such as attempting a zero-carb diet), low levels of beneficial gut bacteria, or a recent course of antibiotics.
*Type 2 can be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome and can be associated with hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and long-term chronic constipation.
*Type 3 is considered normal but in some cases may indicate latent constipation and some of the problems associated with Type 2.
*Type 4 is optimal!
*Type 5 is considered normal for people who have two or three bowel movements per day, but it can indicate incomplete digestion of food (especially if food particles are visible) or insufficient amounts of fiber and other carbohydrates that feed gut flora.
*Type 6 suggests an abnormally fast bowel transit time and can be a result of excessive stress, laxative use, or certain gut disorders.
*Type 7 is classic diarrhea – the result of foodborne illness, the flu, Crohn’s disease, or extreme gut irritation.
Frequently experiencing stools that match Type 1, 2, 6, or 7 may indicate a problem that should be investigated further.
On a personal note, somewhere around 18-24 months, my youngest had Type 7 EVERY TIME he had a dirty diaper – every day, every week, for months. No exceptions. His face became gaunt and pale, he lost weight steadily, and was as miserable and angry as he could be. In my desperation I would give him toast, thinking that would calm his tummy. It still haunts me that my efforts were making his misery even worse. My pediatrician, though I appreciate and trust her, was of very little help. We had him tested for Celiac, and the results were normal. It is only because I took the advice of my sister-in-law and had a third party test him for an array of food-related intolerances that we discovered he is gluten intolerant (a lesser variation of Celiac disease) and dairy intolerant. It took about 2-3 months of cleaning up his diet before my happy little boy returned in full health.
So my intent with this blog post is to help parents especially, but everyone really. Food intolerance, particularly gluten intolerance, is so common, yet often overlooked. We have so many tactics to explain it away. And other gut-related diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, and many more are linked in the same way. Gut health is critical to our overall health, and a proper diet is the surest way to get there.