You won’t believe what I just saw. I’m walking down the street for an early morning walk…and just a couple of houses in front of me, I see a there’s a woman standing right behind her squatting LARGE Doberman Pinscher dog.
And, as I get closer I see that she’s holding a doggie bag under him.
Yup, she was catching his poo!
And it was in that moment when I knew what I was going to write about today.
Yup, you guess it! Poo! Today’s article will, hopefully, answer everything you need to know about poo, or the more medical term, if you prefer, of stool.
Are you giggling right now? Hey, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about…everyone poops!
And, believe it or not…a discussion of poo can be quite fascinating. Though probably not if you’re eating right now.
The state of your poo can give medical professionals, like me, clues about how well you’re eating, if you’re hydrated, as well as hint about other things that are going on in the rest of your body.
And, as you’ve probably already noticed, when your poo is not your normal, you don’t feel your very best. With constipation, people report feeling sluggish, bloated, foggy-headed…they may even get a headache. Diarrhea will zap the energy out you as you lose essential nutrients and water.
Common Questions About Poo
How often should you poo? It varies. This one study found that in 98% of the participants, “normal stool frequency is between three per week and three per day.” I know…big difference, right?
What’s a normal consistency? Like one long semi-soft sausage – not too hard and not too soft. It shouldn’t require spending a lot of time on the pot. Though, that same study reported that, “some degree of urgency, straining, and incomplete evacuation should be considered normal.” When the authors wrote “some degree”, I believe they were saying…like, not all the time.
Got pellet poop? Hard little blobs are often indicative of too little fiber or not enough water or both. And, I’ll tell you how to take care of this in a bit. But, realize that medical conditions like low thyroid can also lead to constipation – even when you’re eating enough fiber.
Got less structure? Unformed stool, liquidy poo, or watery diarrhea is often indicative of some type of inflammation. Many things could cause this – such as a stomach bug, food poisoning, or a chronic condition such as colitis or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Should I see a doctor? As a dietitian, I always recommend seeing a medical professional when your “normal” becomes different. Especially if your diarrhea lasts more than two days without improvement. Or if you have severe abdominal or rectal pain.
What Can I do about Constipation?
First, bump up your fiber intake. But, things aren’t going to get any better if you’re not drinking enough water as well. How much do you need of each? You’re about to find out.
How much fiber? The Institute of Medicine recommends 38g per day for men and 25g for women. While Americans average only half that, it’s really quite easy to increase your intake if you consider the suggestions below.
- Eat a ‘real meal’ at least once a day. Anyone who knows me, knows that I eat sandwiches, pizza, and burgers. But, they also know that I’ve GOT to have at least one ‘real meal’ every day. And, that’s a meal with lots of veggies. And, not just for fiber. Veggies (and fruits as well) are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you just can’t find in any other foods…nutrients that fight off infection and disease.
- Snack on fruit. At least a couple of pieces of fruit a day will help fend off your sweet tooth. Each serving of fruit contains around 2g fiber. Some, like pears and berries are even higher in fiber. That includes fresh, frozen, and canned fruits. Not juice. Juice has all the fiber removed. If you want to drink your fruit, get out your blender or bullet and blend fruit with milk for a refreshing, high fiber beverage. I always keep frozen berries and peeled bananas in the freezer so even if my refrigerator is bare, I can always make a smoothie.
- Choose whole grains by checking the nutrition label. Once you do, you’ll realize there’s a lot of sneaky stuff going on. You already know that whole grains are higher in fiber than refined grains. But sometimes manufacturers add molasses or use dark brown wrappers to make bread look like it’s whole grain when it’s not. So, check the label – the first ingredient should be a whole grain such as 100% whole wheat, oats, brown rice, whole rye, buckwheat, or quinoa. Some white-looking breads are made with white wheat flour that looks like white bread, but has the fiber of whole wheat.
- Add legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are chockful of filling fiber. Aim to have 2-3 servings a week. You can add them to your salad, eat them as a side dish, or enjoy bean burgers. My favorite legumes are split pea soup, Bush’s seasoned black beans, and the lentil quinoa bowl from Panera. What are yours?
- Go nuts. Nuts and nut butters are rich in protein. You can eat nuts as a snack, but I also love them on top of a salad or stirfry. Seeds are also high in fiber. You might want to add chia seeds to your yogurt and flax seeds into your smoothie. I like the crunchy taste of sesame seeds. If you make your own pancakes, try sprinkling the top just before flipping them.
- Eat more popcorn. Most chips and puffed snacks don’t contain much fiber. And, that’s why it’s so easy to eat a whole bag. On the other hand, each cup of popcorn contains 1g fiber. I love to slow-cook popcorn on the stove with canola oil and kernels. But, since I’m often short on time, I keep 100 calorie microwave popcorn in the pantry at all times. If you love chips, try Black Bean Beanito chips. Each serving has 4g fiber. That’s a lot! And, that’s why it’s so hard to overeat them.
- Start off strong. Since fiber is filling, I like to start my day with a breakfast of peanut butter spread on whole grain bread – getting almost half my daily fiber requirement in that one meal.
- Consider a fiber supplement. Can’t get enough fiber in your diet – especially when you’re traveling? You might want to try a fiber supplement. But, take it slow. Adding too much fiber from any source, too quickly can cause bloating and stomach discomfort. And, be sure to drink plenty of water with it. Which fiber supplement to pick? Metamucil has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. But, be sure to drink it quickly or it will thicken up on you. Benefiber is one you can add to your water, coffee, or tea without any taste or texture. Regular Girl is another fiber I like, it’s clear mixing and has no taste, plus it contains probiotics in addition to the fiber. You can also order these in individual packets to take on your trips.