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8 Myths about Poo - What is and What isn't Healthy

by Enid Taylor(more info)

listed in colon health, originally published in issue 249 - October 2018

Talking about poo can be cringeworthy for most of us. The lack of discussion around the topic has caused myths around digestive health to leave people wondering - what is and what isn’t healthy? What should my poo look and smell like?

The ‘ick’ factor has proven too significant for some. Sixteen percent of participants in a recent survey consider gut issues such as IBS to be a taboo topic. More interestingly, 14% admitted they have kept a gut issue a secret from a friend or loved one. Whether it is passing wind, burping or bowel movements we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about normal bodily functions!

The Taymount Clinic, the world’s first faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) clinic, works with its patients to improve and maintain a healthy gut.  The experts in digestive health recently launched a survey of 2,000 people* that explores the British public’s perception of digestive health issues.

Taymount-Bowel-Infographic-V3

The science-based clinic has decided it is time to debunk the myths about poo and to break the silence around this normal bodily function. Here are the most common misconceptions and questions around poo answered:

How Many Times a Day is Healthy?

It’s easy to compare your bowel movements to others but being different is ok. It is a myth that passing stool once a day is healthy. In fact, any frequency is healthy as long as it isn’t impacting your quality of life or it isn’t brought on by food intolerances. 1 in 5 (21%) Brits said they pass stool twice a day and 36% said the longest they have ever been without ‘going’ is 3-5 days.

The more important factor to consider is the consistency of your stool - it shouldn’t be rock solid or liquid. If you are somewhere in between this is normally a positive sign of good gut health.

Unpleasant Odour

Although most of us would be reluctant to admit it, all poo smells. And believe it or not, it is completely normal for your stool to smell - this is a sign that your gut is working hard to remove any bad bacteria, fibre, dead cells and toxins from your body. However, the smell of your stool will change depending on your diet. Foods that are high in sulphur such as meat, dairy, garlic, cabbage and junk food, will increase the odour of your stool. So, if you are a little embarrassed by the smell, try and increase the amount of vegetables in your diet.

Freaky Floaters  

49 per cent of participants said they have never examined their stool - but the Taymount Clinic thinks you should examine your stool regularly to check whether your stool sinks or floats.

Your poo shouldn’t normally float. If your gut is doing its job, you should be digesting oils and fats which will make your stool sink. Don’t panic, the odd floater is not an issue but if it is a common occurrence it can be a sign of bad digestive health.

You Must Take Your Time

Despite having a newspaper rack in most toilets, it is a common misconception that you must take your time passing stool. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you wait until it’s nearly too late or if you like to get ahead of the game. It bottles down to preference. You should take approximately 12 seconds to pass stool.

However, you must remember that passing stool should be easy and pain free – so don’t strain because it will only cause abdominal pain.

Poo is ALWAYS Brown

Everyone assumes poo is always brown – and most of the time it is. However, sometimes your diet will impact the colour of your poo from yellow brown, to almost black. For example, brightly coloured foods such as beetroot or cherries will colour you poo purple if you eat enough of them. This is harmless, unless it occurs on a regular basis, looks black, red or very pale. Producing a pale stool means your liver isn’t producing the bile which would usually turn your stool brown.

Fluids can Improve Bowel Movements

A consequence of constipation is hard stools, making it difficult for them to pass through your large intestine. Many people believe that drinking lots of fluids will improve stool consistency and make it easier to pass – this is a myth. There is no evidence to suggest fluids have an impact on constipation, only the frequency of urination.

However, if you are dehydrated then the increase in fluid may improve your bowel movements.

Poo only Contains Digested Food

Of course, your stool will contain some digested food, but the majority (approximately 75%) of your stool consists of water. The rest will be bodily waste discharged from your large intestine. This may include a mixture of fibres, dead cells and bacteria from within your gut. Foods such as corn and carrots are filled with insoluble fibre, which is hard for your body to digest – this means your stool may contain undigested food as well. Don’t be alarmed, this is normal.

Do Vegans Have Different Bowel Movements?

Your diet impacts every aspect of your digestive health - so it is only natural that vegans, vegetarians and omnivores will have different bowel movements.

Fibre is found in many vegetables, beans and pulses which encourage bowel movements. So, people eating a plant-based diet will spend more time ‘on the throne’. Vegan diets have been known to produce ‘golden poo’, as the stool sits perfectly between smooth and soft. A meat diet contains high levels of protein and your gut can sometimes struggle to digest this, resulting in hard and lumpy stool, making it more difficult to pass through.

Of course, this may not be the case for everyone - but if you are changing your diet it is important to introduce the change slowly to reduce the shock to your gut - it may also change the smell of your stool… for the worst!

Notes

*Atomik Research study 2017, UK.  Based on a recent survey of 2,000 people* launched by Taymount that explores the perceptions that the British public has about digestive health issues.

Further Information

For more information about maintaining a healthy microbiome visit http://www.taymount.com/

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About Enid Taylor

Enid Taylor ND BSc(Hons) Psych Naturopath, Clinic Director of The Taymount Clinic is a qualified nutritionist. She believes in a natural, healthy lifestyle and is passionate about encouraging her patients to introduce and maintain a diverse diet to enhance gut health.

The Taymount Clinic is the world’s first faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) clinic.  The Taymount team are pioneers in the field of digestive health, and work with their patients to improve and maintain a healthy gut. FMT is proved to help in the treatment of C. difficile, and ongoing research is investigating FMT effectiveness in alleviating the symptoms of conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s, chronic diarrhoea and even neurological conditions. The FMT process restores a natural, balanced community of commensal and native bacteria to the gut, and the Taymount team then work with patients to understand how to maintain these bacteria. Enid Taylor may be contacted at The Taymount Clinic on Tel: 0330 222 1622; 
admin@taymount.com    www.taymount.com

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