Check the toilet bowl
The shape and consistency of your poop reveal issues with your digestion.
By Christa Zenobie Dahl
Digestion is not a topic of conversation but perhaps it should be, because many people suffer from digestive problems. This may be issues such as feeling bloated, suffering stomach pains, feeling constipated, or having smelly farts or inconsistent toilet habits. Digestive issues also make up one of the most common reasons for contacting our doctor.
To identify any potential problems, your doctor will typically ask how often you poop and about the shape and consistency of your poop. For this reason, it is a good idea to check the toilet bowl before seeing your doctor.
Amongst other things, doctors and dieticians use the so-called Bristol Stool scale to assess whether you are suffering from digestive issues. This scale classifies the consistency and shape of human stools into seven different categories
What is the appearance of your poop?
- Category 1: Small, hard lumps which are hard to pass. This may indicate that you are suffering from severe constipation. You need to increase your intake of dietary fibre and fluids.
- Category 2: Lumpy with hard bumps which are hard to pass and which often cause a risk of fissures and haemorrhoids. You suffer severe constipation and need to increase your intake of both dietary fibre and fluids.
- Category 3: A sausage shape with cracks in the surface. You may need to increase your intake of fluids.
- Category 4: Like a sausage or a snake – soft and with a smooth surface. Normal for individuals who poop once a day.
- Category 5: Soft blobs which are easy to pass. Normal for individuals who poop several times a day.
- Category 6: Like a lumpy and thick soup or porridge. The shape and consistency borders normal and diarrhoea.
- Category 7: Liquid and with no solids. You may be suffering from a stomach infection or food poisoning. Remember to take plenty of liquids to
Our rhythm of digestion is an individual matter
Not two people are alike and this also applies to our rhythm of digestion. While it may be normal for one person to evacuate their bowls once or several times a day, normal to another may be for this to happen three to four times a week. For this reason, stating what is healthy and normal may be difficult.
In her book ”The way to a healthy stomach! – enjoy better digestion and a stronger immune system” (Sund mave sådan! – få en god fordøjelse og et stærkt immunforsvar), Søs Wollesen, medical practitioner, has set out the following checklist to define a normal non-constipated pooping pattern:
- Do you poop at least three times a week?
- Are you normally able to poop without straining?
- Is your poop usually relatively soft?
- Would you say you poop more than 30g at every toilet visit which is equivalent to a reasonable portion being deposited in the toilet bowl?
If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, your digestion works as it is supposed to.
Our lifestyle causes imbalances in our digestive system
The reasons for imbalances arising in our digestive system may be many. Illness and stress may be a cause. However, sedentary work and the lack of exercise may also contribute to imbalances in our digestive system and to the constipation suffered by many. Another significant explanation for especially younger women suffering from constipation is that they suppress the urge to go to the toilet because they are embarrassed by others being able to hear or smell that they poop. If you suppress the urge to go like this for a prolonged period of time, poop will accumulate in the intestine. In the longer term, this will weaken the peristalsis – that is, the contractions in the intestine which push the poop forwards and this will lead to constipation.
This is how to achieve healthy digestion
- Go to the toilet when you feel the urge
- Be physically active every day
- Drink at least 1.5 litre of fluids every day – and a bit more when you exercise
- Eat, and not too much, at regular intervals throughout the day and eat foods that are high in fibres.