Things Your Bowel Movements Could Be Telling You

Although I admit to wondering a little about what the changes in my bowel movements actually mean there are many out there that are researching that gut feeling and the latest information on this tells me that we should be paying attention to what comes out for so many reasons.

One theory gaining traction in the medical community is that your gut can function as a “second brain.” Since 2013, the US National Institute of Mental Health has funded several studies to better understand how the gut microbiome influences your thoughts and feelings. (-8)

The gut is home to at least 100 trillion microbes, collectively known as the microbiome which is made up of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In addition to maintaining your gut health, your microbiome assists in digestion, metabolism, and fighting infection. These microbes also produce neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological and mental processes such as learning, memory, and mood. “For example, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and GI activity.” (-4)

The Brain-Gut Connection

Your mood can be affected by a variety of factors, including thought patterns, chemical imbalances, and sleep quality. Until now I hadn’t thought of my gut being a contributor to how I feel but the research suggests otherwise.

“Neuroscientists are probing the idea that intestinal microbiota might influence brain development and behavior. Researchers have drawn links between gastrointestinal pathology and psychiatric neurological conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disorders — but they are just links. ” -1

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, communication between the gut and the brain appears to be bidirectional. Not only does the gut send signals to the brain, but your neurotransmitters send signals to the gut, explaining why you get “butterflies” in your stomach when you’re nervous or why you feel queasy under extreme stress.” (-5) Perhaps the expression “Go with your gut,” has more validity than you think!

You acquire most of the initial microbes in your gut community from your parents, but others are picked up from the environment. Your gut microbiome starts at birth and over time develops by genetics and by what bacteria live in and on those around us. Babies born by caesarean section do not acquire their mother’s vaginal and intestinal microbes at birth which some research identifies as a problem.

The microbes that make up our gastrointestinal tract are critical to our health. Gut bacteria play a part in regulating your digestion and metabolism. They extract and make vitamins and other nutrients from food that you eat. They aid the body’s immune system in fighting off unwanted pathogens.

What your poo is telling you

One way of assessing your gut is by assessing your poop. Precision Nutrition’s has a super infographic on this that I suggest you check out.

Here are the 6 things your problem poo could be telling you:

  • Your Gut isn’t Functioning Properly
  • Your Microbiome Is Off – Balance
  • Your Diet Isn’t Working for You
  • You’re Dehydrated
  • You’re Too Stressed
  • Your Workout Routine Isn’t Working For You

More than 50 tons of food pass through our system it in a lifetime (-7) Just how has that been going?  Take a look at the chart below to find out what the shape and texture of your poo indicates. There are several bowel movement tracking apps available to assist you in your assessment…just check the app store!

Creating a healthy gut

In his article, “Some Of My Best Friends Are Germs”, author Michael Pollan writes that scientists can’t even yet say with confidence exactly what a “healthy” microbiome should look like. Pollan writes though that some broad, intriguing patterns are emerging.

Here are some things to consider:

Antibiotics and anti-bacterial products such as hand washes and hand sanitizers should be used less if possible. Be slower to take antibiotics but take when medically called for. The use of antibiotics in our health care and food system has cleansed both the good and bad bacteria from us.

Increase consumption of whole, unprocessed foods.

Consume Pre-biotics: Pre-biotics are starches that keep good microbes happy. Beans and legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains.

Explore pro-biotic foods and supplements: Foods with live colonies to boost your microbiome system like fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, and mold enhanced cheese. “The byproduct of fermentation is the short-chain fatty acids that nourish the gut barrier and help prevent inflammation. And there are studies suggesting that simply adding plants to a fast-food diet will mitigate its inflammatory effect.” (-9)

Add Fibre to your diet.  Eat a variety of whole grains, plants, and vegetables as well as fruits every day. A healthy microbiome needs fermentation in the large intestine. So eating various types of fiber, including resistant starch (found in bananas, oats, beans); soluble fiber (in onions and other root vegetables, nuts); and insoluble fiber (in whole grains, especially bran, and avocados) will fuel your system to good health.

What about increasing our exposure to bacteria?

You must wash your hands in situations when pathogens or toxic chemicals are likely present, but maybe not after petting your dog. Use anti-bacterial hand wash only when necessary.

Dirtying Up Your Diet is a term I read a few times but not washing your produce thoroughly is a bad idea because of pesticide residues. Consider keeping the skins on some of your vegetables after washing.

Cultivate Your Own Garden because successful gardener knows it’s a hotbed of microbial fermentation that can nourish and nurture.

Work on Stress Levels by participating in relaxing activities, exercise, meditation, reading, journaling, and mindful breathing. address your total stress load, ability to cope, support network and time spent in nature.

Stay Hydrated: Water Water and Check The colour of your Urine. Check out my Food Is Fuel Blog here for more on urine colour!

Eat slow and mindfully and chew your food.

Keep a food diary and take note of your energy, mood, and poop to link connections on a daily basis..

Planning your meals, shopping, and cooking with the microbiome in mind is something your gut has been trying to tell you for a long time. Feed the fermentation in your gut and your poop will show you how well you are doing.

Listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on “The Fitness Segment.” Listen live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


Good Luck!