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So we at goodMix are all for talking crap – it’s what we do best! And some of our customers have great questions that warrant a public answer (you know – the question that everyone is wondering about but is too scared to actually askthe question that everyone is wondering about but is too scared to actually ask). Here’s my best answer (sorry my answers always seem to be long) to one of these poo FAQ’s, received again via email this week!
Q: “I’m in good health, just wondering how many poos should I be doing in a day?”
A: Depends on lots of factors – including…
How many times you’ve eaten that day (or more relevantly the previous day or 3, as it takes a while for food to get all the way from entry to exit).
i.e. if you’ve been bedridden with the flu & not really eating for days, you may easily go a week with no poo action whilst recovering. Same situation when fasting. This is totally normal as your digestive system will slow almost to a standstill, & take a while to get back to normal once you’re eating regularly again.
Volume & quality of food you ate, & how much fibre that food contained.
A person eating KFC & Macca’s burgers 3x daily washed down with energy drinks will be unlikely to produce any healthy poos, as there’s nothing much in these ‘foods’ to support your gut bugs, whereas a person consuming a variety of fresh, natural, whole plant foods that agree with them will have sufficient fibre intake to support a thriving & diverse ecosystem of gut microbes who literally help your gut to produce good healthy poos. A huge percentage of your poo is actually gut bugs (yup, it’s alive – a bit freaky when you think about it!!) The rest is mostly made up of fibre & water. Fibre & fluid provide the building blocks of healthy poos, & your gut bugs are like the builders (sorry any builders reading for the comparison). Anyway – when things are ‘not happening’, it can be due to not enough or poor quality building materials coming in, or maybe there is a problem with the builders (they’ve been wiped out with a bout of gastro or a course of antibiotics, there may be a party going on in there with too many of the wrong bugs hindering the building process, or the building site (your gut) needs some maintenance to make it all work properly again.
Past health history, especially related to your brain & nervous system, hormones, gut, liver, previous medications esp antibiotics.
Everything in your body is connected, & just as your gut health influences other body systems, your other body systems influence the workings of your gut. Ie – if you’ve had a brain or spinal injury (or an illness that has affected the nerve supply to your bowel), it’s expected that nothing will work as it should – regular poo production & movement may need a lot of assistance. Even if you’re just feeling stressed out, your nervous system spends too much time in ‘fight or flight’ mode instead of in ‘rest & digest’ mode – so you will have sub-optimal digestion & subsequent poo production as all of your energy has been diverted away from your digestive system. Your hormones can also affect your gut function & your poos – ladies know this, many experience constipation a day or 2 before periods & then the floodgates open with the flow, & so many 50 plus ladies have told me that ‘everything changed’ when they became menopausal. Your liver & gallbladder function can directly influence your bowel function as well, as bile secreted by the liver is a natural laxative (we secrete more bile when we eat, especially when we eat fatty foods). Sometimes people can experience constipation whilst eating a low-fat diet, & strict low-fat diets can actually be a cause of gallstones forming (not enough bile movement).
How much water you’ve been drinking / the fluid content of your foods.
We need to be hydrated for digestion to work, & everything comes to a bit of a grinding halt when we don’t drink enough. Drinking too much fluid with meals is not a good idea though, try to drink most of your fluids in between your food ideally.
If you’ve been very sedentary or very active.
When we move, it stimulates our digestive system to move too (our body knows that when we’re active, we’re using up our food energy, so it hurries everything along & makes room for more incoming nourishment). When we’re sedentary, everything (including digestive processes & our metabolism) slows right down.
What medication you’ve used lately / chemicals in your food & environment.
Some medications cause digestive symptoms directly, & some cause them indirectly. If you are at all concerned, ask your Dr or pharmacist if it’s possible that your meds may be making you constipated, giving you diarrhoea or making you feel bloated / uncomfortable. And try to eat organically as much as possible, your gut bugs tend not to like chemicals (they may be tested safe for humans but their impact on our gut bugs hasn’t been taken into account). As a general rule, more chemicals going into your tummy = less good gut bugs = less good poos.
You’ll notice a big difference in how many poos you do daily / weekly when stressed vs relaxed, but it can go either way or even alternate. People who normally go regularly & without drama can suddenly become uncomfortably constipated or ‘get the runs’ when highly stressed. Most people with IBS know only too well that when they’re stressed out, their gut symptoms are always much worse. Keep calm & poo well (that could be a fridge magnet).
Being Away From Home.
There is nothing quite like the comfort of your own home loo. People who are forced to use work bathrooms / public bathrooms etc, or cannot go easy on the job throughout the day are at high risk of developing poo problems. It can even start as young as pre-school. I often speak to mums who are little kids decide ‘I only do poos at home, not at kindy’. Arrgh!! This is something you need to sort out quickly, as it can rapidly escalate into a situation where the child becomes badly backed up, & pooing hurts – so they hold it in cos it hurts, & so on. I have heard from one market mum that this happened in her kindy aged child, to the point where she needed to be hospitalised with a ‘mass the size of a coconut’ blocking things up & she was ‘vomiting faeces’. Yup, true story. Poor little thing went through such an ordeal (narrowly avoided surgery) but now poos happily ever after with a little help from her Blend11. Kids (& adults) need to get comfortable pooing away from home – women especially have issues on holidays (take your Blend11 with you every trip, many now do) & don’t be shy, if ya gotta go – GO!
Your Constitution & Baseline Metabolism.
How your metabolism processes things – some people are just ‘fast’ & some ‘slow’ at digesting / metabolising & pushing everything through their system. It may be a case of ‘always have been always will be’ some people seem to be born fast or slow – this can just be your constitutional tendency, but it can also be related to thyroid function (an underactive thyroid will make you slower, overactive will make you move things faster – neither is good, you wanna be somewhere in the middle ‘just right’). Check thyroid if you’re a too fast or too slow type for no obvious reason.
So…let just says you’re spending plenty of time at home, you’re not overly stressed, you don’t take meds, you’re eating plenty of fibre, you exercise, you’re thyroid is sweet & you’re well hydrated. How many poos should you be producing daily?
I speak to a lot of people about their poos each week & this is my conclusion (just my opinion – not saying it’s correct, just my thoughts based on what I’ve learned & heard so far).
There are variations of what can be considered ‘healthy’ & normal with regards to ‘poos per day’, just as there are with many other bodily functions. How fast should my hair or nails grow? How fast should my heart beat? How many hours should I sleep each night? We’re all a bit different, & there are many healthy people, who don’t all work in exactly the same way. I think there is a ‘spectrum’ of healthy.
But in general – a relatively healthy human with a plant-rich diet that works well for them & an optimally functioning gut should be producing & eliminating between 1 & 3 well formed, easy to pass stools daily (with some days that aren’t normal due to changes in routine / food / illness / stress etc). I know many of you reading this are thinking ‘I would kill for daily, regular, well-formed easy to pass poos!! Those who already have them, you should feel truly blessed, I actually think you are in the minority these days! I chat to Blend11 addicts who used to only ‘go’ every 2 weeks & are now going twice daily (rejoice) or those who were bloated, in pain & very irregular with loose stools that now feel much more comfortable & at ease. To go from unpredictable to regular can literally be life-changing!
You don’t have to be perfect every day / every week, but in general – 1 to 3 daily would seem normal & healthy to me, & no stress if you miss the occasional day due to circumstances / stress – just don’t make it a habit. The main indicators for healthy toilet habits are – does your tummy feel comfortable or do you often feel discomfort / pain? Do you need to strain or is going to the loo painful or very urgent / too fast? These are more important to me that ‘the numbers’. Quality over quantity. Some people brag about how many poos they do daily but remember you can go overboard too – if everything is being pushed through your digestive system too quickly, that leaves less time for absorption of valuable nutrients along the way. Too many poos (esp if they are on the loose side) can indicate food intolerances as well. You want the transit time to be not too fast, not too slow, & poos to be not too hard or too soft. Goldilocks poos!
In general – to speed & soften things up, use more fibre, water & exercise – to slow things down & firm them up, remove possible irritants (gluten, dairy, alcohol, FODMAP’s, caffeine etc), use some gentle fibre (low FODMAP ideally) & be calm / take time to relax. And in both circumstances – get a checkup if concerned! Work your way backwards from ‘the best poos ever’ & you’ll find a happy & healthy gut – one of the foundations for overall good health – if your poos aren’t good, neither will your insides be!
Love to hear some more numbers! What’s your average daily range? Do you feel awesome but fall outside what is considered normal / healthy? What changes have you made to your poo frequency & how? What is it that completely throws things out for you? Write a comment below or send me an email :-)
Place this handy chart up on your toilet door and teach everyone who sits on your loo about a healthy gut / poo: Bristol Stool Chart – free download