Apologies in advance for this, but dietitians are rather obsessed with bowels. To make this topic more acceptable, think of it as you would, like reading tea leaves at the bottom of a dainty tea cup.
We all do it, even girls, even in public toilets, but we don’t like to talk about it. Yet, by looking at your stools (yes, we’re going posh now with ‘stools’ rather than ‘poo’), you can find out a lot about your diet and lifestyle.
The below image is ‘The Bristol Stool Chart’ which is used to monitor bowels. So what do your stools look like? If its a type 4… hurrah! Well done, you have achieved the perfect stool and can quite smugly stop reading now.
For the rest of you who are still reading, let’s go through why your body is unable to achieve this ‘perfect’ stool. Types 1-3 are signs of constipation. Generally speaking this can be caused by one, or a combination of: not enough fluid intake, exercise or fibre.
Your urine colour is a good place to start with finding out if you are hydrated enough. If it’s anything darker than the colour of straw you need to drink up! How much? 1.6L to 2L of fluid a day. A good idea is to invest in a 1L water bottle and aim to finish it by the time you leave work that day. To meet your fluid quota, you can use any fluid but you shouldn’t be having more than three cups containing caffeine a day (including tea), as caffeine can make you urinate more, making you even more dehydrated. And no, alcohol does not count!
In terms of fibre, we’re all individual. By individual, I mean if you religiously have your five portions of fruit and veg a day and have just discovered that you’re actually still on the constipated side, you probably need more. You can find good sources of fibre in fruit, vegetables and brown bread/pasta/rice, etc. Easy ways to increase your fibre intake is to snack on veggie sticks or dried fruit and change all your carbs to the ‘brown’ versions.
Caffeine and alcohol, as regular parts of your diet as they may be, are also drugs. These ‘drugs’ have an effect on your bowel which gets you ‘going’. So try cutting down your alcohol intake and replacing a few caffeinated drinks with the decaf versions through the day. Like these ‘drugs,’ stress has a similar effect on the bowels and can creep up on us subconsciously. While stress is unavoidable these days, take time out each day to chill out like going for a walk/reading a book or having a bath.
Moving on to types 5-7. This is on the rather loose side, which can often be embarrassing as the suffering doesn’t contain itself. Loose stools can be caused by such as food intolerance’s or other gut conditions. However, before you go diagnosing yourself with an allergy, it’s more likely to have been caused by alcohol, caffeine, stress or too much fibre.
Although I have just talked about how important fibre is, equally: enough is enough. If you’re having more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day combined with ‘brown’ carbs, maybe it’s just too much for your body, so try cutting back to see if you notice a difference.
And finally (not to worry anyone), it goes without saying, there are a few rare conditions and food intolerances which can also cause a change in bowel habit. If you have noticed changes which have lasted more than four to six weeks, please talk to your doctor about it, just to rule out anything a bit more serious than too much stress and fibre.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.