January 17, 2013

The Perfect Poop.

It’s often said that a classic sign of old age is when we start talking about our poop.

Maybe it’s just a sign of growing wisdom, as evaluating a bowel movement can reveal much about one’s health.

I recently had a patient say that her doctor told her that moving her bowels once every five days, as she was, is “normal!” I find that many folks are unclear as to what “normal” is, while most just don’t pay attention.

Almost every traditional system of medicine, and even Western medicine, has a method of evaluating health based on an inspection of one’s bowel movements. According to Ayurveda, the color, shape, size, frequency, odor and consistency has much to tell about what’s working or not working upstream in the digestive and detoxification systems.

You can learn a lot about the health of your body by taking a quick peek at your poop before you flush. Join me as I explain what to look for and what it might mean.

How Food Becomes Poop

1. Foods are broken down in the mouth by chewing and enzymes that are sub-lingual (under your tongue).

2. Foods are further broken down in the stomach by digestive acids.

3. Bile from the liver and gallbladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas neutralize the stomach acids and further break down the foods.

4. Bile flow is critical as it regulates the color, consistency and regularity of the stool.

5. Mucus is released from the small intestine to make a bolus of food (stool) and protect the lining from harsh acids and enzymes. It has to be produced in the right amount—not too much and not too little. Most of the nutrients are also extracted at this stage.

6. Once the food bolus moves into the large intestine, water is pulled off of the bolus in an attempt to make the perfect stool.

The Perfect Stool

Here are some of the requirements for a perfect stool:

>> One complete elimination in the morning
>> A brown color
>> A banana shape
>> Does not stick to the toilet
>> Easy to wipe—no mess
>> Minimal odor
>> Almost always the same regardless of foods eaten

Body Type Variations

Based on your constitution or your Ayurvedic Body Type, the stool may vary. Not sure of your type? Take our interactive body type quiz.

Vata Elimination
Vata body types are governed by air, which generally means they have a constitution that is more light and dry. They are nervous-system predominant, which means they feel everything. This sensitivity can lead to emotional stress. We now know that stress is processed through the intestines, making Vata types more prone to constipation.

Normal Vata Stools are:

>> Once a day within the first two to three hours of waking
>> Firm but regular
>> Darker brown
>> Complete elimination
>> No gas
>> Minimal odor

Imbalanced Vata Stools are:
>> More dry or hard
>> Scant, thin, pellets
>> Less frequent—anything less than once a day
>> Not a complete elimination
>> Both frequency and consistency changes a lot
>> Darker in color – a longer transit time allows the stool to absorb more bile, which darkens the stool
>> Astringent foul odor due to longer transit time
>> More gas or flatulence

Support for Vata Elimination

1.  Stay hydrated—Vata types are dry and the digestive system needs water to function well.

2. Be relaxed and take time to eat meals—Vata types can have a hard time slowing down.

3. Have regular meals on a regular schedule.

4. Take Triphala before bed. Triphala is good for all three (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) aspects of digestion. For Vatas, it will tone and support healthy intestinal contractions. Vatas can add Slippery Elm and Licorice to Triphala to improve results.

5. Drink Slippery Elm Tea to lubricate the intestinal wall: Mix equal parts licorice root, slippery elm, and marshmallow. Soak three tablespoons of the mixture in two quarts of water overnight. Boil down the water-soaked herbs until only half a quart remains. Strain the mixture and take on an empty stomach every hour or two.

Pitta Elimination
Pitta types are governed by fire, which means they have a constitution that is hot, dry and potentially irritated. They generally have a strong digestive system but can easily become overheated or inflamed. Pitta types generally take on a lot of stress and this stress is processed through the intestines.

Normal Pitta Stools are:

>> Firm, but break up when flushed
>> Brown-yellow color
>> Two complete bowel movements a day. One within the first hour of waking and the second after lunch.
>> Mild odor

Imbalanced Pitta Stools are:

>> Loose or diarrhea
>> More frequent—more than two a day means too much Pitta (stomach acid or liver heat or bile)
>> Yellow-brown color due to a fast transit time and increased bile flow, which is yellow-green, from the liverStrong, unpleasant odor
>> Bloating or belching
>> Hot or burning stool when eliminating

Support for Pitta Elimination:

1. Avoid hot and spicy food.
2. Don’t eat fast—slow down while eating.
3. Eat more fiber – it escorts bile through the gut into the toilet for efficient detox.
4. Soluble fiber like oats and flax seeds protect the gut from inflammation.
5. Insoluble fiber like greens creates bulk and will firm up a looser Pitta stool.
6. Herbs: Take Amalaki after meals. Amalaki cools, soothes and protects the gut from excess Pitta which can cause inflammation and a looser stool.

Kapha Elimination
Kapha types are governed by earth and water and generally hold on to more water making for calm, heavier set constitutions with a slower metabolism. Stress is still processed through their intestines, but since they handle stress well, their bowel movements are usually not affected.

Normal Kapha Stools are:

>> Regular and complete
>> Once a day within the first hour or two of waking
>> Large in quantity and well-formed
>> Less odor or even a sweet smell
>> Brown color

Imbalanced Kapha Stools are:

>> Mucus in stool due to excess Kapha (see more details under “mucus in the stool” below)
>> Sticky stool—due to excess Kapha and incomplete intestinal absorption. Sticks to toilet bowl or hard to wipe clean.
>> Pale brown or clay-colored due to liver congestion

Support for Kapha Elimination

1. Get more exercise—Kapha types need regular exercise to keep the digestion healthy and the bowels moving.
2. Three good healthy meals a day-no snacking. While snacking is taboo for everyone, it will bog down Kapha digestion especially quickly.
3. Herbs: Take Triphala before bed. Triphala is good for all three (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) aspects of digestion, but especially good for Kapha as it will pull mucus off the gut wall.

More Poop Analysis

The most common imbalances of digestion seen in the stool can be supported by bringing Vata, Pitta or Kapha into balance. However, some stool imbalances are more complicated and require a separate explanation.

Mucus in the Stool

Mucus in the stool is caused by an irritation of the intestinal wall. This could be a medical condition so if it persists, see your doctor. If you see mucus in the stool—which typically looks like a white or clear stringy substance that wraps around the stool—the intestinal villi are likely flattened or bogged down by the mucus. It can be caused by:

>> Excess spicy foods
>> Excess coffee or congestive highly processed and “comfort” foods
>> Excessive stress which is processed through the gut wall
>> Weak upper digestion that lets undigested foods pass, which go on to become intestinal irritants

Support for Mucus in the Stool

1. Amalaki: Protects the intestinal villi and restores normal function.
2. Slippery elm, marshmallow root and licorice tea: soothes the irritated lining.
3. If this persists, see your doctor.

Green or Yellow Stool

A stool can become green due to excess green veggies, which is normal. If you can track your green stool back to eating more green vegetables than usual, not to worry. However, if you can’t track this to more green vegetables, the stool can also become greenish or yellow due to foods passing too quickly through the large intestine. Bile turns brown as it transits the intestines. If it’s moving too fast or is secreted in excess by the liver and gall bladder, it will not have time to turn brown, resulting in a green stool.

Support for Green or Yellow Stool

1. Eat more soluble fiber like oats and flax seeds.
2. Slippery elm, marshmallow root and licorice tea: soothes the irritated lining, which can cause a faster transit time. It also provides soluble fiber, which does the same.
3. Learn more about soluble and insoluble fiber in my article Fiber for Dummies.
4. If this persists, see your doctor.

Black Stool
A black stool is most commonly due to old blood from an irritation in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. This is a medical condition—see your doctor.

Greasy or Shiny Stool
When a stool is greasy or shiny, this is usually due to a lack of bile flow from the liver or gallbladder. The bile is needed to emulsify the fats and if the fats are not broken down, then the stool may carry undigested fat and become shiny or greasy.

Support for a Greasy Stool
1. This can be a medical condition and if this persists, see your doctor.
2. Increase bile flow with more leafy greens, beets, cinnamon and fenugreek.
3. Herbs:  Turmeric Plus, Beet Cleanse, Liver Repair

Clay Colored Stools
Clay colored stools are also caused by a lack of bile passing through the gut. Remember, bile is responsible for the color of the stool. No color means no bile.

Support for a Clay Colored Stool
1. This can be a medical condition and if this persists, see your doctor.
2. Increase bile flow with more leafy greens, beets, cinnamon and fenugreek.
3. Herbs:  Turmeric Plus, Beet Cleanse, Liver Repair

Blood in the Stool
Most commonly, fresh blood in the stool is caused by a hemorrhoid. It could be a medical condition—if it persists, see your doctor.

Undigested Food in the Stool
The most common reason for undigested food to be passed through the entire intestinal tract into the stool starts in the stomach. The stomach is responsible for the initial breakdown of food. If stomach acid production is weak, hard-to-digest foods will not be broken down.

Support for Undigested Food in the Stool
Increase stomach acid:
1. Drink eight to 12 ounces of water 15 or 20 minutes before each meal.
2. Take ginger before each meal.
3. Drink ginger tea with meals.
4. Herbs: Warm Digest
5. If this persists, a further evaluation of the digestive process is needed. See your doctor.


In my opinion, a thorough evaluation of the digestive and eliminative system is a critical part of preventative health. The problem is that our bowel movements are an uncomfortable topic for discussion. So when I ask my patients about their bowel movements, I almost always hear, “they are fine.”

To me, the word “FINE” stands for: Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. So when I hear “fine” as the answer, it’s not enough. I need the gory details! Take some time each day for a quick inspection of your bowel function. Having the awareness of what is normal will allow you to quickly pick up on imbalances in the stool before they become a problem. It is another way you can take responsibility for your health.

You can download a free “Poop Chart” here: http://lifespa.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Perfect-Poop-Chart.pdf



The Tao of Poop!

Date a Girl Who Poops.


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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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