Your standard physical typically only happens once a year. For all the time between appointments, regular bowel movements are your chance to keep tabs on your health. Yes, we're talking about poop.
Like that adorable children's book says, everyone poops. Still, most of us could stand to be more inquisitive about what’s going on behind our firmly shut bathroom doors. Poop patterns don’t just tell a story about the state of our digestive system, they can also reveal a heck of a lot of crucial truths about our lifestyle, diet, health, immune system, and predisposition for illness.
So, what is your excrement trying to tell you? Read on for clues about how to decipher your bowel movements.
Bacteria and Probiotics
Your gut is a wilderness—it’s the new frontier in hot health topics. And that cluster of approximately 100 trillion bacteria (also known as microbiota or gut flora) that dwells inside your digestive tract plays a role not only in bowel function but also in gastrointestinal (GI) and overall health. “We’re in a very exciting time when it comes to our understanding of the role of gut bacteria in health and disease,” says William Katkov, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
To stay healthy, our bodies require a balance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. But an out-of-whack gut bacterial colony can contribute to all sorts of poop-related ailments, including constipation, Crohn’s disease (which can promote diarrhea, bloody stools, and abdominal pain), gastroesophageal reflux disease, and colitis—to name a few.
The “friendly” bacteria (including lactobacillus bifidus and acidophilus) help promote healthy digestion. They can also boost immune function, warding off future infections, and can potentially reduce your chances of colon cancer. However, the typical American diet “feeds the bad bacteria with sugar, processed foods, as well as pollution and alcohol; veggies and nutrient-dense foods feed the good," explains Robin Hutchinson, a holistic nutrition therapist in Denver. For a healthier tummy, try incorporating more probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir (a fermented-milk drink that originated in Eastern Europe), yogurt, and miso, into your diet. [Click here to read the full story at Refinery29!]