What’s Your Paleo Poop Telling You?
Poop. I remember when I was little, that was such a funny word. I was raised in a pretty traditional Lutheran home and “potty talk” was definitely not allowed. Ever. “May I be excused?” was the ONLY hint you were allowed to give about anything bathroom related. How ironic that I grew up having some of the worst health problems stemming from the gut! Eventually I learned I had Celiac Disease, which sort of forced me to talk about poop more and accept how normal that is. It was a bit cathartic and liberating to be open about it, especially in front of my Mom (who finds it hugely inappropriate and embarrassing) and my husband who believed that girls do not poop. So guess what: POOP POOP POOP POOP! Every mammal on planet earth poops.
So let’s say you’ve joined the Paleo Movement, but you’re still having trouble with your Paleo movement. Perhaps you’re wondering why all of these positive dietary changes have not yet produced a nice, healthy Paleo poop , or maybe you think your poop is normal… but I think I might surprise you with some ker-plunks of information.
Your poop is about 75 percent water. The rest is a combination of fiber, bacteria, and miscellaneous cells and mucus. The characteristics of your poop will tell you a great deal about how healthy your digestive tract is, everything from the color, odor, shape, size, and even the sound it makes when it hits the water and whether it’s a “sinker” or a “floater” is all relevant information.
Believe it or not, our waste significantly represents the the overall statement of our health. Every time you poop, a riveting story of your health unfolds. Constipation, diarrhea, pellet poops, pencil poops, Monet poops (you know… the ones that come out with all kinds of colorful food still in tact), floater poops, firecracker poops, and the Rubik’s Cube poops (the one your body wants out, but a square doesn’t fit through a round hole) represents how healthy you are.
To the left is the Paleo Movement rendition of the Bristol Stool Chart. The Bristol Stool Chart is a tool designed to help you learn what kind of poop you’re aiming for, and which spell signs of trouble in your gut. Types 1-3 are considered to be constipation at various levels, where 5-7 represent differing levels of diarrhea. Though types 3 and 5 are Ok, type 4 is considered the “Holy Grail” of poop.
But let’s be honest with ourselves here. We have all experienced every kind of bowel movement imaginable on one or more occasions throughout our lifetimes. Poop is normal, and we’ve been conditioned to accept that poop is gross, it smells, and it’s going to change all the time. Just buy some Glade evergreen fresh, get some wet wipes, and don’t talk about it. Right?
No! If you have to chew gum and pop mints constantly because you have bad breath, you might want to figure out why your breath is so bad all the time, right? That same warning goes for your bathroom routine. Poop is not supposed to stink! You read that correctly! If you, or others, are so taken back by the stench in the bathroom— your body is trying to voice a concern. And instead of listening, you pinch your nose and fog the bathroom with some EXTRA chemical pollutant sprays. Ahhhh, there. Smell that? It’s the Everglades.
You’ve surely heard the oft-quoted “all disease begins in the gut” wisdom, but truly take a moment to think about it. Everything you eat, drink, breathe, soak in, or bathe in eventually gets broken down and passed through the gut. Whether or not our guts are healthy can determine our reaction— or non-reaction—to the invasion of bacteria, viruses, exposure to immune-disrupting chemical fumes or pollutants, food intolerances, drugs, and stress. Unfortunately, we have yet to put enough emphasis on the incredible role of our intestinal microbiome.
Our stomachs are more than just a long, fleshy estuary for food, water, bile—and eventually poop to pass through. Our guts are populated by over 100 trillion mircoorganisms, with an average of about 500 different species per individual microbiome. These bacteria have a myriad of vital functions—not only to our digestion—but our overall physical health as a whole. Before I warn you about what you’re probably doing wrong, let me explain how important our gut bacteria is. Here are some of the functions of all those microorganisms:
• Ferment unused/ non-digestable carbohydrates and sugar
• Help mediate the breakdown of nutritional carcinogens
• Act as a line of defense against pathogens
• Synthesize vitamins such as K, folate and other B’s
• Produce hormones for fat storage and energy
• Give your poop its ‘hardness’ and density
Now, that’s simply a short list of what good bacteria, and enough of it, does—thus the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. Imagine what your microbiome looks like and how well your stomach is functioning if you are drinking water with chemicals, or living on a diet with an excess of refined sugars, carbohydrates, processed foods, or alcohol consistently, while taking prescription drugs and are/or have taken antibiotics regularly.
Changing your diet, losing some weight, getting off medications, and improving sleep habits are great steps to improving your health, but it is difficult to undo years of damage in just a few short months. This is why your understanding of bacteria, the gut microbiome, and poop are SO important. You’re eating a clean, Paleo or Primal diet and that’s good, but what are you feeding the bacteria inside your gut? Are you feeding the good bacteria? Or are you feeding the bad bacteria?
Eating clean won’t solve that permanently. It will probably creep back up on you a lot if you’re not mindful to the bacterial balance of your gut. If you eat sweet potatoes, berries, bananas, coconut, honey, maple syrup etc everyday, there’s a good chance you are slowly contributing to the re-occurrence of gut dysbiosis. It doesn’t mean you have to avoid those things all the time, it just means you need to consume them less often if you persistently experience unpleasant symptoms.
A healthy balance of good bacteria (where specific types of beneficial bacterium like bifidobacterium and lactobacilli are present and numerous enough to regulate pathogenic bacterium), is the ONLY way you can maintain a healthy gut… and a healthy gut supports these systems of the body:
So basically… all of them.
And guess what… just a few rounds of antibiotics or an overgrowth of yeasts like Candida albicans can wipe out the gut of its healthy bacterial environment and begin the over-population of pathogenic bacteria, thus beginning the destruction and fall of one, more, or all of your systems. So listen to what your Paleo poop is telling you.
Check out all of these awesome sources for more information on the ever-desirable poop, guts, and bacteria, and their roles in health, fitness and weight loss.
Mice Study: Bacteria & Obesity
BBC News: Health; Obesity Fighting Bacteria
Human Food Project: Anthropology of Microbes
Chris Kresser: All About the Gut
Paleo Movement: Forgotten Organ, Katy Haldiman
Ways To Fix a Leaky Gut, Katy Haldiman