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Let’s Talk About Poop

Being a mommy, poop seems to be a fun topic of discussion.  My boys talk about poop—about how ENORMOUS theirs was, how bad it smells, and just how funny poop is in general.  I have even been called into the bathroom to see poop that they are especially proud of—almost picture worthy, don’t you think?!?

If only poop was always so fun and entertaining.  It seems that as we grow up, poop goes from being funny, to annoying, to downright concerning.  Many people come into Foundational Concepts and have seen multiple physicians and have been given multiple tests.  Often, the answer for a normal poop still isn’t in focus.

Which begs the question—what is normal and what is not?  First of all, daily bowel movements are not a requirement!  Anything from three times per day to three times per week is considered normal.  That’s a big range.  In order to have a normal stool, you shouldn’t have to strain, your face shouldn’t turn red, and you shouldn’t have any pain before, during, or after you poop.  And when you finish, you should feel like you are done, not like there is something that hasn’t moved all the way out.  Finally, looking at your stool, it should look like #3 or #4 on the Bristol Stool Scale.  If yours is looking like #1 or #2, you are probably trending towards constipation.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, what is one to do?  First and foremost, if your poop is looking like rabbit pellets, make sure you are drinking enough water.  The general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces.  So, if you weight 140 pounds, you should try to drink around 70 ounces of water—about 9 glasses.  Also, take a look at your fiber intake—are you eating your leafy greens and whole grains and how much?

If diet and water intake are good and you are still experiencing issues, then we need to look at what else is going on.  From a physical therapy point of view, we look at the muscle of the pelvic floor.  By doing this, we can see and feel if your muscles are relaxing when you try to bear down or if they are tightening up—called paradoxical relaxation or a dyssynergic pelvic floor.  We commonly see this with our patients with long term constipation.  With proper training for relaxation and elongation of the pelvic floor muscles, you can decrease pain with bowel movements and improve the quality and emptying of your rectum.

Your poop can tell you a lot about what is going on in your gut.  Take a look at the color—it should be brown.  If your poop is black, you need to call your doctor.  If it is bright red, you may have an active hemorrhoid or anal fissure—like a paper cut on your anal canal.  Also, pay attention to the shape, size, and consistency.  You can compare it to the Bristol Stool Scale above.  Type 3-4 is usually indicating a healthy gut.  Type 1-2 tends to be too long in your gut and maybe you’re dehydrated.  Type 6-7 is moving through too fast—eat your fiber to help bulk things up.  If that doesn’t help, it’s time to call your doctor to rule things in or out.

Poop is an interesting topic, not just for 5 year old boys!  Your poop can tell you and your health care providers many things about your health.  If you have any concerns about your frequency or consistency or if you are having pain before, during, or after your bowel movements, make sure that you visit with your health care provider.

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