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What do your bowel movements say about your health?

It’s not a pretty thing to discuss, but your total health and well-being are important enough for us to bring up the subject of healthy bowel motions!

Woman taking the last sheet of toilet paper |

Photo credit: James Woodson / Photodisc / Getty Images

The next time you feel the urge to do a number two, it might be worth lingering for a moment, as the colour, shape and size of your bowel movements could correlate to some serious health issues.

When you go to the toilet, it’s usually quite a swift affair. No one likes to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary. But there’s a good reason to linger a little after going to the toilet, as changes in your bowel movements can indicate a range of health issues.

Just as there are a number of foods that help your digestive system, there are also a number of foods that can actually hurt your digestive health. But while changes to your diet can result in changes to your stool, unusual bowel movements can indicate that something more serious is going on.

What should your stool look like?

The Bristol Royal Infirmary Hospital in Bristol, England, found that patients were often reluctant to talk about the shape and nature of their stools, so they devised a handy chart called the Bristol Stool Form Scale. This covers the full range of bowel movements; type 4 is what we all should be aiming for. If you uncover any of these alternatives next time you visit the toilet, it’s generally a sign that something in your diet is out of balance.

  • Type 1: separated hard lumps, resembling small nuts. These stools have spent the longest in your colon and are often very difficult to pass.
  • Type 2: lumpy, hard, loosely sausage shaped. Type 2 stools are shaped like sausages but still have visible lumps. They are somewhat difficult to pass.
  • Type 3: like a sausage but with cracks on the surface. These stools are also sausage shaped and better formed than type 2, but with visible cracks.
  • Type 4: smooth and soft. These stools are like a smooth sausage or snake, and they’re well formed and easy to pass.
  • Type 5: soft with clear edges. Although these stools are easy to pass, they are comprised of many soft blobs with clear edges.
  • Type 6: fluffy and mushy. Type 6 stools are soft, fluffy and mushy with ragged edges.
  • Type 7: watery. If you have a type 7 stool, it will be almost entirely liquid with no solid pieces.

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When to visit the doctor

Did you know?

Every year, 20 million Canadians suffer from digestive disorders. reports that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects an estimated 13 to 20 per cent of all Canadians, while the lifetime risk for a Canadian to develop IBS is 30 per cent.

It goes without saying that when you experience very unusual or painful symptoms in this department, you should visit your doctor. A gastroenterologist is who you want to seek out. They are specialized doctors who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the entire digestive system.

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) advises that you should hurry to the doc if you experience any of the following:

  • Black, tarry stools (this is dark red blood mixed in with the stool)
  • Bright red blood in your stool
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Pain when having a bowel movement
  • Symptoms that wake you from sleep or persistent severe abdominal pain

More digestive health tips

Most nutritional foods for young women on a budget
5 Oils that are very important for you
A plant-based diet: How to get all the protein you need

Article sponsored by Kellogg’s All-Bran

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