What’s your poop telling you?
Did you know that your bowel regularity and consistency is one of the key predictors of your health status? In a population-level analysis of microbiome variation, various factors were evaluated to assess predictors of overall health status. The data point with highest correlation to health was the Bristol Stool Score. The fourth highest predictive data point was “time since previous relief.” These two metrics don’t require a visit to the doctor, a blood draw or anything complicated and they can give you a good idea every day of whether or not you are healthy.
So what is the Bristol Stool Scale?
The Bristol Stool Chart classifies stool samples according to shape and consistency and assigns a sample (poop) a number from 1-7 depending on its characteristics. Stools that are well formed and easy to pass are considered ideal and most indicative of healthy digestion.
This is a pretty good simple assessment. Back in 2015 when I founded The BioCollective, I was on a hike and was asked by some fellow hikers what kind of work I did. I told them I was in the business of collecting and evaluating stool samples to better understand human health. They were hiking with their dog and immediately connected this process of evaluating the stool to their own measurements of their dog’s health by examining the daily bowel habits fo the dog. It was common sense to them.
We've learned a lot over the past six years of working in the microbiome field and collecting stool samples, much of it unpublished in scientific literature. We have also heard from many people over these six years that issues with going too little with great difficulty or two often with explosive effects and significant issues. This is one reason we started making probiotics, to help these people, perhaps like you, with our knowledge of the microbiome.
Here are twocommon sense explanations about how your bowel regularity impacts your health.
First, let’s take constipation. Constipation is the delayed evacuation of waste from the digestive system. If you think about this from a common sense perspective, we are eating 2-3 times per day and not all of this matter is converted to something that is used by the body so there is waste. If we are creating daily waste but not eliminating it then the waste is just sitting in our intestines fermenting or putrifying. This process can create many toxic byproducts that our other systems must work to clear from the body. An area we have been studying for the past several years is bacterial toxins which can have many detrimental health effects.
Next let’s look at diarrhea. Rapid elimination of waste is the body’s way of trying to rid itself of something harmful, such as a virus or food poisoning. In the short term this is a good thing but over the long term it can be an indication of something more serious. If the food you eat passes quickly through your digestive track then you may not be able to break down and absorb the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Statistics show roughly 15% of the US population suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That’s nearly 50 Million people. IBS can be constipation or diarrhea or some combination of bowel alternating back and forth.
So paying attention to your Bristol Stool Score can help you stay on top of your health. Take note of how different foods affect your score. After all, your own observations and common sense may be your best tool to improving your gut health and your number 2!
Have a nice poop!
Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.
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