Maybe you’ve seen TikToks (and billboards!) about how all hot girls have IBS, or maybe your nieces and nephews have hit the age where all bathroom jokes are hilarious. Either way, it seems like everyone is talking about poop.
So much of women’s health is shrouded in shame and secrecy, and poop is no exception. However, poop and digestion are things you should take seriously because they can tell you a lot about your overall health and wellbeing. Let’s dive in and explore why:
Stool consistency: What can it tell you about your health?
While poop may not be the first question on your healthcare provider’s list of things to discuss, it’s an important one and should begin with a conversation about your body’s “normal” stool consistency.
Many doctors recommend The Bristol Stool Chart as the gold standard for tracking your poop’s consistency. Nutrition tracking app Cronometer uses it in their stool tracking feature for an easy (and free) way to keep an eye on your poop over time.
According to the Bristol Stool Chart, there are 7 types of stool consistencies, with types 1 and 2 indicating constipation, and types 5, 6, and 7 indicating diarrhea. The texture, color, and consistency of your stool can tell you a lot about your diet and water intake.
Type 1 and 2: Constipation
If your poop resembles small, hard lumps or rabbit droppings, you may be experiencing constipation. Constipation can be a chronic or temporary condition caused by diet, medication, travel, changes to your daily routine, medication, fever, or even a result of the mind-body connection. Constipation can feel incredibly uncomfortable, but fortunately, it can be relieved by light walking, increasing your fiber intake, hydrating, or taking over-the-counter laxatives.
In some cases, constipation can indicate an underlying condition like diabetes or colorectal cancer, which is why it’s important to talk to a doctor if you are experiencing chronic constipation that doesn’t change with lifestyle changes within 3 months.
Types 3 and 4: The ideal poop
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Congrats! Types 3 and 4 are solid, healthy poops that are easily passed without urgency or discomfort. These poops mean that you are likely consuming enough fiber and water, and your digestive system is functioning normally. If your poops regularly look like this, keep it up!
Types 5, 6, and 7: Diarrhea
On the other end of the spectrum is diarrhea, indicated by watery or overly loose stools that often feel very urgent to pass. Diarrhea can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it is your body's way of flagging potential issues by clearing bacteria or other unwanted substances out of the intestines.
Like constipation, diarrhea can be categorized as being a short-term or chronic symptom. Acute diarrhea can indicate an infection like norovirus or food poisoning and is often a common side effect of medications like metformin, a common medication to treat diabetes and PCOS. Although a bad bout of food poisoning can definitely cause an unpleasant day, short-term diarrhea generally goes away on its own.
Chronic diarrhea, characterized as having three or more watery poops a day for longer than 4 weeks, can indicate a more serious chronic condition like Crohn's Disease, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration or malnutrition, so it’s worth talking to a doctor if you have experienced diarrhea for longer than 4 weeks.
Monitor your stool consistency
You can learn a lot about your body by regularly monitoring your poops. Changes to your regular poop consistency or chronic diarrhea or constipation can indicate a more serious digestive condition, like Celiac Disease or IBS.
Do you ever feel severe pain and drastic changes to your stool after eating pizza, bread, or pasta? It could be your body's way of signaling gluten intolerance or, in some cases, Celiac disease.
If your body can’t tolerate gluten, you might notice constipation, diarrhea, or pale, foul-smelling poops. This means that your body isn’t properly absorbing nutrients from the foods you are eating.
About 6% of the population has a form of gluten intolerance, and 1% of the population has Celiac disease. Fortunately, switching to a gluten-free diet can provide immediate relief from symptoms, and dietary supplements can help with any vitamin deficiencies caused by nutrient malabsorption.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Do all hot girls really have IBS? Possibly! Statistically, about 10-15% of the population has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a common disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. IBS causes stomach pain, bloating, chronic diarrhea, and constipation.
Although fairly common, IBS causes discomfort and pain. Changes to your poop can be an early indicator of IBS, so paying attention to your poop’s normal consistency can help you notice when something is wrong.
Poop and the menstrual cycle
According to Anna Bohnengel, a registered dietitian and founder of Fertility Nutritionist, it's also very common to see fluctuations in the consistency of your poop corresponding to your menstrual cycle. In the luteal phase, progesterone can slow down muscle contractions in your bowel, resulting in more constipation. When you get your period, progesterone levels drop and inflammatory markers can increase, often resulting in more loose stools or even diarrhea. Tracking your bowel movements and GI Symptoms along with your menstrual cycle can be really helpful for understanding what's normal for YOU."
How to track your stool with Cronometer
If you are ready to start learning more about your overall health by tracking your poop, Cronometer can help. Cronometer’s stool tracking feature, found in their app, uses the Bristol Stool Scale to track your stool consistency and regularity over time, and you can even compare this data with other indicators like energy levels. Download it here – it’s free!
Erin Pettis is a Content Marketer and freelance writer based in NYC.