Number “two” has become trendy. With more news stories coming out about fecal transplants, leaky gut (aka gut inflammation), and coffee enemas, we wanted to scratch the tip of the iceberg and dive into poop health 101.
Even if you are a “regular” Joe, don’t skip this. It could be said that just about everything is linked to your gut. Now, let’s learn how to poop better.
what poop says about your health
Every 1-3 days (hopefully), our body shares an in-depth (it should sink) summary of our health. It’s called poop.
Ancient Chinese, Greek, Egyptian and many more ancient cultures monitored the shape, size, and texture of poop to diagnose health problems.
But, in this day and age, we have far more complex ways to measure our health and diagnose problems.
Frankly, we stopped giving a shit about our poop. Most people just cover it with TP and flush it down.
But, that’s all about to change. Because our poop is really, really important.
Why Poop Is Important
In our body, the digestive system is hugely influential. If is had an Instagram account, it would have a trillion followers from all geographical locations in the body.
Not only does it have a large reach, but it’s also huge in size. The surface area of your gut is about 40 times larger than that of your skin.
What happens in our gut is massively connected to our health. The gut has more nerves than our spinal cord. It produces 20 different hormones (male and female sex organs only produce 3).
Gut health and its mysterious connection to the brain is currently the topic of thousands of scientific studies.
What we know right now, is that people with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease have a higher rise of anxiety or depression.
Therefore, somehow, your gut health and your mental health are linked.
We also know that in the UK, a fecal transplant is pretty commonly used to cure illness. That means taking poop from a healthy donor and transplanting it into the intestines of a sick recipient.
Not only does the bacteria from the fecal matter cure symptoms, but doctors found that recipients started to crave the foods that the healthy donor was eating, making it a more long term healthy solution.
Now that you’re both fascinated and disgusted, it’s time to learn what poop says about your health.
Is My Poop Normal?
To answer this question, you have to start looking at your poop. You might even want to keep a poop journal, documenting your movements and looking for patterns in your diet or lifestyle.
However, since it’s awkward to look at other people’s poop, you’ll never know what is “normal” if you don’t learn how to read the poop chart.
More on that soon. First, let’s begin with the most common questions people ask about their poop.
1. Should poop sink or float?
It should sink. If your poop is dense enough to sink, that means you’re eating enough fiber and your digestive system is running well.
If it floats, relax. It’s probably just because you’re eating foods that create more gasses, such as beans, milk, or cabbage.
The occasional floater is fine, but if it goes on like this for weeks, then you need to make some diet changes (this is where journaling comes in handy) or talk to a doctor.
2. What type of poop is unhealthy?
The poop chart I referred to previously describes the color, shape, and consistency of 7 types of feces.
Of the 7, only 2 types are considered normal, regular, or healthy. All other types of poop are signal either constipation or diarrhea.
We’ll talk about this in greater detail soon, but a healthy poop is brown in color, sausage or snake-like, and has a smooth texture with some surface cracking.
3. Should I do the corn test?
The corn test is an easy way to check the health of your digestive system. Once your body has digested all the fiber and nutrients from your food, it becomes waste.
A healthy digestive system pushes waste through the colon fully, and efficiently. Since corn kernels are not digested, eat some corn and see how long it takes to get to the other side.
Ideally, you want to see the corn again in 1-2 days. That’s when you know that there are no traffic jams in your colon. If there are, you might be rerouted from regularity to constipation.
Now that we have covered the poop basics, you’re going to learn how to understand what your poop says about your health.
What Poop Says About Your Health
In this section, you are going to learn about normal, healthy bowel movements. The poop chart is the best way to read your poops.
The Bristol Stool Scale, developed in 1997, is a tool that classifies poop into seven categories. It’s the standard chart used in clinical and experimental fields.
Therefore, it should also be the standard chart for at home poop classification. Here’s how it can help you understand what your poop says about your health.
The Poop Chart
This is not good, and it might feel like you’re pooping marbles. This should happen very infrequently and you’re severely constipated.
The shape is more log-like, but the lumps indicate that you’re mildly constipated. Again, this should not happen often.
This is the best type of poop. It should come out easily and look like a sausage. It means you’re getting plenty of fiber and water.
This is another normal, healthy type of poop. However, it’s getting a little soft, making it thinner and snake-like.
These soft poops are easy to pass. They are blob-like with clear cut edges. You need more fiber to increase poop density.
It’s a mushy, shapeless pile that indicates mild diarrhea. Hopefully is just mild food poisoning. It shouldn’t last more than a couple days.
There is no fiber in this poop, its completely liquid. You’ve got the runs, and if it persists for more than a couple days you should see a doctor.
Remember to drink tons of water. Diarrhea dehydrates you quickly.
You can also learn what your poop says about your health from the color. A healthy poop is dark brown in color.
All other colors are not normal and make good data points as you analyze your poop.
If you’re concerned about the color of your poop, there’s a useful WebMD article on what stool colors mean.
Pooping everyday on a fairly consistent schedule is the goal.
However, according to this assessment of normal bowel habits, adult poop frequency is between three per week and three per day.
Also, a healthy poop should only take about a minute to push out, and no longer that 15 minutes.
Great Poop = Great Health
I used to be shy about discussing poop health, but no more. It’s massively important, and your poop can tell you a lot about your overall health.
Over the years, I’ve talked to many people about their digestive health challenges.
Why am I so interested? You guessed it, my poop health story is not a regular one.
The Constipation Was Real
After college, I had a few constipation episodes that scared the sh*t out of me (unfortunately, not literally.)
These typically revolved around “guys weekends.” An environment in which I drank more than usual, ate fried food and pizzas, and got completely knocked out of my routine.
The first episode, I went two weeks without a bowel movement. Fortunately, I fixed it by loading up my breakfast cereal with fiber (Quaker Oat Squares) and drinking more water.
My second was the scariest. After back-to-back guys weekends, I had gone two and a half weeks without a movement.
Frantically, I began researching how to fix and prevent constipation. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, so I tried everything that Google and the doctors in my life advised.
This meant, taking strong laxatives used for colonoscopy patients. I increased my water, stopped drinking alcohol, ate tons of vegetables, went for daily runs, and waited.
Thankfully, before I ended up at the hospital, things started moving again. This scare was terrible and made it hard to have fun on my vacation weekends.
My New Friend, Fiber
By the time the next episode showed up, I was wise and nipped it in the bud early on.
After yet another guys weekend, I was four days without heading to the bathroom when I arrived home.
So, the next day, I had Shakeology for all three meals to increase my insoluble fiber intake. And the next day, things started moving.
The Road to Healthy Digestion
Clearly, I hadn’t been listening to my body nor doing it any favors.
Outside of these extreme episodes that occurred during and after guys weekends, my poop health wasn’t great. I was never entirely regular without the help of coffee.
To improve, I kept a food journal to identify patterns, actively increased my dietary fiber, and started drinking Shakeology daily for breakfast.
Shakeology was then, and is today, crucial to my digestive health. Whenever I get out of routine, it doesn’t matter because it’s so easy to be consistent with this health supplement.
Since then, there are literally thousands of new digestion and gut health supplements out there. Personally, I haven’t tried any of them, so if there’s a product you swear by, please share in the comments.
How to improve poop health
Over the last 10 years, I’ve succeeded in improving my poop health through self-experimentation and research.
These are the six things that will help you eliminate constipation, improve your digestive health, and have great poop health.
1. What the Crap?
OK, good question, let’s start there.
Regularity can mean different things to different people. Typically, you should be passing stool between 3 times a day to 3 times a week. Between that vast range, doctors will generally say you are “regular,” but it will always depend on your body.
My doctor in Dallas (the same one who helped me recover from severe job burnout in my 20’s) told me it’s best to go at least once daily and ideally more than that.
In addition to the frequency, the shape matters too. As discussed previously, If you’re not consistently types 3 or 4 on the poop chart, take it as a warning sign.
You need to implement the below to work towards a healthier digestive system.
2. Fix It with Fiber
Did you know that 97% of Americans have a fiber deficiency?
The recommended daily minimum is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Yet, the average American only eats 15 grams of dietary fiber.
For those in the UK, you’re not far behind at 17 grams.
On top of helping your body move waste, fiber has been linked to weight loss, controlling obesity, reducing Type 2 diabetes, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Fiber is so important to weight loss that we included it in our weight loss challenge as one of the 5 numbers you track.
So, what’s the problem with the western diet? Not enough plants. Fiber is only found in plants, so load up your plate with beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and whole grains to cover both your soluble and insoluble dietary fiber needs.
- 1 cup of lentil soup has 15 grams of fiber
- 1 medium artichoke has 10 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of broccoli has 5 grams of fiber
- 1 scoop of Chocolate Shakeology has 6 grams of fiber
- 1 medium apple has 4 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of lentils has 17 grams of fiber
Over 70% of vegetarians and vegans get enough protein while consuming 3X the fiber of a typical, western omnivore.
If you want some inspiration to eat more plants, this is our favorite documentary.
3. Water Wins
We’ve talked about drinking a gallon of water a day before, but water plays a critical role in poop health.
Not only does water help break down food faster so your body can transport its nutrients, but fiber also pulls water into the colon to form softer stools. Therefore, reducing constipation.
Also, drinking water increases the volume in your intestines, which causes them to push food along for regular bowel movements, just like a muscle.
As a reminder, the rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water. Therefore, a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water a day.
Now, whenever I’m on a guys weekend, I live by the mantra “drink, water, drink, water” and do my best to chug a big glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage.
Not only will your liver and head thank you for it, so will your gut. It will also help you not have hangovers.
4. Make an Effort to Exercise
Who else here has needed to rush to the bathroom after (or during) a workout, particularly a long run?!
That’s not by accident. When you’re moving, the extra oxygen and blood pumping throughout your body aids in digestion and also works out the muscles around your abdomen and intestines.
Getting things moving with your body also means getting things moving with your digestion. As another side perk, exercise has been shown to reduce stress, which can also factor into constipation. What can’t exercise do?
Some exercises are better than others when it comes to digestion. Aerobic activities (cardio) such as walking, jogging, and light biking stimulates muscles in your digestive tract.
Yoga and tai chi also help because many moves massage your digestive tract (like the yoga pose, seated spinal twist).
If you’re not in the mood to exercise, you need to work at a standing desk. At the very least, this will lengthen your insides and let gravity do its job.
5. Become a Probiotics Pro
Probiotics are healthy bacteria similar to the ones already living in your digestive tract. They are like a special forces team that combats the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress.
They are critical to improving your poop health and even out imbalances in the intestinal flora. Therefore, probiotics are the common treatments to both constipation and diarrhea.
Did you know that in the UK, a fecal transplant is pretty commonly used to cure illness? That means taking poop from a healthy donor and transplanting it into the intestines of a sick recipient.
Not only does the bacteria from the fecal matter cure symptoms, but doctors found that recipients started to crave the foods that the healthy donor was eating. So you could give that a try!
Or, start with some of our favorite probiotic foods.
- Shakeology, which contains probiotic digestive enzymes
- Yogurt or kefir for breakfast
- Tempeh for lunch or dinner
- Kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut as a side dish
- Drink kombucha or apple cider vinegar
Add these into your diet. And if you want to add Shakeology to your diet, your insides will thank you.
But, make sure you read our Shakeology review first. It’s not for everyone.
6. Plan Ahead
A lot of times, people get out of whack when they are out of routine.
Be proactive and make a plan to avoid excessively sugary and processed foods and eat as many greens as possible.
Planning ahead means bringing healthy snacks and water along, setting aside time for activity, and scoping out the healthy food options.
If you want to improve your poop health, you need to up your planning game since we all get knocked out of routine.
7. Have a Digestive Health Ritual
One way you can improve your poop health is by making pre-breakfast drinks to prep your digestive tract.
Our daily ritual starts with this digestive drink, at least once a week.
- One cup of hot water
- One half a lemon squeezed (excites digestive enzymes)
- Two caps full of apple cider vinegar (balances pH levels in the gut for healthy bacteria growth)
- A pinch of cinnamon (to stabilize blood sugar levels).
We also have some favorite digestive health foods. Adding chia seeds to our smoothies a few times a week has become a ritual!
They are loaded with fiber and expand when soaked in water. In a sense, they scrub the inside of your digestive tract to promote regularity.
The best way to eat chia seeds is through soaking to absorb the most nutrients.
- Mix 1/3rd cup seeds with 2 cups of water or coconut/almond milk
- Soak them for at least 2 hours, or overnight to form a gel
- Consume within 3 days
The Ultimate Healthy Food Guide And Shopping List (PDF)
Do you ever wonder which foods have the highest nutritional quality or "bang for their buck?" Check out our guide and prepare for success before your next grocery store visit. We list our pantry staples, and healthy foods in order of the highest nutrition value.
- The Surprisingly Charming Science Of Your Gut – Ted Talk. “I think this is good information to share, because many people will think, “I have this gut thing, and maybe I also have this mental health thing” and maybe – because science is not clear on that right now – it’s really just that the brain is feeling sympathy with their gut.”
- The Physics of Poop – Scientific American. “We learned that most elephants and other herbivores create “floaters” while most tigers and other carnivores create “sinkers.”
Just Duo It
Our flagship program. Transform your mind, body, and marriage using small, systematic steps. These tried-and-true techniques have been taken from our research and personal experiments to reconnect, get healthier, and add spontaneity into your relationship.
- "Daily Duoables" to keep progress simple and easy
- Access to our exclusive Duo Life Community app to stay accountable for your fitness and nutrition
- Monthly guides to put it all together
We're willing to commit a year on you, are you ready to commit a year on you? Made for couples by couples.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
Join our 120,000 monthly readers