Part 1 of 4

I know, I know, this is a topic that most people are uncomfortable talking about, however the end product of what your body eliminates says a great deal about your overall health. The color, shape, consistency and frequency of bowel movements are all important in determining changes that need to be made in diet, supplementation and potential pathogen treatment, such as, yeast, bacteria or parasites.

As advanced as our society has become, we seem to have left behind the principles of functional digestion. Every item that enters our mouths needs to be broken down effectively in order to extract nutrients, which become the building block of each and every cell, enzyme, and hormone in our bodies. Without proper absorption and elimination our bodies are left without the components for optimal function and health, leading us down a path destined for chronic disease.

Let’s look at a brief overview of how the digestive system is supposed to work. Did you know that digestion starts by thinking about food? Does your mouth ever water just thinking about eating certain foods? Stimulating salivary enzyme production and chewing effectively are important to aide in digestion, as salivary enzymes begin to break down carbohydrates and some fats. After the food is swallowed, your stomach sends a signal to start creating pepsin and HCL based off of the amount of protein in your food.

The stomach then churns and turns breaking the food down into a small bolus called chyme. After the correct acidic property has been reached, the chyme leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine where pancreatic enzymes, bile from the gall bladder and additional enzymes created by the small intestine are introduced.

At this point, the chyme is broken down further, allowing nutrients to be absorbed by the villi for distribution around the body. The end products then move to the large intestine where water is reabsorbed, bacterial fermentation converts the chyme into feces and releases vitamins including Vitamin K, B1, B2, B6, B12 and biotin. The remainder becomes your poop.

In my practice, I often use the Bristol Stool Scale to identify the usual type of stool produced by the individual. The Bristol Stool Scale or Bristol Stool Chart is a medical aid designed to classify the form of human feces into seven groups.  It was developed by Heaton and Lewis at the University of Bristol and was first published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 1997.  The form of the stool depends on the time it spends in the colon.

poop

If stool is described as anything other than 3 or 4, I recommend comprehensive stool analysis such as the GI Effects from Genova laboratory. This testing is ideal for determining digestion and absorption, inflammation, the mix of commensal bacteria (We need a balance good and bad bacteria to obtain optimal gut health), yeast, bacterial and parasite over growth.

Problems can begin at birth due to inadequate bacteria, genetic predisposition, increased stress, hectic schedules improper chewing, toxic burden, and poor food choices. Did you know that 80% percent of your immune system is found in your gut? An ineffective immune system and inflammatory signaling can lead to auto-immune conditions(Celiac, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Eczema), diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acne, and many other chronic diseases.

Did you look at the Bristol Stool chart? What number are you?

The bottom line is that constipation and diarrhea are not normal, even if it is “your” normal. It is ideal to have 1-3 bowel movements, identified as 3 or 4 on the Bristol Stool scale per day. If you are having issues with gas/bloating after meals, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, joint pain, depression, anxiety, auto-immune disorders, ADD, etc., it is time to see your doctor and/or Nutritionist to address underlying causes and restore and repair function.

Check back over the next four weeks for tips on diet, probiotics, decreasing inflammation and more.