No one likes to talk about poo. POO is TABOO!
Since being diagnosed with celiac disease and becoming a mother of children with food allergies, I feel I have become somewhat of a poo analyst (hmmm… business cards?) It’s just that after you clear the stuff you are sensitive to out of your system, you are very aware of any changes in your stool. When people come to me for advice, I often ask about it (poo), because there is a lot to be learned from it (again, poo).
One thing is for sure — people don’t know what a normal stool is, and often people assume that having constipation or loose stools is normal because they have lived with it for so long.
I did some research and it turns out that there is a way to classify poo – with the Bristol Stool Chart, which categorizes stools into 7 types.
What is your stool type?
Type 1 = Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
Type 2 = Sausage-shaped, but lumpy
Type 3 = Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface
Type 4 = Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
Type 5 = Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passes easily)
Type 6 = Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool
Type 7 = Water, no solid pieces, entirely liquid
Healthy stools are usually considered to be those falling into categories 3 or 4, the ones that are the most comfortable to pass. Now, if you are really interested in this, and need more clarification on the stool types, and no one is looking, go check out the visual of the Bristol Stool Chart.
The relationship between stool health and food sensitivities
It is interesting to note that celiac disease can present with either constipation or diarrhea as a symptom, and sometimes a person can even alternate between both. Most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance say that if they inadvertently get gluten, their stool will change for the worse.
With food allergies, it is common to have diarrhea as a symptom. The first time I knew my daughter had an allergy to avocado, she had diarrhea that began about 2 hours after eating it, and continued for 2 weeks! A pediatric nurse told me that the reason the diarrhea was green and smelly was because the food was going through the digestive system too quickly and the result was that bile (which is green) was being excreted. My daughter’s unusual avocado allergy was later confirmed with a skin test.
When my daughter was older, I removed dairy from her diet because eating it caused her to have large, smelly, soft, greenish stools (accompanied also by rashes). Her stools improved, but she sometimes complained of tummy aches and her stools were still not “right.” I had a suspicion that it could be soy, since she had started eating more of it (most dairy alternatives are soy-based). I have recently removed all soy from her diet and sure enough, her stools are now in the healthy range (which can also be characterized, in my opinion, by a clean wipe). No more tummy aches and improved behavior too. Her dairy and soy intolerance were confirmed by a stool test.
Why does this matter?
There are certainly times when a person’s stool may be out of the healthy range and it is not celiac disease or a food intolerance or allergy (eating a lot of certain types of fruit, for example, or a case of food poisoning). But if a person is consistently out of the healthy range, it may be an indication that something else is going on — an immune system response perhaps. In that case, there may be other damage occurring in the body and it is important to remove the offending food from the diet. Please see your doctor for testing and advice.
Whew — after writing all that, I’m pooped!