How to Analyze Your Stool for a Healthier Digestive System
Yes, yes, yes…
Today I’m going to show you how to analyze your ‘extracted goodies’ – errr your stool.
Why you ask…
Well, because what you leave behind in the toilet can tell you a lot about how your body is reacting to the foods you are consuming. It can also tell you a lot about the health of your digestive system.
Your stool can provide you with vital feedback and if you don’t take a second to examine it, you’re literally and figuratively flushing useful information down the toilet.
As much as the thought of standing over the toilet after a nice long dump-sesh and staring deeply into your little monster sounds ridiculous, the insight you can gain is completely worth the effort.
Just trust me for a second…
Before we bust out our magnifying glass, let me just give you a quick overview of your digestive system because, in all sense of the word, that is what converts the food that you put in your mouth into the smelly lump that you plop into the toilet.
The Digestive Process
It all starts in the mouth. You throw in some food and start chomping it up with your grinders. Your salivary glands release enzymes to break the food down and make it easier to swallow.
Keep in mind that the longer you chew, the more the food is broken down, which enhances the total rate of digestion.
As you swallow, the food moves down through the esophagus via mechanical waves and ends up in your stomach fairly quickly. There it’s broken down even further as it is blasted with the stomach’s powerful hydrochloric acid.
It takes anywhere from four to five hours for food to completely clear the stomach. This depends on the size of the stomach, the amount of food ingested, and the amount of material already in the intestines. After some hours of hard work, the stomach slowly delivers the stuff (now called chyme) into the small intestine.
Inside the small intestine is where all the magic happens – nutrient absorption. This is what digestion is all about – breaking the food down into its nutritional components so they can be absorbed inside the small intestine and delivered to the rest of the body as fuel.
Whatever is not absorbed by the small intestine is moved into the big ol’ large intestine (also known as the colon). This is where fat and water absorption happen. Possibly some mineral absorption as well. This is what causes the fecal matter to solidify, preparing it for extraction.
After the colon, whatever was unlucky (well, useless) enough to get passed on is headed for the toilet.
Here’s a very simple video explanation of the whole process:
This whole process should take anywhere from 19 to 24 hours, but it can definitely vary depending on the foods you are consuming and the overall health and function of your digestive system.
However, the longer it takes, the more likely it is that there’s something wrong within your digestive system.
Here’s how to test it…
Test Your Digestion Rate
Essentially, you want to see just how long it takes for your body to digest your food.
You want to see if you fall within that 19-24 hour digestion period.
This is what you do…
Choose between one of the following two food items: corn or beats. Add a small quantity of it to your typical meal.
The outer skin of corn is indigestible and is passed on through your digestive system and comes out the same way as it goes in. Beats give your stool a nice red-purple tint (don’t worry, you’re not bleeding).
Either way, both of them are really easy to spot in the toilet (that’s the idea).
I want you to mark down exactly the time and date that you consume these foods.
Then you wait.
Wait for the first sign of either corn or colour in your stool to appear, depending on which you chose. Pay close attention (it shouldn’t be hard to spot).
Mark down the time you first excrete that food and compare it to your time of consumption.
I would do this three times throughout a week (or longer) to get a good average digestion time.
More likely than not, your digestion duration will be longer than 24 hours. The longer it is, the more digestion issues you may have.
If you do find that your digestive system isn’t up to par, here are two really interesting articles that explain how you can improve the function of your digestion:
- Simple Ways to Improve your Digestion and Gut Health
- Powerful Tips to Improve Your Digestive System’s Health
Next up, we want to actually analyze our stool…
How to Analyze Your Stool
Although many of us tend to turn away so we don’t catch a glimpse of the monster we just let out, I suggest you take good hard look at what you just excreted before you slam down on the flush button.
Analyzing your stool will help you understand how your body is reacting to the foods you are consuming.
If you don’t take the time to look at what you put out, you’re going to miss out on some vital feedback that your body is giving you.
So what exactly are you looking for?
We’re going to use the simple 4S technique. That is, we’re going to look at the size, shape, smell, and shade of your stool.
Note: this information has been sourced from an awesome infographic created by Kimberly Snyder.
Before we get into the analysis, here are some things you should know about your stools:
[Note: the image above states that whole grains are a poop superfood. This is because they are loaded with fiber. However, whole grains cause other problems like fat accumulation and metabolic syndrome. Instead, focus on leafy green vegetables to get your fiber.]
So a healthy stool should look like a torpedo – it should be large, soft, fluffy and easy to pass.
What if it’s not shaped like a torpedo?
Well, here are some images that can help give you a better idea of what exactly your stool is trying to tell you…
The shade or colour of your stool can also give you a lot of information…
It takes a bit of time and practice to really learn how to read and understand what your stool is telling you.
I’ve found some tools that might be useful…
Tools for Analyzing your Stool
There is some truly crazy technology out there that has been created (or is at least in the process of being developed) to actually help you keep track of your stool disposal.
For example, researchers and designers in London, UK are working to build toilets that actually monitor your stool in real time and are able to detect any potentially serious illnesses. This can be incredibly powerful for ensuring early treatment.
Imagine if every home had one of these installed…
We would constantly be provided with immediate feedback on our health and we would have the power to prevent any serious illnesses from propagating. We would be able to act immediately.
But it seems to me that these designers in London are a little late on this.
Apparently, these toilets already exist in Japan.
The Japanese have designed toilets that are, to say the least, ridiculously over-engineered as they are loaded with buttons and functions – even the ability to keep your butt warm on cold days.
But here’s the real benefit of it…
The nation’s No. 2 manufacturer of “sanitary fixtures” has developed a toilet terminal that informs you about the structure of your stool via a personalized URL. Here are more details from the website:
“After the job is done and the toilet analyzes your excreta (amount of bacteria, body fat etc.), a URL containing information about the results of the analysis is created and automatically sent to your cell phone via an infrared connection (there are infrared panels serving as no-touch flush sensors in most modern toilets in Japan). Users can then open the corresponding page on their mobile browser and check their health. It’s magical.”
You can only imagine the power of this…
Keep in mind, however, that a toilet of this kind sells for about $560.
But let’s say you don’t have that kind of money (who does for a toilet), or you don’t live in Japan.
There are some other cool tools you can use with technology that you probably already have on hand…
Tools for Tracking and Analyzing your Stool
Believe it or not, a number of smartphone applications have been developed to help you keep track your stool disposal.
Some of these are humorous, but others can actually be very useful.
Here’s my favorite one…
iPhone Application – Poo Log
This a really cool (and funny) iPhone app that helps you not only keep track of when you excrete your goodies, but it also helps you learn a bit about them while you’re doing the deed.
With a clever mix of bathroom humor and legitimate medical information, Poo Log allows you to track your digestive workings and graph your poo – all with one hand. With handy references, trivia, and interesting nuggets throughout, this digital Poo Log makes every trip to the can an e-loo-cidating experience. [source]
The app costs a buck, but well worth the feedback you get on a month’s worth of stool tracking. You can check out the Poo Log app here.
Online Tool – Stool Analyzer
Stool Analyzer is a really cool (and free) online tool that you can use to get a better understanding of your stool.
The tool asks you questions about the size, shape, colour, behaviour, and frequency of your stool sessions. Within minutes you can have a pretty accurate assessment of the health of your digestive system.
Throughout your life you will likely experience many types of stool. The shape, colour, size, frequency and behaviour of your stool is a fantastic indicator of your diet and overall health. This program is designed to help you analyze your feces and change your diet so that you can achieve the “perfect stool”. [source]
Check out the Stool Analyzer.
So there we have it.
I know that the thought of standing over your toilet and staring at your stool might feel awkward or…uncomfortable, but doing this every now and then can be very beneficial.
What you leave in the toilet can give you vital feedback on the health of your digestive system and will give you a better understanding of how your body is reacting to the foods you are consuming.
What are your thoughts on the idea of analyzing your stool? Have you ever tried it? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. Don’t be shy 🙂