by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)
There’s a scene in the movie, The Last Emperor, where the Chinese doctors look at the young emperor’s stool and then recommend some changes in his diet. Stool diagnosis is a great way to learn about the health of the digestive tract and the body, in general.
Of course, talking about examining what’s in the toilet isn't very cool. In fact, it's a “dirty” job, but someone’s got to do it, and I guess that someone is going to be me. So, put aside your squeamishness about bowel movements and let’s talk about how you can tell what your body needs from examining the final remains of your recent meals.
Shape and Consistency
Let’s start with the shape of the stool. Your colon is a long narrow tube, so the stool should come out in long, narrow pieces. Usually, healthy stools will be banana- or s-shaped, or shaped like a thick piece of rope. If the stool comes out in hard, dry balls, you are dehydrated.
Dehydration is the most common cause of constipation. In order to break down food, the body has to add water to it. It then recycles much of this water by absorbing it in the colon. If you’re dehydrated, it will absorb too much water, which will make you constipated and turn your stool into hard, round balls that are difficult to pass.
Most laxatives work by holding water in the stool. So, if you use laxatives to get your stool to move, you need to drink more water. Try drinking two glasses of water a half hour before meals with a small pinch of natural salt (like NSP’s sea salt).
Water stimulates a gut hormone called motilin, which has properties similar to serotonin. This is why constipation contributes to depression. Motilin, as its name suggests, also activates peristalsis of the intestinal tract, which means it also helps you to “go.” So, adequate water is a laxative all by itself.
The stool should be about the combined thickness of your pointer and middle fingers. If it is larger than this, then you are getting ballooning in the colon, a sign that the colon is lacking muscle tone, and a good colon cleanse is probably in order. CleanStart would be a good choice in this case because the bentonite in it helps to tone the intestinal tract.
The consistency of the stool tells a lot about what is happening in the digestive tract. The stool should have form, but the form should be loose and probably break up a little on flushing. It should not be thick and fudgy (like peanut butter). If it is, you may not have enough fiber in your diet.
The Value of Fiber
Water-soluble fiber (such as mucilage or pectin) is the second most important need for intestinal health. It helps to hold water in the stool and also makes the stool “slippery” so things glide quickly through your digestive tract. Psyllum hulls are one of the best sources of this kind of fiber and are a featured herb article on the TreeLite.com website.
If you’re not used to taking fiber, start slowly with about one half teaspoon of Psyllium Hulls Combination or Nature’s Three and gradually work up to a heaping teaspoon. My favorite fiber is a blend of half Psyllium Hulls Combination and half freshly ground flax seed. Flax seeds are a great digestive lubricant if your stools appear sticky or dry and are hard to pass. The essential fatty acids also help to reduce intestinal inflammation.
Of course, fiber won’t help if you don’t drink enough water with it to keep it hydrated. So, don’t add fiber to your diet without adding extra water.
If the stool doesn’t have form and is watery, then you’ve got diarrhea. Diarrhea is a sign of acute or chronic intestinal inflammation, which is due to the presence of toxins in the digestive tract (which may be the result of infection or parasites). When there is a watery, unformed stool, the diarrhea can usually be remedied by dietary fiber or activated charcoal.
The fiber absorbs the toxins, but there may also be a need for anti-inflammatory agents, anti-microbial agents or a parasite cleanse. Chronic diarrhea or alternating diarrhea and constipation is often a sign of inflammatory bowel disorders and should be checked out by a doctor.
Your stool can also tell you how well your digestive tract is working. If there are undigested food particles in the stool, then you need to work on digestion. Are you chewing your food thoroughly? Do you have sufficient hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes to break food down properly? If not, Proactazyme or Food Digestive Enzymes may help.
Stools should not float, either. If stools have a greasy sheen and bob around in the toilet like a cork (which makes them very difficult to flush) then you aren’t digesting fats properly. Your gall bladder may not be functioning properly to emulsify fats (make them water soluble) for absorption or you may be deficient in lipase enzymes. Try taking Hi-Lipase with meals.
Which also brings us to the subject of stool color. Bile is a major contributor to the color of one’s stool. Healthy bile is a yellow color and colors the stool a light brown. When bile is toxic it becomes green or dark green, which makes the stool darker in color. Dark brown or blackish colored stools can be a sign the body is dumping toxins from the liver through the bile, particularly if the stool has a strong odor.
In contrast, if the stool is clay-colored (very light), then the gallbladder may be obstructed or the liver is failing to produce sufficient bile. In either case, support for the liver and gallbladder may be needed. In this case, I recommend the Tiao He Cleanse. It’s a good cleanse for helping to clear the liver. I do recommend you take some extra fiber with it though (and plenty of water, of course).
Colon Transit Time
Of course, specific foods, such as chlorophyll and red beets, will also affect stool color. One can use the coloring effect of these foods to determine one’s colon transit time. Transit time is the time it takes for waste material from the food we eat to exit the body. Optimally, the body should eliminate any waste material from consumed food within 18-24 hours of consuming it. Most North Americans have a colon transit time of 72 hours or more, which means the waste material sits in the intestines too long.
To see what your colon transit time is, try eating some red beets and see how long it takes for the red color of the beets to show up in the stool. Also, see how long it takes before no more red color appears in the stool. If the red color shows up and disappears within 24 hours, you’re in good shape.
If it takes longer, you have a slow colon transit time—a good indication of the need for a colon cleanse. You could also try taking some Gentle Move or LBS II. (This is, of course in addition to the water and fiber.) Both of these products are featured herb articles at treelite.com:
LBS II along with an article on the laxative herb cascara sagrada.
If you have red in your stool and haven’t been eating beets, you probably have bleeding in the colon or rectum. Take an astringent (like bayberry rootbark or yarrow) and then go see a doctor to find out what is happening.
Okay, we all know that waste material is supposed to smell, but it isn’t supposed to smell that bad! I’m not suggesting that the stool is supposed to smell sweet; it just isn’t supposed to smell rotten.
If the stool has a really foul odor, then something is rotten, and it’s inside of you! Foul belching, gas or stool odor is a sign that food is decomposing in your digestive tract. Foods residues are supposed to be eliminated before they start to decompose not after. If the food is decomposing inside of you, then you’re absorbing all of that toxic material released from the decomposition process; and that’s not a pleasant thought, is it? I assure you that it’s not good for your health, either.
Proteins are usually the worst offenders when it comes to creating foul odors - ever smell a rotten egg or piece of fish? So, foul odors are usually a sign that you’re not digesting proteins properly. Hydrochloric acid or enzyme supplements (like Protein Digestive Aid, High Potency Protease or Food Digestive Enzymes) will be helpful in breaking down proteins properly.
However, general poor digestion and elimination, as well as toxicity will contribute to foul odors. The Chinese Anti-Gas Formula is a good combination to take to reduce gas and odors by improving digestion and elimination. Liquid Chlorophyll is a good supplement to take to reduce odors caused by cleansing programs.
Well, we've reached the end of our uncool discussion of the stool. If you'd like to learn more, read my book, Coming Clean.
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