Your bowel movements are a great way to stay on track of your health. As embarrassing as it may seem it is good to keep an eye at your poop. The Bristol stool chart can be an easy way to check.
The SACN (The scientific advisory committee on nutrition) 2015 advice on increase in intake of fibre across all age groups. Foods containing fibre can reduce the incidence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes as well improve your digestive health and bowel movements.
An average UK adult get their fibre from:
Cereals and cereal products (39%)-white bread, wholemeal bread and cereals
Potatoes and vegetables (31%)
Reference PHE (public health England) 2014- national diet and nutrition survey
Conclusion-One in five adults do not eat wholegrain foods and high fibre snacks
80% do not consume the recommended 3x16g servings per day of wholegrain food as recommended by the department of Agriculture in the united states USDA.
BNF (British nutrition foundation) reports having 8 portions of fruit& vegetables with meals based on wholegrain starchy food and high fibre snacks to achieve 30g of fibre a day for adults will need simple steps to help.
Constipation can affect up to 27% of the population. It's a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can interfere with daily living and well -being. More common in older people and as life expectancy is increasing the incidence of constipation will increase with the impact on quality of life and cost of treatment.
Signs of constipation- is when you may feel that you are not passing stools as often as you should and you are straining more than usual or unable to completely empty your bowels. Stools are unusually hard,
Lumpy, large or small. "Interestingly, many individuals with fewer than three bowel movements per week do not consider themselves to be constipated, while others embrace the popular belief that ‘a bowel movement each day is necessary for good digestive health’." (Rome criteria)
Diet low in fibre, change in diet and lifestyle, lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids being overweight or underweight, depression or anxiety and side effects of medications can increase the chances of having constipation.
Here are some ways to help you with constipation:
e. g take a new 1 -2 high fibre food every week. Sudden increase can make you feel bloated
Ensure your fluid intake is up to 8-10 cups per day 250ml per cup
Introduce regular daily exercise by starting with regular walking, Recommended 30 minutes walking five times per week
Relaxation exercises e. g yoga or meditation and ensure adequate sleep
Last option consider laxatives/ stool softeners with the advice from your local G.P/Doctor. This is a costly alternative and long term use may not be advisable
"Women were almost twice more likely than men to seek medical care for self-reported constipation."
How does fibre help?
Fibre helps the digestive system by adding bulk to your stools making it easier for your bowel to clear excess waste
Foods rich in dietary fibre – SACN recommend a range from
15g for 2-5 year olds to 30g for over 16 year olds per day.Good sources include:
1 Fruit and vegetables 8 portions per day
One portion can be:
One piece of large fruit e. g half a grape fruit, a wedge of melon, a couple of rings of pineapple
One whole medium sized fruit e. g apple, orange or banana
One tablespoon of dried fruits-dates, sultanas,
2-3 tablespoons of cooked or canned fruit
A couple of small fruits-2 small plums or apricots
A cupful of berries or grapes,
one small glass (150ml )of unsweetened fresh fruit juice or fruit or vegetable smoothie,
2-3 tablespoon of cooked or canned fruit in own juice,
3 tablespoon of cooked, frozen or canned vegetables or side salad or cooked beans and lentils.
Don't count: potatoes, a glass of squash, fruit yoghurt or fruit jam. Remember to drink adequate daily fluids if you are thinking of increasing your fruit and vegetables. Recommended is 8 cups (250ml per cup) per day.This may increase during warm weather.
2 Whole grain food:
"Improved labelling and official wholegrain recommendation would help to boost intakes in the UK."
US/Canada recommends three or more servings of wholegrains per day
A portion of wholegrain:
1 cup(30g)wholegrain breakfast cereal
1/2 cup cooked/25g uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup cooked/30guncooked oatmeal/porridge
1 slice wholegrain bread
1 very small (25g) muffin
5 tips to check your bowel movement:
Going to toilet every other day with no pain, no change and regular is normal and healthy. Bristol stool type 3/4.
If bowel movements are more than 5 times per day and are loose or runny, it is classed as loose motions defined as diarrhoea. Bristol stool chart 6/7. This can cause dehydration and malnutrition. It is important for you to see your doctor. Bowel movement less than 3 per week Bristol stool chart 1/2 accompanied with straining and pain on passing can be constipation. It is advised to see your doctor.
If your poop is floating and happens for longer than 2 weeks see you doctor otherwise it is usually caused by excess gas from swallowing air when eating or drinking or undigested carbohydrates. See your doctor if it’s accompanied with bloating.
The colour of your poop can vary depending on medication and food you eat. However if it’s dark red or even black or white or grey see your doctor. Foods that can discolour your poop can be tomatoes, beetroot, green leafy vegetable like spinach and certain fruit.
It’s normal for your poop to smell. However if you feel there’s an unusual change in the way it smells than seek advice from your doctor.
Useful references NHS choices, change 4 life, BDA fact sheets, the gut trust help line.
If you have been diagnosed by your doctor with: Inflammatory bowel disease, Irritable bowel disease, Diverticular disease, Constipation, Coeliac disease seek the advice of a Professional Dietitian and Nutritionist Tabby Kabeer
Good Food Good Poop -where are you on the chart?