When you work with me there will come a point where poo becomes a topic that we are 100% going to discuss.

I’ll probably phrase it slightly more professionally – I’ll ask you how many bowel movements you have a day or a week and what your stool looks like. In the beginning most people feel slightly uncomfortable talking about their bathroom habits but, once they get chatting, it all comes out fairly easily.

Your bowel movements are more important that you might think or give them credit for. You should probably pay more attention to them than you might have been, other than remarking about the stench that chases you down the hall way having dropped the kids off at the pool!  

Have you ever heard the expression “you are what you eat”?

Well that’s not exactly true, “you are what you don’t poo” is closer to the truth.

Thinking about it, if it hasn’t left your system then it’s still inside you thus you are what you don’t poo and, if you’re not pooing or you’re not pooing frequently, then it’s time to figure out WHY.

Thankfully your poop is something that is fairly easy to read. It’s a great tell tail of what’s happening further up your digestive track. Changes in the colour, shape and texture of your stool can reveal signs of infection, digestive issues and in some cases your stool can indicate more serious health problems such as cancer.

Faecal matter is 75 percent water and 25 percent solid matter. The solid matter is made up of dead bacteria, indigestible food, toxic and inorganic substances. Generally speaking it takes three days for your food to pass through your system from ingestion to excretion however, we often find that food passes through your system either too quickly or too slowly this can affect the size, colour and texture of your stool.

A healthy poop should look like a torpedo, be easy to pass and it should be mid brown in colour.

It’s not just the shape and consistency of your poo that tells a story, the colour of your poo is another great indicator.

Mid brown: This is the target, the golden standard if you like. We all want our poops to be mid brown and look like mini torpedoes.

Red / reddy brown: There are a couple of things that could be going on here. One is that the red vegetables most notably the beetroots you had as part of last night’s dinner are coming though. Though if you haven’t eaten anything red recently then this colour poo is a sign that something more sinister is happening, such as upper gastrointestinal bleeding. If you think that’s the case now is the time to call your Dr. and book an appointment to get checked out! Now being right now and not some time next month!  

Green: When I ask you if you eat your greens now is the time to really have a good think. Green poops can be the result of eating lots of dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. It can also be the result of adding spirulina to your morning shake. However, green poo can indicate an overuse of antibiotics, undigested bile and possible Crohn’s disease.

Yellow: No, this doesn’t mean that you have miraculously found a way to be the goose that lays golden eggs, though that would be pretty cool. Yellow poo or sand colour poo normally indicates issues with your gallbladder or parasitic infections namely Giardia.

White: If you have been busy popping the antacids (aluminium hydroxide) then this could explain your white or very light-coloured stool, however, something a little more sinister could be going on. White or light stool often indicated liver disease or a pancreatic disorder of some type.

Black: Chances are you visited your Doctor who having run a blood panel on your and finding you to be anaemic has asked you to take iron supplements which is the most likely reason that your poop is the colour of the night sky, however a diet rich in meat and upper GI bleeding can also cause this. If it’s the latter it’s time to pick up the phone and make a plan to see your Doctor. 

Now we know what the colour is indicating we can take a look at shape.

Rabbit / Dear Dropping i.e lots of little lumps:

Your faecal matter is hanging out in your intestines too long, which means that water is being reabsorbed. A lack of dietary fibre can lead to these hard, pellet style lumps. Most likely caused by dehydration, stress, magnesium deficiency or a possible thyroid issue.

Floats and stinks:

The occasional stinky floater is nothing to be overly concerned about however if you often find yourself struggling to flush your poos away it could be an indication that your body is probably not absorbing fats as well as it should. This could also be the result of a malabsorption condition, weight loss drugs or over using products like olestra (synthetic calorie free cooking oils).

Hard and dry:

This guy is also hanging out in your intestines for far too long, your body is reclaiming the water allotted to the stool, however this type is generally down to being mildly dehydrated and can be a side effect of medications.

Pencil thin or ribbon shaped:

You may have a mass in your colon that may be obstructing the stools escape hatch. Pencil thin or ribbon shaped stool may be an indicator of colon cancer or polyps. If you find that your stool is frequently exiting looking like an old-school shoe lace or a ribbon then it’s worth visiting your Doctor for a check up.

Too liquid, often imitates a water fall:

Generally, this indicates that your stool is moving through the 30ft of digestive tract between your mouth and your anus faster than Usain Bolt and his 100m sprint … well maybe not quite that quickly but your poop is moving way too fast which means that water is not being absorbed. If this happens regularly, it’s most likely indicating severe inflammation, gut imbalances, intestinal permeability, possible IBS or Crohn’s Disease.

Nothing there:

If nothings coming out then you’re constipated. The question is why? For most people this is caused by dehydration and a diet low in fibre. Some women who are oestrogen dominant or on the birth control may find that this is caused by excess oestrogen.

Constipation can cause a myriad of different health concerns primarily because the whole point of your bowel movement is to eliminate waste material such as toxins, dead cells and excess hormones. When these materials sit in your colon awaiting elimination for longer than expected your body starts to reabsorb and recirculate those should have been excreted toxins and hormones, which can lead to hormonal imbalances, fatigue and brain fog. You also run the risk of painful haemorrhoids from straining to get rid of the feeling of being perpetually full.

When to see your doctor

If you feel a burning sensation while your eliminating or if when you wipe your rear end you notice blood it’s time to head over to your doctor for a full investigation. 

I could stop here but there is another area that I would like to touch on, in fact there are many but this one is worth noting.

Do you have any of the following?

  • Unexplained constipation, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting, gas / bloating or IBS type symptoms.
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, depression or frequent feeling of apathy.
  • Unexplained weight loss and never feel full after your meals.
  • Grinding your teeth in your sleep   
  • Diagnosis of iron-deficiency anaemia
  • Skin irritation, unexplained rash, hives, rosacea or eczema
  • Have you ever travelled abroad and remember getting a dicky tummy, diarrhoea while you were abroad or even after you went for a swim in a river or lake while in your home country?
  • Have you ever suffered food poisoning and your digestion have never quite been the same since?

I often find the clients who come to see me saying “yes” to most points on the list above find that they are harbouring unwelcome guests in the form of parasites.

Trouble with sleeping, mood changes, muscle pain and skin irritations can all be caused by parasites releasing toxins directly or indirectly into the bloodstream. These toxins can cause anxiety which often manifests itself in different ways. Grinding your teeth while you sleep is an indicator that your body is experiencing anxiety while you rest. When toxins interact with your neurotransmitters or blood cells they can cause mood swings or skin irritations.

How do you know if you have a parasite?

A simple stool test will revile the answer and let us know which little parasite you are providing a comfortable home for. Once we know who’s triggering the symptoms we can work out rectifying the situation calming down your system and putting you back in control.

So, as you can see your poo, poop, stool (whatever you like to call it) is just one chapter in the book of what’s going on inside your body. In most cases drinking more water and eating more fibre will really help you, however some things need to be looked at with trained eyes so If this article resonated with you and you believe that you may have something else happening within why not give me a call.  

Taking Strain? Frazzled? Tense? Worried? Overloaded? Stress comes in many forms and consequently is triggered by many things from our fast-paced lives, complete with long working hours and tight deadlines to improvising as the circus clown juggling careers and children all while dealing with relationship and financial woes. It’s a jungle out there!  

Not all stress is harmful, in fact stress is actually a good thing for helping us deal with immediate issues. Like defending yourself in a fight or surviving an accident or, if you’re a cave man, staving off a sabre-toothed tiger. Situations where you find yourself in immediate physical danger trigger the adrenal glands to secrete the “fight or flight” hormones – adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol.  

Day to day stressors are somewhat different. Our fast-paced high pressure lives mean that the majority of people struggle with long-term stress. Which in the long run can have disastrous effects on our health.

How stress can make us fat.

Stress triggers the release of adrenaline which keeps us focused (on the danger) followed by cortisol which works by increasing sugar and fat levels in the bloodstream giving us instant energy (if we need to fight or run away). Trouble is modern day stress doesn’t require us to run away or fight which means that the sugar and fat that your body releases to get you out of trouble is now redeposited around your middle, close to your liver, where it can be easily converted and re-released by the liver when the next stressful event arises.

Once the stress event has passed your adrenaline levels return to normal but your cortisol levels may remain elevated for longer – days rather than hours. This increases your appetite for fatty and sugary foods, your body does this because it thinks it needs to refuel which would be right if a physical event had happened. However, if the stressor was meeting a tight deadline, rather than fighting a sabre-toothed tiger, then it goes without saying that your body is not going to be needing the extra calories.

Long term stress quickly becomes chronic stress. The constant combination of sugar and fat being re-deposited around your middle, high fat, high sugar foods means that those under long term and chronic stress end up with an apple shaped body. Chronic stress can raise your risk levels of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic inflammation, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. High levels of cortisol can make you look older and if that wasn’t enough it can increase oxidative stress which damages our cells leading to premature wrinkling of the skin.

The Stress Balancing act

Despite the fact that high cortisol levels can have detrimental effects on our health, we categorically require it to survive. Cortisol plays a vital role in balancing blood sugar levels, maintaining immunity and heart health. Prolonged, long-term and Chronic stress – stress that is constant – can cause our adrenal glands to become fatigued which in turn can drastically lower the output of cortisol. Just as elevated cortisol levels can cause problems so can low cortisol levels.

When cortisol levels are too low, sleep, mood, appetite and concentration are often disrupted. Low levels of cortisol can make us more vulnerable to illness, behavioural and emotional problems, it can also increase the demand on the heart, muscles, digestive and immune systems. Balancing your cortisol levels is fundamental when trying to achieve optimum health.

Different people have different stressors and because everyone is unique we all deal with stress in distinctive ways. The stressor that freaks one person out may be the thing the keeps another going. Ultimately, it’s unrealistic to expect to live a life free from stress (though not impossible) but, there are ways that you can manage your stress through diet and lifestyle and supplement interventions to ensure that it doesn’t affect your wellbeing.  

Recently everyone I see seems to have the same problem – not enough time in the day. We all race around like headless chickens, darting from one task to another, checking emails on our phones as we balance a newborn in one arm and a giant list of things to do in the other. Saying we are pressed for time would be the understatement of the century.

Some of us handle this better than others, however, for the most part, our distinct lack of time results in the same thing for everyone. We all try to cut corners and pull time from one task to another.

All too often we grab our food on the go and wolf it down as we dart from job to job. Eating lunch at our work station as we read an email or fill out a spreadsheet has somehow become normal. If that’s not bad enough, once we get home a good proportion of us are guilty of idly eating dinner while we watch our favourite TV show or try and get past the opening credits of a movie.    

There are so many things that are less than ideal about this situation ,however, right now the focus is on the speed at which we eat and our inability to chew our food properly.

Chewing affects your digestion

Contrary to popular belief digestion doesn’t begin in your stomach but in your mouth with digestive enzymes in your saliva starting to break down starches into simple sugars. Due to this process if you were to chew on as salted cracker for long enough it would actually start to taste sweet! (1,2)

Taking your time to chew and thus coat your food in saliva provides vital lubrication for food particles as they move towards your stomach. No chewing for long enough can cause indigestion, exacerbating IBS symptoms such as bloating and wind.

Chewing helps trigger your satiety mechanisms which help you identify when you’re full. Trouble is that there’s a bit of lag time between you actually being full and your body realising it is full therefore signalling to you to stop eating. The less you chew the faster you eat the more you consume before you realise your full only by then it’s too late! Meaning that you’re more likely to pack on the pounds if you’re not chewing properly! (3)

Chewing reduces your risk of food poisoning. When you chew another enzyme found in the saliva called lysozyme destroys food-borne pathogens which can cause certain illnesses or even lead to death. Chewing your food properly helps prevent this.

Do you ever see undigested food in your stool? If it’s anything other than sweet corn there’s a good chance you’re not chewing properly. Now if you’re not chewing your food enough to break it down properly to the extent that you can still work out what it is in your poop there is a very strong chance that you’re not absorbing the valuable nutrients from the food in the first place, which means that you can eat an exceptional diet and still not benefit from all the positive effects of your food.

Chewing your food slowly has been shown to aid in your ability to concentrate on tasks performed after meals. (4)

In short, the more you chew the more your body benefits.

Rules for eating:

  • In the ideal world, you want to grind your food down into a soft pulp extracting all the flavour from your mouthful before swallowing it. 
  • If at all possible eat with family or friends, sharing a meal helps slow the rate at which you eat. There are many other positive mental effects achieved by sharing a meal in this scenario.
  • Always sit at a table, and no, your desk does not qualify as a table.
  • Take the time to enjoy preparing your food, breathe in the wonderful rich smells that food emits. In doing so you’re preparing your body to receive the nutritious fuel it requires. As soon as you see and smell the food your body prepares to receive it. In effect, your digestive process is already in motion!
  • Take ten deep slow breaths to allow your body to enter a calm state before taking your first bite.
  • Chew slowly and steadily.
  • Do not turn your fork into a shovel! Take smaller portions of food into your mouth to allow yourself the space necessary to chew.
  • Finish your mouthful before preparing the next mouthful .

In summary, take your time, enjoy your food, it’s not a race and in this instance being the first one to finish is not necessarily a good thing!

For those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world where food is abundant we are afforded the luxury of ‘living to eat’ rather than ‘eating to live’. Which is something to be grateful for every time you take a mouthful.

So enjoy your food, love your food and for goodness sake, chew your food!

Your diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle, it resides at the base of your lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm forcing air in and out of your lungs enabling you to breathe. If you’re doing this properly your belly should expand before your lungs fill.

Shallow or chest breathing predominantly makes use of your intercostal muscles rather than your diaphragm meaning that you draw the minimal required breath into your lungs, you’re breathing but you’re not healing.  

Belly or diaphragmatic breathing is actually fairly easy to do. It strengthens your diaphragm, requires less energy to breathe and decreases your oxygen demand.

How to breathe

The first couple of times that you try this breathing technique out you might find it easiest to lie down with your back on a flat surface. Your bed would work perfectly.

  • Put one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. Doing this will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  • Now, take a slow deep breathe in through your nose so that your stomach moves up against your hand. Your chest should remain as still as possible. In other words, the hand on your chest hand shouldn’t move. You want to breathe in for 4 slow counts
  • Now hold the breath for 4 slow counts
  • Then tighten your stomach muscles, allowing them to contract inward as you exhale slowly for 6 counts through pursed lips (your mouth). The hand on your stomach will drop while the hand on your chest should remain perfectly still.

And repeat.

Once you get the hang of this you can progress to sitting on a chair.  

  • Get nice and comfortable sitting on a chair, your feet on the ground about shoulder distance apart.
  • Relax your shoulders, head and neck.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other once again below your rib cage. So that you are able to feel your diaphragm move when you breathe.
  • Now, take a slow deep breathe in through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. Just as it did when you were lying down the hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. You want to breathe in for 4 slow counts
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts
  • Then tighten your stomach muscles, allowing them to contract inward as you exhale slowly for 6 counts through pursed lips. The hand on your stomach will move inward while the hand on your chest should remain perfectly still.

In the beginning, you might find this tough to do, you may find that holding the breath for a count of 4 is tricky. This is simply because you’re not used to doing it and as with everything in life the more you do it the better you will get.

How often should you do this?

In the beginning, when you’re teaching yourself how to do this you should try and do it first thing in the morning when you wake up and then just before you go to bed. Try and do it for 5-10 mins each time.

Once you get into the groove and you’re doing this in your chair you want to try and do it as often as possible. Even if it’s only for a couple of minutes at a time. Train yourself to do it when you open your computer before you start the day’s work and when you close it at the end of the day. Taking the time to do this before you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner really helps your body digest your food. Eventually, you want to find yourself doing this for the majority of the day.  

Keep calm, Breathe, repeat.

Read Part one: are you breathing correctly?