Understanding Poop – Constipation, IBS, and Other Digestive Disorders

I know a lot about poo. I have observed every possible type of poo on the Bristol Stool scale come out of my own body, because I have experimented with every type of diet on my own body. I have read about poo in a number of books and on countless websites. During the couple of cumulative years in which I kept a food diary I also kept a poo diary.

Go ahead, call me weird, but it is precisely my weirdness that has helped me to understand my body and bring it back to health.

What comes out of our bodies is a direct reflection of the health inside our bodies.

If our poop is laced with mucus, if we have diarrhea, hard stools, or undigested food, symptoms of ill health will also be present.

Let’s take a closer look at poop and the digestive system so that we can better understand the causes of constipation and what an ideal poop should be.

Types of Poop

Konstantin Monastyrsky goes over the types of poo in great detail. I’m going to paraphrase his work here but I encourage you to look at his website because he has pages and pages of valuable insight available both on his website and in his two books.

Stool 1 suggests a lack of bacteria in the gut. These often occur in people after an antibiotic treatment or in people starting fiber free diets. They are often painful and always difficult to pass.
Stool 2 is a whole lot of stool type 1 packed into a big mass. These are extremely painful to pass. They are the result of severe constipation of stool type 1, lasting for quite a long time. Adding fiber to the diet to try to help pass the stool can be “dangerous because the expanded fiber has no place to go, and may cause hernia, obstruction, or perforation of the small and large intestine alike.”
Stool 3 Similar to stool 2 but not quite as bad. The person will not have been stopped up for quite as long.
Stool 4 This is a normal, not constipated poo in which the person defecates once daily.
Stool 5 Monastyrsky considers this poo ideal. He says it is the typical poo of a person who defecates after every major meal.
Stool 6 This stool is indicative of someone with fast digestion. It isn’t really solid and can be messy. More information here.
Stool 7 Diarrhea

Stuff in the Stool

Stools can contain undigested food, they can be sticky or relatively clean to wipe, the stool may take on the color of an over-consumed food like white if a person eats an inordinate amount of dairy, or red or green as in a juice “fast”. Stool can be laced with mucus which vegans often claim are worms, but they likely aren’t; rather they are strings of dried, white mucus. Mucus in the stool is often seen in people with IBS, which is essentially the name doctors used to describe something they didn’t understand. Now this digestive disorder is known as carbohydrate malabsorpbtion, FODMAPs intolerance, or fructose malabsorption.

Size of the Stool

The size of poo varies depending on what and how much a person eats. According to Monastyrsky an ideal stool should be about the size of your middle finger. I think it can be a bit larger if you eat raw foods. People who eat a lot of fiber have larger stools. Fiber is indigestible which means that any amount of fiber not fermented in the gut, will pass through whole or be fermented by intestinal flora.

Click at your own risk!

When I was camping in Utah this last summer, I saw a poo in a campground toilet that was alien to me. I ran outside to tell my daughter and boyfriend to get in there and check it out, but then the bathroom suddenly filled with girls and Julian couldn’t come in. Intrigued, he practically ordered me to snap a picture. Giggling, my 5 year old and I went back in and got the picture. I now share my pain with all of you. Armed with your new-found knowledge of poo, where do you suppose this poo fits on the chart, and what in the world could have caused soooooo much poop?

Causes of Constipation

The causes of constipation are vast. Dysbacteriosis of the gut causes the type of constipation in type 1 and 2. Restoring intestinal flora is key to restoring regularity.

People who have eaten high fiber diets for long periods, who have used fiber in excess for too long, who have taken drugs, who have used antibiotics, who have eaten processed diets, who have nutritional deficiencies, who have mercury fillings, who drink alcohol regularly, who eat low-fat diets, who over-exercise, and even people who drink too much water may all be susceptible to constipation.

A lack of peristaltic sensitivity can also cause constipation. Peristalsis is a contraction of smooth muscle. We also have smooth muscle in the uterus. Smooth muscle is controlled unconsciously. We  cannot tell ourselves when to poop any more than we can tell ourselves when to deliver a baby. The causes of impaired peristaltic sensitivity are many. Here are a few:

  • Switching from a high fiber diet to a low fiber diet. A body will need some time to adjust. Fiber will have stretched the rectum and stools will now be much smaller and less abrasive.
  • Conscious suppression. Being in a hurry, stuck in traffic, at a concert, and in a conversation are among the many moments in life when we tell our bodies to shush. Doing this repeatedly sends the signal to silence the scream since we don’t intend to listen.
  • Stress also suppresses peristalsis. This is a very important mechanism actually. It could be fatal to run to the bathroom in the middle of an emergency. The daily stress in many people’s lives is as forceful as that of a real emergency and our peristalsis comes to a halt on a regular basis.
  • Laxative use for long periods can eventually replace our natural urges.

Reducing Fiber

Animals all over the planet go poop just fine without fiber and so do plenty of humans.

Traditionally, the Japanese people have eaten very little fiber, usually a little fermented vegetables and a few bites of fruit along with fish and rice. The Inuit Eskimos also did not eat much plant food. They did forage for a few growing things in the warmer months but did not have access to vast amounts of plant food. Many tribes in Africa including the Masai were reported by Weston Price in the 1930s to eat diets consisting mainly of meat from the whole animal, fermented milk, and blood. Some of the coastal tribes ate seafood. They did not eat much growing foods and didn’t have much need for them as they were well nourished by their diet of special foods.

Where Did the Fiber Myth Come From?

As discovered by Graham and later pushed by Kellogg (the crazy vegetarian that started cornflakes), fiber reduces sex drive. They were both anti-sex Christians and pushed their philosophy on the American public with a veritable campaign to increase fiber consumption and reduce sexual desire.

The idea that fiber is requisite for defecation is a myth and a very destructive one at that. Excess fiber can cause hemorrhoids, diverticulosis , IBS, and colon cancer. Likewise, the idea that all your nutrients come from vegetables is absolutely nonsense.