What Your Poop Is Telling You.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Your poop says a lot about you. I know because I talk about poop all day. Frequency, colour, smell, texture, I want to know it all, because your poop says a lot about your health, so lets learn what your poop is telling you.

Your poop is used as a diagnostic tool and is an important indicator of the health of the digestion, particularly the stomach, spleen and intestines. There are a lot of factors to consider when formulating a diagnosis. Below is a list of the most common and most important symptoms so you can determine what your poop is trying to tell you.

First, here is a handy chart that tells you exactly what your poop is made of. It does seem a bit alarming that there is that much dead bacteria, a whole 8%. Wow.

Poop Chart

Frequency

There are some different ideas about what is considered normal frequency, but Chinese medicine says that it is once or twice a day. If you poop less that this, it is, in TCM terms considered constipation, and going three or more times a day is considered too frequent.

Consistency

A normal poop should be well formed, not too loose, not too dry and floating. Poop that is excessively dry indicates either heat in the intestines, blood deficiency or yin deficiency. Loose stools usually point to a deficiency of the spleen. Loose stools can also mean there is kidney deficiency and sometimes a deficiency of both spleen and kidney. Spleen deficiency is definitely the most common cause of chronic diarrhea, and kidney deficiency is the most common cause of diarrhea in the elderly. The energy of the kidneys gradually declines as we age, and this is why many elderly people suffer with symptoms of kidney deficiency, most commonly chronic diarrhea.

Shape

If your poops are in small pieces and difficult to pass it indicates that there is a qi stagnation in the liver. This can also present with alternating diarrhea and constipation. A common cause of liver qi stagnation is repressed emotions, especially things like anger and frustration, so be sure to express your emotions freely! Another reason that you can have small bitty poops that are difficult to pass, especially if they are also dry is heat in the intestines. Eating yin foods that moisten the body and intestines will help keep things moving.

Long, thin poop that looks like a pencil indicate a deficiency of spleen qi. It is also good to be aware that this can indicate cancer, so be sure to see your health care practitioner if this persists. Peace of mind is worth a lot!

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Colour

When I am talking to my patients about their poops, I always ask about colour. The normal colour for poop is light brown. Poops that are dark yellow indicate heat in the large intestine, light yellow deficiency heat of the spleen (empty heat is heat due to a deficiency), dark or black looking stools can mean that there is blood stagnation usually in the large intestine. Pale or white poop usually mean that there is cold in the large intestine. If you have green poop is means that the liver is invading the spleen. Red poop indicates the presence of fresh blood which is usually due to heat in the large intestine. Green or blueish poops usually mean that there is cold in the intestines and is very common in babies as their spleens have not yet fully developed.

Smell

How your poop smells is also significant. Strong smells usually indicate heat and absence of smell indicate cold. Here are the details…

A strong, foul smell indicates heat or damp heat in the intestines. A sour smell means that there is an imbalance between the liver and spleen. Lots of gas means liver qi stagnation, gas with a foul smell indicates damp heat and gas with no smell means that there is spleen deficiency.

Diarrhea

Loose stools generally mean that there is a deficiency of the spleen, kidneys, or both. Spleen deficiency is definitely the most common reason for chronic diarrhea and kidney deficiency is the most common cause of diarrhea in the elderly. If there is very severe and watery diarrhea it indicates a deficiency of yang, whereas loose stools are due to a spleen deficiency. Diarrhea accompanied by a foul smell indicates heat in the intestines and diarrhea without a smell is either considered normal or points to cold. If there is pain with the diarrhea it means either liver qi stagnation, cold, or damp heat. If there is mucus in the stool it means that there is dampness, whereas if there is blood is points to a spleen deficiency (the spleen holds blood). Undigested food in the stool means that there is a spleen deficiency. If there is a burning in the anus there is damp heat in the intestines. If you notice that there are streaks in the toilet as the poop is sticky, this also points to dampness in the intestines.

Constipation

Constipation is the most common problem of the bowels, and is more common in women and very common in the elderly. In these cases it is very often due to a blood deficiency or kidney deficiency. Both blood and kidney deficiency would cause the stools to be dry and difficult to pass. Constipation is characterized by infrequent passing of the stools, excessive dryness as well as straining or difficulty in passing the stools. You can, of course, have an attack of acute constipation that comes with heat in the body due to a cold or flu, and will be accompanied by thirst, fever and a red tongue.

Constipation that is relieved by having a bowel movement is due to either retention of food or dampness in the intestines. Constipation with abdominal pain and distension is due to liver qi stagnation. Frequent stools that are not loose is usually due to qi sinking of spleen qi.

Pain

Pain is associated with pooping is also common and it is good to know what it means and when to see your acupuncturist to get it sorted out.

Pain before a bowel movement is due to liver qi stagnation. Pain during a bowel movement is due to either dampness in the large intestine, retention of food or cold in the large intestine. Pain due to retention of food will be relieved by pooping and pain due to cold in the large intestine will not be relieved by moving the bowels. If you are having pain after a bowel movement, it is most likely due to spleen qi deficiency. If you are having persistent pain associated with your poops, be sure to go and have it checked out.

What your poop is telling you

The good news is that both acupuncture and herbs are extremely effective for all problems concerning your poops. It is an extremely common problem and Chinese medicine has many ways in which to treat it. Getting a specific diagnosis is important is getting the proper treatment. Another thing that will really help with bowel health is to look into the toilet when you poop as many people don’t. You don’t have to linger, but having a look when you poop keeps you in touch with what your body is doing. The more in tune with what our bodies are doing, the better we are able to detect subtle changes and be able to rebalance things before they become problems.

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