While it’s not something many of us talk freely about, your stools—their appearance and frequency—say a lot about you!
The state of your stool can give you some clues about:
- What’s going on inside your digestive tract
- Excess stress on the liver or gallbladder
- Shifts in hormonal balance
- Mental or emotional disorders
What a Healthy Bowel Movement Looks Like
In 1997, a researcher and professor at the University of Bristol named Kenneth Heaton created the Bristol stool scale. Heaton and his colleagues suggested that stool size and consistency are two useful ways to measure transit time.
Paying attention to your stool can give you important clues about your health. Your stool transit time reflects the health of your digestive tract and can even indicate the presence of infection.
Transit time describes the amount of time it takes accumulated waste to move through the intestinal tract. One of the most important factors that affects transit time is your inner ecosystem—or the communities of microbes living in the small and large intestine.
According to the Bristol stool scale, healthy elimination is:
- Soft, without cracks
Small, hard lumps or cracked, lumpy stool are signs of constipation—or slow transit time. Even if you have a bowel movement every day, you may be slightly constipated if your stool is released in small, hard lumps.
Watery stool with undigested bits of food or stool that is released in small, formless blobs is classified as diarrhea—and this indicates fast transit time. If you have fast transit time and eliminate multiple times a day, but your stool is well-formed, you do not have diarrhea.
Is It Time to Cleanse or Time to Nourish? 4 Important Stool Rules
Chinese medicine and the language used in Chinese medicine give us a little more insight into stool analysis. For example, just like the Body Ecology Diet uses the principles of Expansion and Contraction to understand the nature of food, Chinese medicine uses the principles of excess and emptiness to understand the body.
- Constipation with Signs of Excess:
Constipation that is the result of excess is accompanied by other signs of heat within the body. This includes:
- Stool with a strong, foul smell
- Red eyes
- A tongue coating that is dry and yellow
Another sign of excess is when stools are difficult to pass—this is a sure sign that the liver is congested.
When the liver is congested and when the bowels are congested with signs of heat, it is a good time to cleanse. We also recommend herbs that support the liver and healthy elimination, like milk thistle, wasabi, artichoke leaf, and sarsaparilla.
- Constipation with Signs of Emptiness:
Constipation that is the result of emptiness or deficiency is accompanied by signs of coldness. In this case, the body doesn’t have the energy that it needs to fully eliminate.
Signs of coldness with constipation include:
- Abdominal pain
- Fullness after eliminating
- Cold flesh beneath the belly button
An example of a condition that often involves constipation with emptiness is hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is underactive and the body’s metabolism suffers.
This would be a good time to nourish the body with restorative, nutrient-dense foods like bone broth, full-fat dairy kefir, and even Chinese herbs that rebuild your energy reserves, such as Activate the Qi.
- Diarrhea with Signs of Excess:
Like constipation, you will see signs of heat with diarrhea if there is excess, and it’s time to cleanse.
These signs of heat with loose stools include:
- Pain while eliminating
- A strong, foul smell
- Mucus or blood in the stools
- A burning sensation
- Flatulence, or “passing gas” that has a strong odor
- Bloated belly and rumbling sound
Parasites, food poisoning, and Crohn’s disease are examples of diarrhea related to excess in the body. In this case, it is important to remove common dietary irritants like wheat gluten, milk casein, and added sugar. Foods that both cool and rebuild the lining of the gut are key.
We recommend coconut water kefir, which is cooling and soothing to the intestinal tract. We also recommend Vitality SuperGreen, which contains herbs that specifically support intestinal health and stop inflammation.
- Diarrhea with Signs of Emptiness:
When the body runs low on energy or is chronically exhausted, loose stools or diarrhea will be accompanied by signs of emptiness. Sometimes this exhaustion is constitutional. This means it begins in childhood, and there are also signs of a weak immune system, like frequent infections.
Diarrhea with signs of emptiness include:
- An absence of smell when eliminating
- Diarrhea early in the morning, often with undigested bits of food
- Abdominal pain
When the stools are loose and watery with other signs of emptiness, it’s important to think long-term and choose a lifestyle that supports digestive health.
Working with principles of food combining or the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 sets you up for digestive success, meal after meal. In addition to eating nutrient-dense foods, we also suggest gently rebounding on a mini trampoline. This can improve the circulation of lymph fluid, generate energy, and rebuild the Earth element, which in Chinese medicine is responsible for digestive health.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The state of your stool is a great indicator of your internal health. There are four important stool guidelines you can use to measure your health:
- Constipation with Signs of Excess: A stool that is difficult to pass is a sign that the liver is congested. This is the perfect time to cleanse and support the liver with milk thistle, wasabi, artichoke leaf, and sarsaparilla.
- Constipation with Signs of Emptiness: A condition that causes constipation with signs of emptiness is hypothyroidism, which can affect metabolism. This is the prime time to nourish the body with bone broth, full-fat dairy kefir, and Chinese herbs.
- Diarrhea with Signs of Excess: Parasites, food poisoning, and Crohn’s disease may cause diarrhea triggered by excess in the body. In this case, it’s best to remove dietary irritants like gluten, casein, and sugar and soothe the digestive tract with coconut water kefir and Vitality SuperGreen.
- Diarrhea with Signs of Emptiness: Loose, watery stool is a sign of emptiness that requires a long-term digestive health care plan. It’s recommended to use the principles of food combining to nourish the body at each meal; rebounding on a mini trampoline can improve circulation of lymph fluid and generate energy to support digestive health.
- Lewis, S. J., & Heaton, K. W. (1997). Stool form scale as a useful guide to intestinal transit time. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 32(9), 920-924.