I have a 4-year-old boy. He loves to talk about poop. Luckily for our family, he has a mama that can redirect that potty talk into something more constructive like digestive health.
Along with symptoms such as gas, bloating, burping, reflux, and fatigue after eating, poop can be a sign of digestive dysfunction. If your history is anything like mine though, poop was taboo and simply not talked about. It wasn’t until I had a child with digestive distress that I started to realize there was a “normal.”
The Bristol Stool Scale
First things first. The Bristol Stool Scale is a handy tool. If you look at the chart above, you will find a descriptive account of seven types of stool. Types 1 and 2 generally constitute a form of constipation, Types 5-7 are considered diarrhea, and Types 3-4 are considered healthy bowel movements.
Investigating our BMs: Questions I Ask My 4-Year-Old
I can look at my own bowel movements. I’m still changing the 2-year-old’s diapers, so I get a daily peek into her digestive health. But with older children, there comes a point when they need a little privacy. If I don’t get a chance to look, here are some of the questions my son and I run through to find clues about his digestion [description of a healthy bowel movement in brackets]:
- What color is it? [light brown]
- What shape is it? Pebbles, a long snake, fluffy, watery, etc? [smooth, soft, like a snake]
- Does it look the same all the way throughout? [it should]
- How did it feel coming out? Was it easy, was it difficult, did it spray? [easy]
- Can you see pieces of food in it? [no]
- Did it sink or did it float? [float, flush easily]
- Was it sticky when you wiped or did it come off your bummy easily? [wipe easily, if it needs to wipe at all]
- How does it smell? [earthy like compost; should not smell foul]
Ways to Improve Bowel Movements
If your bowel movements are not optimal, there are a few steps you can take.
Diet. Yes, diet. If you are eating foods that are processed, inflammatory, or otherwise incompatible with your body (even if generally regarded as healthy), your bowels may be affected. Replacing them with whole, nutritious foods can make a world of difference.
Hydration. Water matters. You need water in the form of saliva as you chew and break down foods. You need water to move foods through your stomach and intestines. A good rule of thumb is to take your weight (in pounds), divide by 2, and drink that many fluid ounces. For instance, a 150-lb woman will drink 75 fluid ounces per day.
Position. Watch your small children run to a corner and eliminate; they are in a full squat rather than a sitting position. There is a muscle (Puborectalis muscle) that chokes the rectum to maintain continence. When you sit (on a toilet, for instance), the muscle partially relaxes, but is still being choked. When you squat, the muscle fully relaxes (i.e. stops choking the rectum), which allows for easier and more effective elimination.
Ever since learning about proper positioning, I’ve tried to balance my foot on the tub to get in a partial squat, because frankly, digging a hole or squatting on top of my toilet is still not in my range of options. If you feel likewise, you can also opt for the Squatty Potty
*. I’m pleased to report the Squatty Potty is a much more stable solution than my makeshift tub-toilet-floor balancing routine, and consequently, our family has seen a notable improvement in bowel function and the elimination process.
Seek out a practitioner. If you can’t seem to get your bowels managed, seek out a qualified practitioner. A bug, parasite, or food intolerance is a pretty tough opponent, even for the cleanest diet on the planet, and you may need a little boost.
* I was kindly provided a 9″ bamboo Squatty Potty free of charge, and all opinions are honest and my own. I’m also very grateful to have both feet firmly planted on the stool rather than precariously on my bathtub.
What are your questions about bowel movements and healthy digestion?
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