It’s no secret that we all poop, some of us more often than others but the bottom line is that pooping is a common experience of all humanity! That is why in TCM we are never hush-hush about poop, we consider it a very vital sign about the state of your body and the going-ons of your digestive system.
So, what is your typical healthy poop?
Frequency: You should be going about 1-2 times per day. Less than once per day is constipation and more the 3 times is too frequent
Consistency: A normal poop should be well-formed. Not too loose ( bits and pieces) and not too dry either. It should be dense and thus should not float.
Shape: It should be shaped like a log. Not small pieces or balls that are difficult to pass and not long thin pieces either. It should be bulky.
Colour: light brown with a few variations depending on whether you had lots of carrots, beets, or greens for dinner!
Smell: Poop needs to smell, it is actually healthy for it to smell, however, it should not be so putrid that it clears a room or gives you nausea!
Passage: A healthy poop should be easy to pass, you should be in and out of the loo in 5 minutes or less. You should not need to squeeze, push or grunt to get it out.
Remember the statement ‘garbbage in garbage out?’, this is exactly the case with poop. At a basic level, your poop is a reflection of what you have been eating. If you have been eating lots of fruit and vegetables you will deliver a beautiful, soft poop, but if you have been loading up on the junk food, you will likely be spending upwards of 10mins in the loo delivering, hard little bits. Not fun?!!
In TCM, we have a variety of different diagnoses based on the quality of your poop. I will detail them briefly for you below:
Chronic Constipation with heat:
When chronic constipation (regular constipation) is accompanied with heat signs, such as a yellow tongue coating, a rapid pulse, acne on the face/chest, bad breath, or bleeding gums the diagnosis might be Heat in the Stomach or Intestine or Heat in the Yangming channel. This constipation is made worse with a diet of spicy foods and the consumption of alcohol.
Chronic heat in the Liver will also cause constipation and may be accompanied by irritability, red eyes, hypertension, and headaches. The liver is the organ associated with anger so liver Heat constipation is aggravated by stress, anger, and frustration. The stool associated with internal heat in the body is hard, dry, and looks like small pellets. ( rabbit kinda poop!)
If this is you, you will want to avoid spicy foods and alcohol and also try to find creative ways to manage your stress. A healthy dose of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables will do you a world of good as well!
Chronic constipation due to blood deficiency:
Constipation can also be due to a deficiency of blood and this is commonly seen in the elderly or postpartum women. There is just not enough lubrication internally for the stool to pass smoothly as blood is the body’s natural lubricant. There could be other ‘dry’ signs with this diagnosis such as dry skin, eyes, and mouth. Blood deficiency is also characterized by the paleness of the tongue, lips, and nails. Often people with a blood deficiency also have trouble falling asleep and are forgetful or feel anxious. New mothers may have a problem with sufficient lactation as well.
If this is you, you need to bump up on foods that boost your blood levels like beets, liver, and leafy greens, we also have great herbal combinations that can help you!
Chronic constipation with qi deficiency
Qi is the vital energy of the body. The elderly or those suffering a chronic illness may also be Qi deficient. As a result, the body is not strong enough to push the stool out, and often the person is exhausted just trying. The stool tends to be soft, large, and thick. The tongue may look swollen and pale. People who are Qi deficient may speak softly and suffer from shortness of breath.
This form of constipation is not very common among healthy individuals and is often found in the chronically ill.
Diarrhea and dampness
In TCM, dampness is the result of a disruption of the body’s water metabolism and leads to phlegm (mucus) and stagnation of qi and blood. Dampness is often evident by a thick tongue coating. Cold Damp would exhibit a thick white tongue coating. The poop in this case would be watery and explosive and may be accompanied by colicky pain and nausea. Cold Damp patterns are made worse by eating cold or raw foods. Damp Heat would exhibit a thick yellow tongue coating. The bowel movements would be burning and explosive with a foul smell.
If this is you, a visit to our clinic is much needed so that we can offer you a treatment to deal with the issue from the inside out!
Chronic diarrhea and spleen qi deficiency
In TCM, the spleen is a very important organ. It controls digestion and transport and together with the stomach, it helps digest and extract nutrients from food. The mouth and Spleen are related through the muscles, therefore the health of the Spleen is reflected in the lips. Ample qi and blood will show in red and lustrous lips; deficiency of blood in the spleen will result in pale lips and problems with the sense of taste.
In spleen qi deficiency, diarrhea tends to occur just after eating. One might also feel tired after eating, tend to worry, and have a poor appetite. The tongue may be pale with toothmarks around the edge. Attacks are made worse by a diet of excess cold or sweet foods or may occur when one is overtired.
Chronic Diarrhea with spleen and kidney yang deficiency
Spleen and Kidney Yang deficiency can develop from Spleen Qi deficiency. People who are Yang deficient often wake early in the morning with urgent diarrhea. There may even be fecal incontinence which is the inability to control one’s bowel movements. These people often feel super exhausted and just want to sleep all day.
This pattern is common with aging, chronic illness, or slow recovery from surgery or childbirth. Apart from diarrhea, other symptoms include abdominal pain that seems to move around, constipation, relief of pain with bowel movements, cold limbs, sore knees and back, pale tongue, and a deep, thin pulse.
Alternating constipation and diarrhea with liver Qi stagnation.
This pattern alternates between bouts of constipation and bouts of diarrhea. This gradually weakens the spleen Qi and in Western medicine, you will often receive a diagnosis of IBS or ulcerative colitis.
A healthy dose of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and dietary interventions is often successful at treating this pattern.
In conclusion, poop is important, poop is vital and healthy pooping is a sign of a healthy body. So take time to occasionally look down your toilet bowl and in case of any concerns pass by our clinic anytime.
Till next time- happy pooping folks!