May 18, 2023

With any change of diet many people find that their experience of going to the loo has changed for them. None of us like to talk about this, but it may mean we’re not fully understanding valuable clues about our health.

A healthy diet, keeping hydrated, regular exercise and moving around, good overall health habits and reduced stress all contribute towards a comfortable bowel routine.

Fibre is considered a major contributor for consistently soft stools. However, if someone has loose watery stools, then extra fibre may help as it absorbs water and adds bulk. However, this may be disguising an intestinal or bowel health problem.

Dietary fibre is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. 

Adding fibre to your diet will typically increase the frequency and size of bowel movements.

Be aware that a high fibre diet is not necessarily healthier than a low fibre diet. 

High fibre diets (high in fruits and vegetables) can produce a lot of gas, causing abdominal pain in some people. The sugars (fructose) in fruit and starches in vegetables as well as lactose in dairy products can cause trapped wind and become very painful. 

Gluten or some other nutrients may cause a foul smell. If this happens, be aware of what foods you have eaten and monitor when you next eat these foods. Your body may be telling you that you may have an intolerance to certain foods.

Low carb and ketogenic diet may decrease bowel movements. Even though you may find your consumption of vegetables (green and leafy) may have increased (adding more fibre and therefore potentially more bowel movements) consider what you have taken out or reduced in your new diet.

It’s likely that your diet consisted of mainly processed foods which were very high in highly processed fats, sugar and salt and lower overall in fibrous foods which come from fresh unprocessed foods.

The important thing is to monitor your bowel function and the goal should be bowel comfort with no straining and no bloating.

Here are some common questions we get asked:

Do I have to poo every day?

This is a widely held misconception. Normal bowel movements can range from 3 times a day to 3 times a week.

Regular eating times and plenty of fluids may help keep your digestion working well and help with regulating bowel movements. 

What does a healthy bowel movement look like?

The bowel movement should be easy to pass without too much effort. Colour should be light to dark brown and be smooth and shaped like a sausage or long cylinder, length from 10 – 20 cm. The consistency of bowel movements may change based on diet but should be soft and well-formed.  Other shapes or pellets may indicate a digestive issue.

What if my poo is not brown?

The colour may indicate a short-term change (food, supplements) or may indicate an infection or health issue. The following is a guide only:

Black – iron supplements or bleeding in your gastro-intestinal track.

Green – excess green leafy vegetables or artificial colourings in drinks or processed foods.

Red – some foods like beetroot, cranberries or tomato juice may be the culprit short term. Bleeding in the bowel could be another more serious problem, and if this happens you should immediately talk to your doctor.

Yellow – too much fat will make stools yellow, greasy and stinky. Sickness, food intolerances or disease can cause malabsorption.

Pale or white – side effects from medicine or an infection in your bile duct.

Is there a normal time of the day to go to the toilet?

The most common time to poo is the morning after overnight processing of food digestion but it can be any time of the day.

Poos should take a couple of minutes but if you find yourself straining or have pain you are probably constipated. Physical activity decreases the time that food spends in your colon so also helps with constipation. We recommend a short 10 min walk after each meal.

What can affect bowel movements?

  • Any sensitivities to foods or change in diet, increasing fibre, drinking more water or not enough, too many fatty foods or foods high in sugar.
  • Lactose intolerance, which can develop later in life as your levels of the enzyme lactase decline.
  • Digestive upset from eating spoiled, fatty or spicy foods or an intestinal “bug” which normally clears in a day or two.
  • Certain herbs and herbal teas as well as alcohol and caffeine.
  • Bacterial infection and/or side effect from medication like antibiotics or metformin, even laxatives, antacids or stool softeners.
  • Increase in physical exercise can help.

Other symptoms that cause a greater number of bowel movements including:

  • Viral or parasitic infection
  • Diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, Celiac disease
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • If the smell is overbearing (eye watering) then you may have an infection or a stomach bug.

Contact your doctor if you have very frequent bowel movements that have not settled down over a few days, if you are feeling uncomfortable, and especially if a yellow or greenish colour and stools are loose, hard or have blood in them.

Bowel movements include water and food that the body cannot digest or absorb, bacteria and dead cells. 

When starting on a weight loss eating plan that incorporates fresh unprocessed foods your bowel movements will change, but they should become more regular and more comfortable.

Our coaches cover this topic along with many other health concerns in their weekly coaching sessions. If you’re ready to get started fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you and answers any questions you have about our program.