Boop boop poop. As much as we freely use those poop emojis on text, we shy away from talking about poop health. A sense of disgust and discomfort pops in every time there is a discussion on poop, or when your doctor questions you about your bowel movements. But let me tell you something – everyone poops, but not everyone enjoys great poop health and your poop can give away a whole host of information that can help a practitioner better assess your health. And so, my dear reader, let us dive deeper into the world of poop – not quite literally though.
Fecal matter or poop as we know it, is formed from the remains of the solid parts of food that are not digested in the small intestine, and have been broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. About 75% of fecal matter is just water. The rest of the 25% is a mix of fiber, protein, fats, live and dead bacteria, intestinal mucus, salts, a variety of other cells, and discarded cell parts in varying proportions. This mix of waste is pushed into your large intestine where it solidifies along with water until the defecation reflex starts wherein your rectal muscles contract causing you to poop.
Why is poop health important?
Poop health is important because it can tell a lot of things about a person’s health. The color, shape, texture, smell, and time taken for a bowel movement are key indicators that determine your poop health. These indicators can help determine the following: –
- The strength of your core muscles
- Efficiency of your gastrointestinal system
- The diversity of nutrition that you’re getting
- The state of your hormones
- Your stress levels
- The health of your gut flora
Overall, your poop can tell you if there are any underlying, unidentified issues in your overall state of health – think infections, digestive issues, or even more serious issues such as cancer. Keep in mind that poop health is not a single indicator that can help determine a health issue, rather it is one of the many key indicators that should be used to determine a health issue. 
What does healthy poop look like?
When it comes to poop, there is no single universal definition that indicates what healthy poop looks like. Just like you are unique, your poop is also unique. Regardless, a key indicator of a healthy poop is how easy it is for your stools to pass and regularity. Your bowel movement should not take more than a couple of minutes. In terms of regularity, you should have at least 1-2 bowel movements per day.  In addition, there are science-based tools that can help you understand if your poop falls in the spectrum of what is considered healthy poop. The most common tool used by medical professionals is the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS). 
BSFS is simply a stool chart that categorizes faeces into seven broad categories based on the time taken for poop to form in your colon and its transit time through your digestive system.
If your poop looks more like type 1 or 2, it indicates constipation. Your poop in this case is usually hard, and difficult to pass through.
Types 3, 4, and 5 are considered healthy. While the texture across the 3 types are slightly different, they are more or less soft, and can easily pass through your intestines.
Types 6, and 7 without a doubt indicate diarrhea.
To summarize, anything other than types 3, 4, and 5 is considered unhealthy.
The color of your poop also indicates the health of your body. The normal color of your poop is brown, but you may also observe colors like green, red, white or black. 
Green-colored poop indicates that your food may have been digested too fast, or that you are eating a lot of leafy green vegetables, both of which are not cause for concern.
Yellow-colored poop indicates your gut isn’t absorbing nutrients from the food you’re eating and is finding it difficult to digest fats, both of which need intervention. Malabsorption is detrimental in the long run and needs to be addressed with a good supplementation of digestive enzymes, and changing your lifestyle and eating habits to improve the secretion of digestive enzymes.
Black-colored poop occurs usually when you consume too much iron, more particularly when you are on supplementation of iron. If that is not the case and you still observe black-colored poop, it warrants a visit to your doctor to rule out any case of bleeding.
White-colored poop indicates that your body is not producing enough bile or there is a gall-bladder obstruction. It could also mean the presence of a gut infection like Candida overgrowth or SIBO resulting in bile issues. Regardless, you need medical intervention if you continue to see white-colored poop.
Red-colored poop occurs when you consume a lot of red-colored foods such as beets, cranberries, tomatoes, etc. or it could be simply blood in your stool. This can indicate a gut infection or colon cancer and could be a serious issue, and hence needs to be looked at by a doctor.
How to support healthy bowel patterns?
Maintaining healthy bowel patterns starts with a healthy, happy gut. Here are some things you can incorporate into your everyday life to support healthy bowel patterns.
- Hydration – Water plays a crucial role in the formation of poop, and it is very essential that you drink enough water. Water also helps maintain the electrolyte balance in your colon thus enabling smoother bowel movements.
- Fiber intake – Whole sources of fiber such as fruits, vegetables, grains like oats help improve the digestion process and ease the movement of stools. Based on your bowel patterns, you can choose to add soluble fiber or insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber creates a gel in the digestive tract and gives bulk to your stools, whereas insoluble fiber attracts water into your stool making the movement of stools easier. Based on the Bristol Chart, if your poop type is Type 1 or 2, you should consider adding more insoluble fiber, and if it is Type 6 or 7, then you should add more soluble fiber. Keep in mind when you eat a good amount of fiber you also need to drink plenty of water. A low intake of water while consuming decent amounts of fiber will result in bloating. 
- Liver health – Bile production is crucial to the digestion of fats in the gut. Insufficient production of bile can result in constipation. A good digestive enzyme supplement can aid the production of bile. 
- Probiotics – Probiotics help your gut to stay in balance and ensure top-notch digestion. Studies have shown that probiotics also help in a modulated bowel movement by improving stool movement time and stool frequency. Different strains of bacteria can help resolve both constipation and diarrhea, so make sure you talk to a medical practitioner to get the right probiotic for your gut. 
- Stress – Increased levels of stress can cause gastrointestinal changes that can affect digestion resulting in changes in bowel movements, specifically constipation. Researchers have identified several means by which stress can cause constipation - increased intestinal permeability, slowing down intestinal movement, and inflammation in the intestines. Identify your source of stress, and actively work on them to reduce daily levels of stress. Eliminate foods high in sugar, unsaturated fats, alcohol, and cigarettes to keep your cortisol levels in check. 
In conclusion, your poop can tell a lot about your overall state of health, and where you need to focus to shift to an optimal state of health. So, make sure to pay extra attention to your poop, and talk to your medical practitioner when you spot abnormalities.