One of the things I love about being a health nut is that you get to talk about poop.
You know. Number twos.
Don’t worry—I’m a professional. I came to this from farming. Dealing with manure was an essential part of my training.
I did a lot of shoveling out dirty stalls and hosing down dairy barns. I devoured research on calf bowel movements, too. You can learn a lot about an animal’s health by examining its dung.
We tend to think of poop as something dirty that should get flushed away as soon as possible, but don’t dismiss it so fast.
Our bowel movements hold a wealth of information about how well our digestive system is working.
The kings of old knew this. A Groom of the Stool was appointed by Tudor kings to help them with their most intimate ablutions. The office was finally discontinued in 1901, having been a permanent feature of the English monarchy for centuries.
(Don’t believe me? Then watch the 1994 movie, “The Madness of King George,” in which an examination of the royal stool steals the scene.)
Surely what’s good enough for kings is good enough for us.
Yeah, I know: there’s the embarrassment factor.
What if someone caught you glancing in the toilet before you flushed?
You’d have to explain what you were doing. They may not believe the whole line about the Groom of the Stool.
(Which is why it’s always best to shut and lock the bathroom door.)
I’d like to think we’re at the stage in life where nothing about our bodies can embarrass us. Not the way our bodies look, not the way they move, and certainly not the way they process food and keep us alive.
Because bowel movements are simply the end result of a process that starts when you put delicious food into your mouth. How could anything bad come of something so good?
Every single creature on earth must eliminate its waste products somehow. Sweating does some of the job. Each outward breath carries away carbon dioxide. But those lumpy bumpy bits of indigestible food can’t get magicked into thin air. They’re too big.
Hence, Nature gave us a 6-foot long tube, all coiled up inside our gut. It’s our large intestine, also known as the colon.
We can tell how well it’s working by the size, shape, consistency and color of our stools. (Frequency is less important; every person has their own unique rate of elimination.)
Science takes stools very seriously. The Bristol Stool Chart was developed back in 1997 to help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. It categorizes stools into 7 types, based on how long they’re stuck in the colon.
On average, it takes 3 days for the food you eat to exit the body. If it takes longer, you may be constipated. If it takes less, you may experience diarrhea.
Although good bowel health is usually summed up by a simple equation of fiber, water and exercise, our relationship with the toilet is strangely psychological.
Sigmund Freud honored bowel movements by making them the focus of his second stage of psychosexual development. He believed that a child’s personality could be impacted for life based on how well that child navigated toilet training.
Nowadays, we’re less likely to believe that the success of our early toilet training has much to do with who we are.
But science has shown there’s a very clear link between the brain and the gut. How we feel affects how well we digest our food and how often we visit the toilet.
After all, the word emotion comes from the Latin emovere for “to be moved.” The movement of food through your system parallels the movement of emotions through your body.
In self-help circles, it’s long been taken for granted that the gut offers important clues to emotional as well as physical health.
Self-help legend Louise L. Hay tells us that:
Good digestion starts with how you digest life.
We should feed ourselves nourishing thoughts along with nourishing foods. Just as the body takes what it can from the food we eat and eliminates the rest, so we should learn to take what we can from our experiences and let the rest go.
That’s not as easy as it sounds.
Most of us don’t let the past go. We worry over a situation, rethinking it from a dozen different angles. We won’t let it go, even though it’s still hurting us.
And we end up with stomach aches, constipation, even ulcers.
So if you notice something different about your trips to the toilet, don’t be so quick to assume it was something you ate.
Maybe it’s something going on in your life, something you’re finding it hard to “digest.”
See? That wasn’t so embarrassing.
There’s nothing embarrassing about your body doing what it’s supposed to do. Or learning from it when it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do.
All the more reason to glance at the toilet before you flush. Or hire a Groom of the Stool to do it for you.