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Ep 3: Let’s Talk About Poop Part 1

Warning: We’re about to have an uncomfortable conversation.

But, we must. We must have this conversation when we have IBD. It’s a moral imperative.*

It’s time for us to have the poop talk. This is a biggie, such a big convo that we’re dedicating it to a two part episode. In this episode which is Part I, we talk about the why, and the what. Why do we need to care about our poop anyway and what the heck are we supposed to be looking for anyway. We dive deep into the why knowing about our poop and looking in the toilet every time we go is so crucial to our IBD healing, we cover the importance of the Bristol Stool Chart and we wrap up by asking the question, “Is there a better way to track our poop than the BSC?”

This episode is told with humor and grace, but also with the power that it deserves. When we move from squimish to comfortable when we talk about our poop, and learni what to look for in the toilet, and learn the best language to describe our poop to our health care provider, we have a leg up on everyone else trying to manage their IBD. We, dear mama, can now get to the root causes of our gut struggles and the root causes are where all the healing magic happens.

Buckle up, it’s going to be an uncomfortable, bumpy ride. But we’ll get through it together.

*Reference to the 80’s movie Real Genius with Val Kilmer (fun quarantine watch)

Episode at a Glance:

  • [0:56] When we talk about our poop, we take away the stigma and the uncomfortable-ness everyone has with this subject, and it gives us a way to connect and share in a way we usually stay away from, and it gives us the freedom on our IBD healing journey.
  • [7:45] Just how important is paying attention to your poop when it comes to IBD? In a word, huge. It’s also important to embrace the act of looking at the toilet every time we go, and also to help us get comfortable with knowing what it is we’re actually supposed to be looking for when we look.
  • [10:21] Knowing more about your poop and taking a peek at the toilet every time you go, can help you judge your current inflammation response or how you’re doing with digesting fats in your food. Taking a peak also tells you how well you’re digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your food, it gives you clues about potential food sensitivities and intolerance you might be having, plus it gives you a window into the balance of your gut flora.
  • [15:52] The Bristol Stool Chart was invented by Stephen Lewis and Ken Heaton at the Bristol Royal infirmary. Thanks to these lovely gentleman, we now have the language to talk about our poop in a way that we can understand, our doctors can also understand, and in a way that helps us judge where normal-ish is and where we fall in that spectrum.
  • [21:00] The case of Jenny, a generally healthy IBD gal who learned a valuable lesson about the strengths the limitations of the Bristol Stool Chart.
  • [22:24] When thinking about what’s going on with our gut health, we must consider factors other than poop. Factors like abdominal pain, gas, bloating and heartburn, and forget our digestive tract for just a moment, there’s other non-gut factors that can also affect our poop consistency.? What’s our mood, our anxiety, our stress, our anger, and depression? These things have all been shown to affect our poop frequency and our consistency. Our hormone fluctuations affect our poop too.
  • [26:29] One last thing, if you’re still with me, and if you are, you’re definitely my kind of girl, we have to get to know each other better. Go to karynhaley.com, and schedule your very own free 30-minute IBD root cause troubleshooting session with me where we discuss the challenges you’ve been having, we set goals to help you move forward, and we talk about how we can work together to help you get your life back. It’s a power-packed 30 minutes.

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Episode Links:

Let’s Talk About Poop Part I

00:05 INTRO: You are listening to The Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD, a safe space for moms with Crohn’s and colitis, connect, explore powerful tools for healing and transform our lives to thrive in motherhood and in life. I’m your host, Karyn Haley IBD health coach, Integrative Wellness enthusiast, and mom to three outstanding kids. After having Crohn’s disease for 30 years and working as a health advocate exclusively with IBD clients for the last 10 years, I know it’s time to bring the types of candid conversations I have with my clients out into the open. It’s our time to go on an IBD healing journey and do it like only a mom can. Let’s do this. Well, hello there, beautiful IBD mama, so happy to share this time with you today.

00:56 KARYN: And I think, I think for this episode, it’s gonna be best to just jump in and rip the band-aid off and come right out and say it, we’ve got a slightly uncomfortable topic to cover on this episode of The Cheeky Podcast, and also on the next episode, it’s a two-parter, if you will, because when it comes to this topic, you just can’t get enough. And you, dear listener, I’ve gotta give you kudos. And bow to your hutzpah, as they say, dear listener, I gotta give you kudos, because I know you saw the title and you hit play anyway. Bravo to you, dear one. And I understand the apprehension. We’ve gotta go there though. We really do have to go there. In a podcast with an IBD focus, we just have to go there. We have to talk about it, because when we talk about it, we take away the stigma and the uncomfortable-ness everyone has with this subject, and it gives us a way to connect and share in a way we usually stay away from, and it gives us the freedom on our IBD healing journey, sinking deep into the belly of this subject makes us stronger, savvier women, when it comes to not only our gut health, but our total health as well, so we have to go there, we have to go there, mama, we have to have the poop talk. And this two-parter episode, our star with the spotlight on her, will be our poop.

02:27: And the crowd goes wild. Poop. It’s actually a dream in my life, a dream that everyone, not just IBDer’s, get more comfortable talking about their poop, but we, as moms with IBD, we need to connect and have this conversation even more, and I know just how uncomfortable this might be making you right now. It’s not a conversation you probably have with most of your friends, I can just picture this now, “Hey girl. How was that poop you just had? Everything come out okay?” It might even be making you more uncomfortable than being in fifth grade elementary school and going to that sex ed talk you went to with all your classmates sitting around you, and remember how painful that was, this one might be even more painful, so… Poop, we know without a shadow of a doubt that everyone does it, but it’s this little secret that no one gives us permission to talk about, definitely not talk about in the open, especially women were taught, it’s private, it’s dirty, it’s a little secret to keep quiet about. It almost feels to me like in social circles, we have to pretend we don’t even do it, it’s not lady-like to talk about.

03:44: Many of us are even taught as girls that we shouldn’t pass gas and certainly not out loud, and definitely never smelly gas. I’ve always wondered, why is it that boys and even grown men can laugh about their bodily functions, and we aren’t even taught to call it by its real name? As little kids, our parents come up with euphemisms for poop, like make dirt or mud or caca or doodie or do do. What name did your parents give your poop? My family went in the complete opposite direction when it came to talking about poop. In my house, growing up with a nurse, as a mom, we were expected to use the proper terminology for everything. We weren’t even allowed to say poop in our house. It was bowel movement or BM, if we were feeling particularly edgy. We never even said pee, it was always urinate. As a kid, I thought my friends were so cool as they got to use clever names for poop, I had to use the proper terminology, and I bet… I bet you, my mom is listening right now, she’s listening to this episode, and she’s offended that I’m using the word poop and not bowel movement. I’m sorry, mom, but bowel movement just sounds way too sterile, way too medical.

05:06: So today, when we have this talk, we’re gonna go with poop, it seems like a happy middle ground for most of us, I guess. Besides not talking about poop, if you’re like me, you probably never even gave your poop a second thought until you started having IBD symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, or until the doctor gave you that lovely diagnosis, inflammatory bowel disease. Not a sexy sounding diagnosis, by the way. Why couldn’t it be some sexy French sounding name, like [05:40] ____ something like that. Sorry, I digress, but really, why couldn’t it have been a sexier name? The point is, most people don’t really give their poop a second thought as a kid, and I was really no exception, it was something I reluctantly pulled myself away from an activity to do. I ran into the bathroom to have that “bowel movement,” she says in quotes. And I was in and out, two minutes flat, then back to innocent childhood fun until that fateful day. Until that day when I was 16, 17 years old, and I went to the bathroom, and my poop was covered with blood.

06:24: It wasn’t until that day that I had the most profound thought I’d ever had when it came to my poop, and I thought to myself, “Huh, I think it’s been four days since I pooped last.” That was the day my happy go-lucky, pretty much non-existent relationship with poop changed forever. Today, if it was four days… If four days went by, and I didn’t poop, I’d know it. I’d know it if one day went by and I didn’t pop, because now I know just how important my poop is, and I know just how much valuable information is located in the toilet when we go number two, and there’s another euphemism that we tend to use for poop. For me, there’s this before picture, this before picture I have of me as a teenager who… By the way, just so you get a clear idea of what was going on with me at the time, I had been having other DI symptoms for three years by this time, nothing poop-related, but I hadn’t been diagnosed with Crohn’s yet, and I certainly had never thought about my poop in any significant way, compare that to the picture, the after picture of a person whose life was altered dramatically on that fateful day, where my four-day old poop suddenly changed everything.

Just how important is it to pay attention to your poop?

07:45: The unfinished puzzle of the previous three years trying to figure out what was wrong with me came together in that one important life-altering poop. Just how important is paying attention to your poop when it comes to IBD? In a word, huge. If you’re one of my awesome clients and you’re listening to this podcast right now, I know you’re chuckling. You’re chuckling, because you know that we never get through a session without talking about poop. Today, we’re gonna bring that candid conversation out into the open so that we can all benefit from talking about it. My goal with this episode is not only to encourage you to get comfortable with this word, this poop word, this drop the kids off at the pool, this make a turd, whatever you guys call it, but to also embrace, to embrace the act of looking at the toilet every time we go, and also to help us get comfortable with knowing what it is we’re actually supposed to be looking for and what that dookie… Yep, there’s another euphemism, what that dookie means for our gut health and our overall health as well. In today’s episode, let’s talk about poop. Part one, we’ll dive into why getting super cosy and comfortable with our poop is the key to getting our IBD into remission.

09:09: We’ll talk about what you should be thinking about and looking for when it comes to your poop, and we’ll also talk about the Bristol Stool Chart, an actual chart that gives us ratings for our pop. I’ll tell you where you can get your own copy, and trust me, you’re gonna want your own copy so you can print it out, and how it can be beneficial for you, and more importantly, when you should throw it in the toilet. In Episode 4, let’s talk about poop part two, which is actually available now, you can download that right now after you listen to this episode, so you don’t even have to wait a week for it. In that episode, we’re gonna talk about a mom-friendly acronym that will come in handy to help you pay closer attention to your poop. I’m gonna tell you how you can get your hands on the best free resource to help you keep track of your own symptoms and poop, and… Yes, while you’re in gut healing mode, everyone should be doing that. For those of you who are new to talking about poop, those of you who are feeling really uncomfortable with this conversation, and those of you who never look in the toilet bowl, I’m gonna give you a fun little poop challenge so you can start taking baby steps, baby steps with your poop.

10:21: I love me some baby steps, so it’s gonna help you with that. And after we talk about all of this, we’ll get to the most important part, I’ll tell you how to do it like a mom, so all of that is coming your way in the next episode, episode four in Let’s Talk about Poop, Part Two. Alright, but for today, we do have a lot to get to. So let’s go ahead and dive in. First up, why should we even care about this? Why do we wanna get comfortable talking about our poop? Why do we wanna get comfortable looking at our poop? Other than judging your poop to see what kind of day you might have, which is really common with us IBDer’s, there’s more going on in the toilet bowl that we should be aware of when it comes to poop. Knowing more about your poop and taking a peek at the toilet every time you go, can help you judge many things that are going on inside your body, like your current inflammation response or how you’re doing with digesting fat in your food. You know fat is super important to help you keep your weight on and to give you energy for the day, and the question is, are you digesting fat? Well, you can find that out right in your poop.

Possible inflammation, how well we are digesting and absorbing key nutrients, probable food sensitivities, and bacterial balance can all be found when we look in the toilet.

11:30: Taking a peak also tells you how well you’re digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your food, it gives you clues about potential food sensitivities and intolerance you might be having, plus it gives you a window into the balance of your gut flora, that bacterial colony in your gut. These issues are all important to IBDer’s, and I’m only just scratching the surface here. When it comes to the information we can find in our poop. Tracking our poop over time is also important, it’s not just about that one poop in the moment, it’s about seeing what’s going on over time, looking for patterns. These patterns will often give us clues about where our body might be stuck and how to make necessary improvements, even if your poop is like many with IBD and you always have diarrhea because your poop is talking to you in that scenario too. Once we get comfortable with knowing what’s going on with our poop and we start to look for patterns over time, we can then start to learn more about the language we need to talk about our poop with words more than, “It kind of looks like diarrhea,” or, “I had a little constipation.”

12:46: We’ll talk more about the language that helps us talk about our poop in just a bit, but it’s important too to know that language because when we know how to accurately describe our poop to our doctors and to ourselves, that’s when we can start to make active and positive changes to help get our IBD under control. Remember, what it feels like coming out isn’t always what it looks like in the toilet. That’s why we have to take a look. We also should make ourselves a promise that we’ll take a look every time, not once a week, not once a day, but every time. If we don’t get comfortable looking in the toilet to notice patterns in our poop over time, and if we don’t have the language to talk about our poop, we’re powerless, we’re powerless to dive into the root causes of our gut challenges and then find ways to heal. So what should you be looking for? What should we actually be looking for when it comes to our poop? Well, we know that our poop is important, and we know that we need to get comfortable taking a peek at it and learning the language of how to describe it, so now let’s talk about what we’re actually looking for when we take that peek in the toilet. With poop, the standard things that everyone should be looking for apply. Those things are color, shape, size, texture and smell. Those are really pretty standard measures for everyone when it comes to poop. When it comes to IBDers, we wanna take this process a couple steps further.

14:26: Is there blood in your poop, or in the toilet bowl, or on the toilet paper when you wipe? How much mucus or oily rings is there in the toilet or on the toilet paper when you wipe? Are there pieces of food in your poop? How many poops are you having a day? Are you pooping every day? Are you straining when you poop? Is it painful when you poop? Does your poop have an offensive odorous smell? Do you barely make it to the bathroom in time or maybe not at all? All of these poop factors mean something, from problems located in our rectal area to general inflammation throughout the digestive tract. Pooping can help us detect signs of anal fissures or hemorrhoids or an inability to digest fat in our food. Maybe it can help us detect food intolerances, and so on, I’m gonna leave it up to you to talk to your healthcare provider about what this all means for you, but just know that these factors are important. Knowing all this information about your poop can be the difference between knowing what’s going on at the root level versus being in the dark and wondering what steps you should take next. After hearing about all that can go wrong with your poop, you might be wondering, what does the perfect poop look like? How do I know if I get to the perfect proof? Is there a normal poop?

15:52: Should I be striving for that? And what if I can never get to that? Should I be worried? The short answer is no. There really isn’t a “perfect poop”. Since everyone’s different, what’s normal for you, what’s normal for me, and even what’s normal for someone without IBD, could be quite different. I know it’s a little bit confusing. But here is where that poop language we talked about earlier kicks into high gear because the good folks at one of my favorite countries in the world, big cheerio to my friends in England, the Bristol Stool scale and the Bristol Stool Chart was invented by Stephen Lewis and Ken Heaton at the Bristol Royal infirmary. Thanks to these lovely gentleman, we now have the language to talk about our poop in a way that we can understand, our doctors can also understand, and in a way that helps us judge where normal-ish is and where we fall in that spectrum. So what the heck is the Bristol Stool Chart and Bristol Stool scale, and when can it be helpful, and when should we maybe throw it in the toilet? Well, I just mentioned that the Bristol Stool scale was developed in England back in the 1990s, the early 1990s, I think.

17:09: So not really that long ago, at least not to me, a mama born in the 70s, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. And the beauty of the Bristol Stool scale is that it gives us the language for what we’ve been looking for. Are you familiar with this? Have you tried it? Have you heard of the Bristol Stool scale? Just in case you haven’t seen this lovely invention before, I want you to picture it, it’s this very simple poop or stool chart with numbers for each type of poop. There’s seven different pictures of poop, each is a different consistency from solid pebbles all the way to liquid. Each poop has a number associated with it. A number one on the scale is the hardest, poop pebbles, very constipated, think marbles. Number two and three are not as firm or pebbly, but they’re still on the constipated side. When you get to the poop picture for number four, you will see that that’s what we all consider, that standard sausage style poop. Pictures of poop with the numbers five and six, they go more on the less than solid side, and then we finish out with a number seven, which is considered pure liquid poop. So it’s important to say one last thing about the makeup of this scale, these are not real poops, but their cartoon drawings of poops. So you don’t have to wince when you’re thinking about it, if you’ve seen a poop emoji and yet you didn’t have any problems with that, I know you’ll be fine looking at this chart.

18:45: What I absolutely love about the Bristol Stool Chart is that anyone can understand it, I dare say that a toddler can even point to a picture of the poop that looked similar to theirs. Finally, someone is giving us a guide, and we don’t have to describe our poop by saying something that our doctor might not even be able to picture, like slightly mushy, or kind of oatmeal like. This language is much better because it gives us even more specific language when it comes to describing our poop. A picture says a thousand words. We can say something to our doctor, like it was a number six on the Bristol Stool Scale, or even better, you can say it was kind of between a five and a six on the Bristol Stool Chart. Most gastroenterologists are familiar with the Bristol Stool Scale. So next time you go for your doctor’s appointment and the doc says, tell me about your poop consistency, you can wow them with your Bristol Stool Chart knowledge.

19:49: And hey, if they’ve never heard of it, like one gastroenterologist I recently met, you can help them learn something new, and it’s helpful for their practice and also for all of their patients. Okay, I know though, many of you, just like my clients, are wondering in the back of your mind, where is that elusive perfect poop we’re all striving for on this scale? Remember that while there is no true north star when it comes to poop, most experts believe that somewhere in the range of 4-5 on the Bristol Stool Chart is considered that normal poop. Knowing what we’re striving for, and I have to say striving for ish, it makes all the difference. We can now track where we’re at, we can make subtle changes, we can keep track of our peeking over time and begin to move towards the normal poop range. If you wanna get your hands on your own copy of the Bristol Stool Chart, check my show notes, there’s a link to my favorite Bristol Stool Chart, waiting for you there. It’s definitely worth printing out, finding a safe place to pin it up at home, maybe in the bathroom.

We can all learn about the limitations of the Bristol Stool Chart from my client, Jenny.

21:00: Now as excited as you can see I get when I talk about poop and the Bristol Stool Chart, I want you to know that the chart isn’t perfect, and it does have some limitations, especially for us, IBDer’s. Take my client Jenny, that’s not her real name, but we’re gonna call her Jenny for today. She’s been working with me for a while, and she feels really well, her IBD diet is mostly figured out, she’s developed some ways to manage the stress that’s been affecting her GI tract, she’s even come up with some great exercise routines that are low impact and they fit with her energy level. Jenny’s abdominal pain is gone, and she’s not experiencing the bloating and gas that she had every time she was eating anymore. Best of all, those frequent hourly trips to the bathroom, they’ve gotten much less. So what’s the problem? Jenny so focused on what poop number she’s on in the BSC, that Bristol Stool Chart, that she sees all of her progress as a failure. She doesn’t consistently achieve that perfect number four poop, so she thinks that everything is wrong with her gut health, even though all those other signs and symptoms point to steady progress. Do you see the problem here? Jenny is so focused on the Bristol Stool Chart that she isn’t seeing all of the success around her.

22:24: Sometimes she does actually get a number four, and those are great days. And on other days, she’s finding that she’s more of a five or six, and it definitely makes her freak out. She’s wondering what’s wrong with her? Is her disease out of remission? Is she doomed to never find the perfect poop? Jenny isn’t able to trust that what she’s doing, she’s doing well, and that she’s feeling well because she’s put so much stock into this one thing, and that’s the problem for us IBDer’s, because although poop is important, it’s important to take a peek in the bowl, and it’s important to track our poop over time, but remember that pop is just one factor, there’s so many other factors we need to keep in mind when it comes to our gut health and so many reasons we may not achieve consistency with our poop, and we may not have that perfect poop. So we must consider other gut factors, factors like abdominal pain, the smell of your poop, gas, bloating and heartburn, and forget our digestive tract for just a moment, there’s other non-IBD factors that can also affect our poop consistency. What did we have to eat that day? What’s our mood, our anxiety, our stress, our anger, and depression? These things have all been shown to affect our poop frequency and our consistency. Our hormone fluctuations, that affects our poop too. Anybody ever heard of period poops?

Stress, hormones, anxiety, depression, and other mood challenges can also affect the consistency and frequency of our poop.

23:58: It’s normal, it’s normal and natural for all women to experience this, even lack of sleep can affect your poops. So while we do get lots of information from looking at our poop, tracking our poop over time and being comfortable with the Bristol Stool Chart numbers and pictures, we also wanna be aware that the Bristol Stool Chart is not the end all be all, and we don’t want to use it to create a block that keeps us from believing that we’re in remission. Poop fluctuations are normal for everyone, and it doesn’t always mean that you’re in the middle of a Crohn’s or Colitis flare-up. I’ve heard about the same phenomenon with other clients, besides Jenny, it’s really quite common, clients that are having trouble seeing beyond the Bristol Stool Chart. Is the BSC holding you back? Is there a better answer out there? Is there a better way to keep track of your poop? Next time on The Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD. I said that, and now I’m thinking about that serial podcast, do you guys know that podcast? If you haven’t listened to that one, it’s fascinating, it’s a murder mystery ride that always ends with something like, “Will the accused finally go free? Next time on Serial.”

25:16: I’m just channeling my favorite podcasts, I know I told you guys I’m a podcast junkie. Anyway, our next episode, let’s talk about Poop, Part Doo, will be as illuminating as this one. We’ll talk about a mom-friendly acronym that will come in handy when it comes to tracking your poop. I’ll tell you about the most awesome free resource available to help you track your symptoms and your poop, and if you’re new to talking about poop, I’ve got a challenge for you, and of course, we’ll talk about how you can do all this like a mom. Remember to check out the link in the show notes for that free copy of your Bristol Stool Chart. It’s a link for my favorite one. I know you’re gonna love it. I definitely think it will come in handy for you and for your doctor’s appointments.

26:04: Thank you so much for joining me today and for listening to today’s episode. When it comes to IBD, I know there’s a lot of resources out there, and I’m truly honored that you chose the Cheeky Podcast to get your IBD information today. If you found this information helpful, please give us a rating and review, it helps other moms find the podcast and see what we’re doing over here to help IBD moms everywhere.

Are you ready to take your gut healing to the next level?

26:29: And if you feel called to do it, share this podcast with an IBD mom who you know could really use an uplifting message today, ’cause that’s what we’re all about over here at the Cheeky Podcast. One last thing, if you’re still with me, and if you are, you’re definitely my kind of gal, we have to get to know each other better. If you’re tired of living on the hamster wheel of IBD with all the ups and downs between flares and remission, if you’re struggling to get control of your abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and other troubling IBD symptoms, go to the website, it’s karynhaley.com, and my mom had to be just a little bit different to spell my name with a Y, so it’s K-A-R-Y-N H-A-L-E-Y.com, and schedule your very own free 30-minute IBD root cause troubleshooting session with me where we discuss the challenges you’ve been having, we set goals to help you move forward, and we talk about how we can work together to help you get your life back. It’s a power packed 30 minutes. You don’t have to live in IBD status quo. There’s so much that can be done to transform your life so you can thrive in motherhood and thrive with IBD. I’ve seen my clients walk this path, and it gives me so much joy to take that journey with them.

27:50: My entire coaching practice is run online, so you never have to leave your house and you never have to get out of your jammy or yoga pants for us to work together. You know I’m wearing them too. If you’re ready to take your first amazing step towards healing, I’m ready to chat with you. Schedule your free 30-minute IBD root cause troubleshooting session today at karynhaley.com. Click on the “work with me” tab and I’ll see you soon. It’s important to note that the information in this podcast and in this episode is for general information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The statements made in the Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD, either by me or my guests, is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols, do yourself a favor and consult your physician first. Thank you so much for listening, for being here, for saving this space for us to spend some time together. Until we chat again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD journey.

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