For parents looking to get a better handle on their child’s gut health, the bathroom is a good place to start! Poop will vary from child to child and day to day depending on what they eat, but the shape, consistency and a few other easy-to-spot characteristics can provide important clues about the health of their gut. Understanding poop is a great tool for analyzing gut health.

Here are some things to watch for – and how the foods you choose can help promote optimal gut health.

Shape and Consistency

The Bristol Stool Chart is a visual guide that is divided into 7 categories to assess poop quality.

Understanding Poop

Poop that Floats

Another clue to look out for is poop that frequently floats. This may be also be accompanied by a greasy, oily appearance in the toilet water. This may be a sign of poor nutrient absorption, particularly fat. Nutrient malabsorption may result from irritation and inflammation in the gut and can also be associated with diarrhea.

Excess Mucous

While small amounts of mucous may be perfectly normal, a consistent increase is worth looking into, especially if there are other changes such as abdominal pain. Often excessive mucous comes with teething or an infection, but it can also be associated with food sensitivity.

Transit Time

Transit time, or how long it takes for food to travel through the digestive tract is a strong indicator of digestive health.

A delayed or slowed transit time results in fewer bowel movements over several days and may be associated with constipation. An increased transit time (especially when the frequency of poop is 1.5 or 2 times your child’s normal pattern) may be associated with diarrhea.

Understanding Poop: How You Can Promote Healthy Digestion

It’s normal for your child’s poop to change from time to time – it may be affected by variations in diet, developmental stage, travel, mood, or illness. But, big changes may warrant working with a healthcare provider, treating the underlying cause, and taking a look at diet and the possibility of food sensitivity.

By keeping a diet diary for a week, you may be able to identify any food sensitivities. The most common food triggers include soy, cow milk, gluten and eggs.

One of the biggest ways to positively influence your child’s gut health is by consistently offering foods rich in dietary fiber and avoiding foods that cause sensitivity.

Replacing cow milk dairy with easier to digest goat-milk based dairy foods, for example, can be a good option for children with cow milk sensitivity (CMS).

Everybody poops – and every poop can tell a story. By keeping an eye on the relationship between the food children eat and the poop that comes out, parents are able to better influence their children’s digestive health and happiness by understanding poop.

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Annie Salsberg ND DrGreene.com contributor

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