• Jacquie Harper

Fibre and Healthy Poo

Even though we often don’t think about it, poo is an excellent indicator of our gut health. Our gut is home to a dense and diverse microbial community called microbiota. Healthy gut microbiome is essential for synthesising vitamins, improving immune function, absorbing nutrients, producing neurotransmitters for brain function and new research is making links between the microbiome and sleep. The plant-based fibre we eat is essential in influencing the composition and metabolic activity of the microbiome.

Two forms of fibre and short-chain fatty acids

  1. Soluble fibre attracts water and creates a gel-like substance which slows digestion and softens stool. Food sources include: oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, fruit, vegetables and psyllium.

  2. Insoluble fibre, also known as resistant starch, is not digested in the small intestine. It can be thought of as roughage, adding bulk to stools. Food sources include: wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) support colonic cell health and are produced by the bacterial fermentation of complex carbohydrates and resistant starch. SCFAs improve the movement of substances through the intestines which helps to avoid constipation, prevent the overgrowth of potential pathogens and reduce inflammation. Research indicates SCFAs protect against type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, help prevent obesity and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

We need both forms of fibre in our diet and that is why total fibre intake is important. Recommendations for daily intake is 25g per day for women and 30g for men. A rough guide of the fibre amounts in food:

  • Fruit and vegetables contain 1.5g fibre per serve

  • Refined carbohydrates 1g / serve

  • Whole grains 2.5g /serve

Signs of good gut health:

  • Being regular – once to twice daily with a strong urge to poo when your body is ready to eliminate waste rather than no urge or a sudden need to run to the bathroom.

  • Poo that is soft and slips out easily. It should not hurt to go.

  • There is no need for pushing or straining or sitting on the toilet for long periods.

  • Poo that is well-formed and doesn’t float on the surface of the toilet bowl.

  • Consistency - poo is well hydrated and looks similar to the shape of a banana, if it looks like or comes out in little balls or clumps it can be an indication that it has been in the colon too long. Or if it is very loose and sloppy, it is passing through the gut too quickly.

  • A sense of being fully evacuated, not that that you haven’t quite finished or will need to be back again in half an hour.

  • Colour is important – mid brown is ideal, due to remnants of food and indigestible fibre, gut bacteria (end of their natural life) and the removal of old cells from the body. Yellow can indicate a microbial imbalance, or problems with the liver or gall bladder. Bright red can be haemorrhoids, while dark red or black stools may be something more serious.

Signs and symptoms of “sub-optimal” gut health may include:

  • A bloated pot tummy, cramping or feeling sick.

  • Burning pain in the chest, throat or tummy.

  • Take a long time (grunt, groan and push).

  • Blood, mucus or undigested food in your poo (except corn – which is perfectly normal).

  • Excess smelly gas.

  • An itchy or irritated bottom.

Poor gut health is a multifaceted business. The following ideas may help.

  • Ensure you have plenty of clean, filtered water in your diet.

  • Eat a variety of plant-based foods rich in fibre - leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Try to cut down on wheat-based foods.

  • Consider stress levels/emotional wellbeing.

  • Remember too much caffeine and some medications can affect stool habits.

Seek Help

Working with a Nutritionist can improve gut health and bowel movements. Consideration of diet and lifestyle will help to determine the underlying cause, which affects so much of your overall health. Book an appointment with me at and together we will make a plan to get you feeling great.

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