Bowel transit time and the ‘scoop’ on poop

Festive Winter Greetings

Meet Mr. Hanky, he is the optimum colour for your poo!

The movements of my bowels and this entire subject in general is not something I love to discuss. When I was in high school, I went through an eight month period where I dreaded the days I would have to go for the secondary function bathroom visit. They were often painful, or loud, which was even worse. When you are in high school and in a vulnerable place mentally, the thought of someone catching you in the midst of this everyday but embarrassing happening is more than one can bear. I was going through a digestive issue where I had heartburn 24/7 and problem stools…yet, no one could figure out what was wrong. Looking back, it was also a time where I was heavily bullied, so it is highly likely that this was my body manifesting that major stressor. Luckily for me, I had keys to the theatre a few days of the week, so I could duck in there and use the washroom at my convenience on those occasions. Another reason why I was so glad to be a drama geek. Now, with my once again undiagnosable, colon issues, it’s back to thinking about my poop. Sigh. At least this time I get to help others with information I discover and hopefully help someone else in the process.

So what is bowel transit time? Basically, it is the time your food (or whatever else you are ingesting) takes to get from your mouth to that porcelain bowl. There are a lot of steps that your food has to go through. Rather than write them all out, I’d like to share an informative, if somewhat strange video I found on You Tube. It made me laugh, but it’s hard to hear what they are saying, so be ready to read the subtitles.


Other than them showing the picture of the large intestines while talking about the small and the fact that it is pronounced ‘si-row-sis’, I think they did a pretty decent job explaining the process.

I’ve been trying to find a clear opinion on what the ‘optimum’ amount of bowel transit time should be but no one seems to agree. The general consensus is somewhere between 12-24 hours. Now, this of course depends on what you are eating. Some foods digest more quickly than others, while others are slower. There is a test that you can take involving the swallowing of two pills that you then have x-rayed to see how quickly you pass them. I wanted to have an idea of my personal bowel transit time, so I tried a more creative method. One morning, I had a ‘red sunrise’ from Booster Juice with my bagel. The ‘red sunrise’ has the juice of carrots, apples and beets. The last being the most integral part of my plan. I then check my movements to see the red from the beets. Perhaps not THE most scientific of methods, but at least it’s something. I ate my bagel at 10 am in the morning and I…ahem, saw red, at 4 p.m. that afternoon. That means I am looking at a bowel transit time of six hours. It seems to me that it was a bit fast, considering the experts are saying that the average is more like 12, but who knows. Maybe I have sped up my transit with the detoxing that I have done so far. I used to only have one movement every two days. Some doctors will tell you that is normal and it is just your ‘rhythm’, but I have to disagree. I’ve spoken with many holistic practitioners on the subject and most of them say that you should have at least one movement a day. Now that I’ve been taking better care of my body, drinking more water and watching what I eat, I tend to have one or more movements a day for the most part. I find if I have less, it is a time when I am stressed out or I psychologically know that there will not be any bathrooms readily available to me for most of the day. My intestines are quite smart that way.

If you are going less that once every twenty four hours, it is my personal opinion that you are constipated, but I’m not a trained medical professional. Others say the rule is less than once every thirty six hours, while others still say it is every seventy-two.  If you feel at all bloated and if you have painful, hard movements on a frequent basis, then you are probably constipated, no matter what the ‘time lines’ say.

If the above describes you, try the following to help you have a more pleasant experience:

1. Drink more water

I know I sound like a broken record on this one, but it really REALLY does make a difference. I noticed it the first week of my detox.

2. Get some exercise

Ever noticed after a long walk, you have to go? Exercise massages your organs and gets things moving. Whenever I feel that it’s been too long since my last visit, I go for a walk.

3. Add a probiotic to your routine

Probiotics really stimulate bowel function for me, but if they are making your stools too loose, talk to your doctor or another health expert.

* At this point, a lot of doctors will tell you to take some fiber. It has been my personal experience that if you are already constipated, it may be because you are dehydrated. If you add more fiber to that mix, you will feel even worse. I’m not saying to stop listening to your doctor, but try to significantly up your water intake for a week first. If that doesn’t help, then at least you will be primed for the added fiber intake.

Now that you know what to do to up that bowel transit time, let’s take a look at some other warning signs your poop may be sending you. If you have noticed any of these colours in your bowl during a visit to the loo, get it checked out.

  • Pale stools – sometimes described as ‘clay coloured’, these stools could be the result of a lack of bile salts. Bile salts are what turns your poop that brownish colour. If you’ve been eating too many antacids, that may be the culprit. However, there can be other factors, such as hepatitis.
  • Greenish stools – Though common in newborns, green stools in an adult can be the result of food dyes, iron supplements or decreased transit time. If you notice some green after St. Patty’s day celebrations, I wouldn’t fret.
  • Red or maroon stools – Unless you’ve eaten something that would contribute to a red stool, like beets, this could be a warning sign for diseases from IBS to colon cancer. Keep checking those poops!
  • Black stools – black, tar like stools are usually caused by iron supplements or eating certain foods. I’ve also experienced them in relation to Pepto-bismol. However, they can also be a sign of bleeding in your upper digestive tract. I would consult a doctor if you are at all worried.
  • Blood – blood is not normal, it can be a sign of an infection or worse. Go see your doctor immediately if you noticed actual blood in your stool.

Basically you want your stools to be soft, easily passed and a medium to light brown.

Fewf! I’m glad that is over with. Anyone have any bowel transit times they’d like to share? How about ways you got your time to move more quickly? In the meantime, keep an eye out for potentially problematic poops!


About msjenniferwalker

I'm a Jenn of all trades, as long as they are creative and fulfilling. I'm an actress, writer, photographer and all around social person. I love to learn, travel, meet new people and have new experiences.

Posted on August 7, 2012, in Experiences, Information, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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