Should one regularly check one’s stools? The answer is "yes" because it is a simple and effective way for checking one’s health. The physical appearance of your stool can tell you a lot. That's not surprising since the digestive system is integral to the proper functioning of your body.

In a previous blog we discussed the Bristol Stool Scale for assessing your stool. (Briefly: There are seven different kinds of feces on the map. Types 1-3 indicate various degrees of constipation, types 5-7 indicate various forms of diarrhea, while types 4 and 5 are optimal or normal).

If your stool looks OK:

- Your "core" muscles are strong enough;
- Bowel movement is good;
- You eat enough fiber and other nutrients;
- Your hormonal system is in balance;
- You have no undue stress;
- The intestinal flora are well-balanced.

Does your stool look not OK?

- It could be that you need to make dietary adjustments;
- It could be that you are experiencing too much stress;
- It could be that you should drink more water;
- It could be that you suffer from a food intolerance;
- It could be that you have to get more exercise.

In addition to the Bristol stool scale you can also use the following three methods to further assess your stool and digestion.

Put your stools to the test in 3 ways

1: Questionnaire

- How often do you visit the toilet?
Ideal = 1-3 times per day.

- What is your bathroom experience?
Ideal = quick and pain-free without too much straining or anxiety over the idea of not finding a toilet in time.

- What about color?
Ideal = brown. But this may depend on what you eat.

- How does it smell?
Ideal = anything not too extremely odorous.

- Does your stool sink or float?
Ideal = both. Extended observation of bowel movements that either only float or only sink may be an indication of the ratio between fat and fiber in your diet.

2: pH of your stool

With a simple pH strip you can learn a lot about the state of your digestive system. Ideally, stool pH should be between 6.7 and 6.9. pH values lower than 5.5 are considered to be too acidic, pH-values above 7 too alkaline.

A low pH-value may indicate poor intake of carbohydrates or fats, whereas a high pH-value is typically seen during antibiotics use, inflammation, or an out-of-balance intestinal flora.

To perform the test simply keep a pH strip against a damp piece of stools. Ensure that the stools do not sit in the water of the toilet. Then compare the color on the strip against the included color indicator.

3: Bowel Transit Time Test

The bowel transit time indicates how long it takes food, once eaten, to pass through the digestive system entirely and to be eliminated. This test can help objectify a slow turnaround time (indicative of constipation) or rather a too fast turnaround (malabsorption, or poor absorption).

In hospitals, this test is done with dye capsules, but you can also do this test at home using beetroot, sesame or corn kernels. These three foods are easily identifiable in stools.

To perform the test, take a teaspoon of sesame seeds, or 5 tablespoons of corn granules, or 5 tablespoons of beetroot on an empty stomach. Write down the time as well as the time it comes out with your stools. With sesame seeds and corn are you looking for whole grains, with beetroot for a red/purple color.

An optimal transit time would be 12-48 hours. Anything more than 72 hours indicates constipation or an underlying health condition. Faster than 12 hours indicates less than optimal absorption of nutrients. In men, the bowel transit time is usually shorter than in women. For a reliable assessment the test is best done 3 times, providing an average transit time.