Last week I visited my natural screening clinic to figure out where my energy had gone. Before testing my levels, my clinician and I had a thorough chat about my cycle; changes in length, changes in flow, changes in quality and consistency. From there we had a chat about my bowel movements, quantity, quality and colour. My clinician hypothesised a return of my leaky gut and got down to testing. After a week of ingesting many different forms of probiotics my poo has changed colour. Too much information? The important thing is that I now have more energy.
I am not a health professional so this is a quick list of what changes in your stool or menstrual blood MIGHT mean. The take home message is: If something isn’t right in the bathroom then please see a professional and get it checked out.
Right, Poo’s First. Our stools are made up of 10 parts water, 1 part bacteria, 1 part indigestible fibre, and a 1 part mixture of fat, protein, dead cells and mucus. Unlike the skipper caterpillar we cannot propel it five feet into the air but scientists have found faecal matter on toothbrushes 2 metres away from a toilet. Note: close lid before flushing.
A greasy floating stool may be a sign of an underlying problem in the gastro intestinal tract. Alternatively, as it is the job of the pancreas, liver and gall bladder to help the body digest fat, one of these organs may be ill.
A semi-solid stool may be a sign of a G.I tract infection or an allergic response.
A thick sticky stool that is tarry and jet black is a sign of upper GI bleeding. Iron pills and pep-to bismol will also turn stools black.
A red stool may just be from eating beetroot it could also be blood from lower down in the digestive tract.
A white/ grey stool may be from bile duct blockage or liver disease.
A green stool could be a sign of GI infection or that you’ve been eating spinach or drinking a large green juice.
A yellow stool is a sign that you have fat in your stool.
Persistently passing foul smelling stools is a sign of underlying disease or intestinal infection.
Consistently slender stools may be a sign of a rectal tumour.
Passing pebble like stools is a sign of a lack of dietary fibre and water.
Pain when defecating may be a sign of an anal fissure, haemorrhoids or diverticulosis.
Pain with blood is a red flag and should be investigated further by a doctor.
And that’s a quick blast of poo information, now let’s move on to the messages that our menses are telling our body.
Dr Casimir Funk is known for isolating vitamin B1 in 1912. A discovery through his study of vitamin B was that it reduced a woman’s menstrual flow from five or six days to three or four. He also reported menstruation came ‘completely without warning’ while women were on vitamin B complex therapy. We now know that this is because the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and ovaries require B vitamins, zinc and magnesium to produce period hormones. Often period difficulties are a result of poor nutrient uptake. For example
Brown blood with clots may mean that you are low in iron, B6, magnesium, chromium, vitamin E or fish oils.
If blood loss is excessive to the point of flooding this may be a sign of an iron deficiency. Anemia can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, light headedness and heart palpitations.
Large blood clots may be a sign that your body needs more good fats such as evening primrose and fish oils.
A light flow could be due to a nutritional need for leafy greens and good quality protein. It is also linked with stress, over work and lack of sleep.
Female athletes who stop having periods are considered to have Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). This is from training hard and eating too few carbohydrates. The body first deals with this by storing more fat. As cortisol rises the body then prepares itself for famine by not ovulating, because now is not a good time to get pregnant.
Not all period problems stem from diet. Women with mild hypothyroidism have prolonged and heavy menstrual bleeding with a shorter menstrual cycle. Flooding could also be a sign of fibroids or polyps and serious pain is a whole other kettle of fish. We all know women who have been to multiple doctors to try to get to the root of their problem with period pain and too many have been brushed away with pain relief pills or contraceptives. These treatments are relieving symptoms but not getting to the actual cause. There is a word for the way some women’s health concerns are dismissed by some doctors. It is called Yentl syndrome. If you think there is something wrong with you then please keep looking for help. Please get a second or third opinion. There are menstrual clinics, endometriosis and fertility clinics. There are societies, support groups, books and magazines. The resources are out there and there are people who can help you. You can start helping yourself by being an expert on your own body by paying attention to your cycle and your bowel movements. When something changes this is a sign that you may need nutritional help or you may need to see a doctor.
Another reason that I felt compelled to write this blog post is because 6 months ago while listening to a podcast one of the presenters was complaining about her heavy painful periods like this was a normal thing. I thought - that is not normal, I hope she sees a doctor. I didn’t contact her. She has just discovered that she has cervical cancer. AND. Before my wonderful Aunty Kerry was diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer her periods were incredibly heavy and long - she took iron supplements which didn’t help. Paired with the lump on her neck one would think that something would have been picked up earlier. It wasn’t. I still think of her every time I watch a sunset, I still think of her when I see pebbles shaped like hearts, I think of her when I “counsel” my kids.
I can’t get my lovely Aunty back, I can encourage people to listen to their bodies, to know their bodies and to get second opinions.
Your thyroid was a butterfly at rest
regulating heart, hormones and heat.
They took yours
before the cancer could take you.
Regulating heart, hormones and heat
Your medication is a rosary.
Before the cancer could take you
they had to operate.
Your medication is a rosary:
your eyes still crinkle through the morphine.
They had to operate
through throat, liver and spine.
Your eyes still crinkle through the morphine;
Though the pain is a scalpel
through throat, liver and spine.
Still you are with us for every champagne sunset.
Though the pain is a scalpel:
they took yours.
Still, you are with us in every champagne sunset
your thyroid was a butterfly at rest.