A Sneak Peak into Becoming a Holistic Practitioner: Utilizing the Food-Mood-Poop Journal
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Understanding the role of data collection in your Functional Nutrition or holistic health practice
As a Functional Nutrition Counselor (or any holistic practitioner), utilizing the Food-Mood-Poop Journal can enhance your ability to provide comprehensive care. This journal serves as a valuable tool for collecting client data, enabling you to observe patterns and connections between food intake, signs and symptoms, and elimination. With it, you’ll obtain the insights you need to guide recommendations and help your clients reach their goals. Let’s explore the significance of the Food-Mood-Poop Journal in becoming a holistic practitioner.
The Food-Mood-Poop Journal:
The Food-Mood-Poop Journal serves as your #1 tool for collecting data.
As a Functional Medicine Nutritionist, I’ll admit that I love data. It provides clues to help direct our care. And data, when seen as a clue and not a determinant, is most revealing when we’re able to step back and understand the story that it’s illuminating. So, what does poop data actually tell you?
Understanding the food-poop connection
While poop provides some great clues, poop data alone is more relevant when we gather input on food intake as well. That’s why the Food-Mood-Poop Journal is your first step in clinical data capture. As a practitioner, it allows you to slow down, pay attention, and connect the dots – helping you to determine which patterns are serving your client and which might be getting in the way of their health or healing goals.
How to use the Food-Mood-Poop Journal for holistic assessment
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are some clients for whom a Food-Mood-Poop Journal is not a great first step, and may serve as more of a trigger than a tool. You will know this based on their history or their response to your request to track.
When the Food-Mood-Poop Journal is a good fit, we sometimes, ask clients to complete it in its entirety for 3-5 days. Other times, we ask them to concentrate on a single point of focus. For instance, we may ask them just to gather food, or recount the timing and quality of their daily poops.
When we focus on the Food portion of that three part Food-Mood-Poop equation, we never judge, count calories, or measure. In any case of single focus, we simply ask our clients to capture information without interpretation.
That means we’re looking for:
Smoothie (water, blueberries, parsley, lemon, lemon zest, ginger, Brazil nuts, stevia, ice) vs. 12 oz smoothie (10 oz water, ½ cup blueberries, ¼ cup parsley, etc.)
Oatmeal with ground flax, cinnamon, walnuts, oat milk vs. ½ cup cooked oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. flax, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, etc.
When looking from a Functional Nutrition perspective, we do not want to invite self-criticism or analysis around food or choices. We do want to have a starting point for discussion and self-awareness while assessing what comes in and what goes out. This exchange allows us to step out of our assumptions and develop real rapport with our clients.
Surveying the Food section with your client
After the discretionary capture of food listed on the Food-Mood-Poop Journal, we might go back and ask our client to take two more actions (or we can do this with them in session):
- Circle the meals that included Fat, Fiber & Protein (one of our favorite ways of inviting balanced blood sugar through our meals).
- Highlight different colored foods eaten, using some colorful markers, both celebrating the anti-inflammatory rainbow of foods consumed and capturing which color foods we might be regularly missing in our daily diet. For me it can often be the blue foods!
The importance of poop journaling
Now we’re ready to talk Poop.
I realize this isn’t a pleasant topic, yet it’s one that comes up a lot in our practice at the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic. Poop is a topic that should be discussed often in any Functional Nutrition or holistic health practice. That’s because poop is an indicator of overall health and it’s an important area of focus for functionally restoring body balance.
In fact, I like to remind clients that taking a peek at the poop left behind in the bowl is one of our best diagnostic tools! Your poop has something to tell you.
Yes, the kids giggle. I had the chance to teach 7th graders on the topic of digestion early in my career and boy does the topic of poop make them uncomfortable! The adults try to hide their unease, or they worry that it’s “TMI”. Ultimately we all get over it so we can discuss the down and dirty details without discomfort.
Understanding gut health
As you likely know, the digestive system starts with the thought of food before it’s even consumed. It ends with the elimination of waste. “Top to bottom” as we like to say.
As we move into the Poop column of the Food-Mood-Poop Journal, we turn our attention to relatable discussions about digestion, particularly the role of the large intestine, where poop is produced, and the signs of health that we leave behind in the toilet each day.
This biology education invites folks to develop a new diagnostic appreciation of their poop.
Function of the colon
The large intestine, or colon, is one of the body’s major channels of removal and detoxification. The colon has a significant role in digestion and in a person’s overall ability to thrive. Its essential function is often grossly overlooked, despite the fact that a person’s poop patterns can tell us a lot about where to focus our attention in a holistic health practice.
From the perspective of digestion, the colon is the last place for the body to absorb water and vital minerals and vitamins. A healthy large intestine is well-populated with friendly bacteria that act as gatekeepers. Those microbes in the colon have two important functions.
- They allow important vitamins and nutrients (particularly vitamin K and B vitamins — to support the bones and brain, among other things) to pass into the bloodstream.
- They usher toxins and other unneeded rubbish toward excretion.
An unhealthy colon without bacterial diversity or balance is not as well equipped to do this careful sifting.
Signs of colon imbalances
While we tend to focus on what we put into our body rather than what comes out of it, the two processes are intimately related. The elimination of undigested particles and other elements that we take in through our food, water, and environment are just as important as the digestion and assimilation of our meals. Failure to excavate toxic wastes causes some obvious health challenges as well as some that you might not otherwise connect to the health of your colon or the quality of your poop. That’s why we use the Food-Mood-Poop Journal to look at what’s coming in alongside what’s coming out!
Some obvious signs of a colon in need of support or repair include:
- diverticular diseases
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- colon polyps
- colon cancer
Less than obvious symptoms of colon imbalances can be indicated by anything from eczema to sinus headaches to kidney and adrenal challenges.
What a healthy bowel movement looks like
Ready to start Poop tracking?
- Stools should be relatively soft and easy to pass
- Bowel movements should occur from one to three times a day
- Poop should be brown or golden brown (and sometimes green or red if you’ve eaten certain foods)
- Eliminations should be sausage-shaped, with a smooth nut butter-like consistency; there should not be visible food particles, especially if you’ve chewed your food well
If a client changes their diet, will they see the results in their elimination? Absolutely!
Embrace the Food-Mood-Poop Journal:
By encouraging your clients to utilize the Food-Mood-Poop Journal, you can collect valuable data to inform your Functional Nutrition or other holistic health practice. Start by breaking down the journal’s columns, focusing on food intake and bowel movements. Capture the information without drawing conclusions until you have several days of data.
Becoming a holistic practitioner involves recognizing the power of data collection in guiding recommendations and client health outcomes. The Food-Mood-Poop Journal serves as a valuable tool in understanding the connections between your client’s food, mood, and bowel movements. By assessing the data collected, you can gain profound insights into your clients’ overall well-being and develop targeted recommendations for better health outcomes.
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