Food, Mood, Poop Journal (and the real scoop on poop)
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
The Food, Mood, Poop Journal serves as your best tool for collecting data. Data about your client or yourself!
As a Functional Medicine Nutritionist I’ll admit that I love data. It serves as clues to help direct our care. And data, when seen as a clue and not a determinant, is very telling when we’re able to step back and understand the story that it’s illuminating. So, what does poop data actually tell you?
While poop provides some great clues, poop data alone becomes much 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 clinician it allows you to slow down, pay attention, and most importantly connect the dots – helping you to determine which patterns are serving and which might be getting in the way of health or healing goals.
Sometimes, when working with clients, we have them complete the Food, Mood, Poop Journal for 3-5 days in its entirety. Other times we like to concentrate our focus on just one area of the Food, Mood, Poop Journal at a time.
As an example, when we focus on the Food portion of that three part Food, Mood, Poop equation, we never judge, count calories, or measure. We just capture information (without interpretation).
That means we’re looking for:
Smoothie (water, blueberries, parsley, lemon, lemon zest, ginger, Brazil nuts, stevia, ice)
12 oz smoothie (10 oz water, ½ cup blueberries, ¼ cup parsley, etc.)
Oatmeal with ground flax, cinnamon, walnuts, oat milk
½ cup cooked oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. flax, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, etc.
You see, when looking from a Functional Nutrition perspective, we do not want to invite self-criticism or analysis around food or choices. Yet we do want to have a starting point for discussion and self-awareness when assessing what comes in and what goes out. This knowledge dump allows us to step out of our assumptions and develop real rapport with our clients. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are also some folks for whom a Food, Mood, Poop Journal is not a great first step at all, and may serve as more of a trigger than a tool.)
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):
- 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!)
What My Poops are Telling me
The next area we might tackle in the Food, Mood, Poop Journal is the Poop column. Are you ready to talk Poop?
I realize this isn’t a pleasant topic (for you or maybe for you to discuss with your clients). Yet it’s one that comes up a lot in our practice at the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic. For us, poop is an indicator of overall health and it’s an important focus while we work to restore body balance.
In fact, as I like to remind people, especially when we get all caught up in the complexities of functional testing, taking a peek at the poop left behind in the bowl is one of our best diagnostic tools!
What that means is that 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.
Function of the Digestive System
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 our Food, Mood Poop Journal, we like to turn our attention to relatable discussions about digestion and 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.
Gut Health 101
The large intestine, or colon, is one of your major channels of removal and detoxification. The colon has a significant role in digestion and in your overall ability to thrive. Its essential function is often grossly overlooked. And your poop patterns can tell us a lot about where to focus our attention!
From the perspective of digestion, the colon is the last place for your 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 have two important functions.
Two functions of bacteria in the colon:
- They allow important vitamins and nutrients (particularly vitamin K and B vitamins — to support your bones and brain, among other things) to pass into your 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.
While we tend to focus more keenly 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 you change your diet can you see the results in your elimination? Absolutely!
So, yes, you’ve gotta start looking in the bowl and getting real about what’s going on down there. This is how we bring to light the data that can be collected in a Food, Mood, Poop Journal!!
YOUR NEXT STEPS
Grab a Food, Mood, Poop Journal. And give it all a try. Break it down. Try one column at a time. Start with Food and then move to Poop. Before you jump to any conclusions, just capture.
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