30 Apr

Floaters, Sinkers And … Stinkers

Portable loo queue

Never let it be said that runABC is not prepared to tackle the most sensitive of subjects. Our 'regular' correspondent, coach, former police PTI and staff health worker Alan Newman gets to the bottom of our toilet habits with an eye on the vital health messages our 'parcels' contain...

When I joined the police a well meaning Sergeant told me the job is never finished until the paperwork is done. How true, I thought, as I prepared this important message to you all!
 
When it comes to visiting the loo for a number two we all hope to be like a comedian and emerge with a clean one-liner. We should avoid the Captain Kirk scenario – far too much trouble with the Klingons!
 
The bowel is an absolute miracle. Roughly 18 feet long, the largest organ inside the body, it breaks our food down prior to the elimination of potentially harmful waste. In an average lifetime of 75 years it will shift around 30 tonnes of food – equivalent in weight to 25 cars!
 
Unfortunately the bowel is extremely sensitive and can be easily upset, leading to some rather unfortunate and uncomfortable results. Runners can be particularly prone – we have all heard of 'runner's trots'. So when it comes to our time in the loo, what should we be expecting from a healthy bowel movement?
 
Going to the toilet should be fairly frequent, regular, painless and almost effortless. Many runners are 'super poopers' and have successful visits several times a day. A typical runner's high fibre diet and the repetitive action of running helps to keep things on the move (literally) and the 'flight or fight' response helps us prepare for training and competition by eliminating any waste.
 
Less than three bowel movements a week may indicate constipation but there is no 'normal'. We all need to overcome any squeamishness and take a look when we poop. We may have pet names for our business (rabbit droppings, chipolatas, the full Cumberland) but the important thing is to note the colour of the stool – very dark, black or tar-like may indicate the presence of blood which is a red flag in health terms and should never be ignored.
 
Finally, floaters or sinkers and odour? All of these characteristics can indicate a healthy diet and bowel or otherwise. For rather more graphic but potentially life saving information read and digest this superb article from Reader's Digest.