Signs of a Healthy Digestive System

Published April 15, 2014

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A well‐functioning digestive system is a critical determinant of good health; it directly relates to our ability to break down food and absorb important nutrients to supply energy, build tissues and support hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body.

But what does a healthy digestive system look and feel like?

  • Regular bowel motions – Contrary to popular belief, regularity doesn’t mean that you need to pass a bowel motion every day. Bowel movements should occur between three times a day and three times a week. It varies from one person to the next, but stools should never be hard or difficult to pass, or should happen no less than three times per week.1 It’s important to work out what’s normal for you.
  • Stool appearance – What you regularly see in the toilet can say something about your digestive health. A healthy stool will generally look similar to a sausage, it will be smooth or may have a few cracks on the surface, and it will be soft but firm.2 It should be a medium brown color and be be easy to flush and not stick to the side of the toilet bowl. It should not contain pieces of undigested food and the odor should not be particularly bad.
  • Normal amounts of gas – Everyone has gas. In fact, most people will burp or pass gas 14‐23 times a day.3 Gas is produced by the normal break down of certain undigested food by harmless bacteria in the large intestine. It may also be caused by swallowing small amounts of air when eating or drinking.3 Foods that commonly cause gas because certain components may not be properly digested by the body include wheat, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, beans, peas and most fruits.3
  • Lack of digestive symptoms – Symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, regular bloating, nausea, diarrhea or constipation may indicate digestive problems. If symptoms persist you should consult your healthcare professional for advice.
  • Good overall health – When we’re properly digesting our food and absorbing nutrients, the benefits may show with clear skin, strong hair and nails and good energy levels.

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