Understanding a patient's digestion is one of the first things an Ayurvedic practitioner does (what with optimum digestion of our food being the root of good health and the cause of most bad health). But I learnt early on to never ask a client, "How's your digestion?" Nine times out of ten, they'll say "It's fine!"
It's rarely fine.
Instead, I ask specific questions about their digestive function and bowel movements, and people are often surprised to learn what healthy digestion actually looks like. So I'm sharing my top signs of healthy bowels -- see how many you can tick!
You have a bowel movement every morning, within 15-30 minutes of getting up. This shows your system has processed what you ate the previous day, and is eliminating the wastes on time, and before you put more food in your gut.
Your stool is shaped like a banana, and is well-formed, in one piece. (That's the shape of the large intestine, and means it was in there for the right amount of time to be properly formed.)
It is chestnut brown in colour. Variations such as dark brown, pale, yellow-ish or green-ish brown are all signs that you're not digesting food well.
It doesn't smell. When the wastes processed in the gut are eliminated in the right way, at the right time, they don't sit in the gut long enough to ferment and become smelly.
The stool is moderately soft; soft enough to be passed easily, without effort, neither hard to pass nor too soft and oily.
The stool doesn’t sink straight to the bottom of the toilet. It should sit just under the surface of the water in the pan.
You can easily wait until the next mealtime to eat, without snacking. Assuming you are eating the correct foods for your digestion, this shows you are absorbing the nutrients and energy you need from it to last for a few hours, until the next mealtime.
You have no belching, flatulence, tummy gurgles, or sounds of digestion. When digestion is easy and optimal we don't hear of feel the process taking place.
You don't have an odd taste in your mouth. An unexplained taste in the mouth, such as sweet, sour or metallic, reflects something not working well in your digestive tract.
You don't have a tongue coating (a furry white, yellow-ish or grey-ish coating on the back, middle, front or all over the tongue). In Ayurvedic diagnosis, different colours indicate different problems in the digestion, and these different areas of the tongue correspond to different parts of the body. I rate tongue coatings from 0 (no coating) to 10 (thick and furry). 0 to 1 is normal.
You can easily perform your daily duties. Poor digestion of food is not draining your energy and you are extracting the nutrients and prana to feel positive and energised.
So, how IS your digestion?!