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Life's Big Questions: What Should My Stool Look Like?

In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical system, one seeks to balance one's doshas, or basic life energies, to achieve physical and psychological health. A good way to determine whether those doshas -- known as vata, pitta and kapha -- are out of balance is to look carefully at what you leave in the potty.

Your stool says a lot not only about whether your diet needs adjusting but also about whether you're stressed, tired or otherwise out of whack. Here, according to Hilary Garivaltis, dean of the school of ayurveda at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Mass., is what to look for in a normal, healthy bowel movement:

Your feces should be shaped like a banana, tapered at both ends, and medium brown in color. It should be neither too dry nor too liquid.

It should come easily, without a lot of straining. You should experience a sense of completion when you're done.

Stool should float in the toilet water.

These traits, Garivaltis says, suggest that you're digesting food and absorbing nutrients properly. If your stool consists of small, hard, dry pellets, you may have too much vata, one of the three doshas; counter vata with moist, warm foods. If your stool is very loose, watery and unformed, you may need to balance your pitta with cold, dry foods.

Read more about ayurveda and nutrition in today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column. In the meantime, take today's poll!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 19, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Alternative and Complementary Medicine , General Health , Life's Big Questions , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Is it too much to ask for semi-serious health information than this drivel? I'm not talkinga bout the poo talk here (I'm fine with checking mom was a fanatic about it) but let's look at the source. Ayurveda is good for massages, but is NOT even close to serious medical advice. I'd rather see chiropractic than this manure. (pun intended)

Posted by: byte1 | May 19, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

If you have time, check out the article on Ayurvedic "medicine" and Deepak Chopra here:
Dr. Stephen Barrett is not favorably impressed, to say the least.

-Steve Parker, M.D.
-Healthy lifestyle blog:

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | May 19, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: dlkimura | May 19, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh, what a bunch of crap.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. :)

Posted by: WashingtonDame | May 20, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

To hear you describe the ancient system of ayurveda it
sounds very similar to the ancient Greek idea that everything
is composed of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

Science has progressed a great deal since then. Unfortunately,
few Asian beliefs have, based as they are on IMAGINARY "energies" such as doshas, chakras, pranas, etc. which are so frequently postulated that one can be forgiven for assuming that they actually exist.
No pathologist has found evidence that they do, nor is proof
offered by proponents. Kind of reminds you of a faith-based
system like Christian Science, doesn't it?

That said, I agree that a properly-designed vegetarian diet is
healthy but few of us want to live that way.

Posted by: GWGOLDB | May 20, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Why on earth would you follow this subject here? The Washington Post's widely-acknowledged expert on poop (both humor- & health-wise) is Gene Weingarten.

Posted by: bobsewell | May 22, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

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