Do kidneys have anything to do with poop?

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Do kidneys have anything to do with poop?

Yes! As your kidney function declines, your body will start to rely a lot more on your poop to help manage your potassium levels.

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Potassium is a very crucial electrolyte in the body that controls many important functions – not the least of which is your heartbeat! In a healthy individual, about 90% of extra potassium exits the body through urine that the kidneys make. The other 10% of extra potassium exits the body via stool output, or as most people refer to it: poop!

Now, 10% may not sound like a big deal, but it seems that when the kidneys start to fail, your colon picks up some of the slack and starts to excrete more potassium. Research shows that people with kidney disease can eliminate anywhere from 35%76% of their daily potassium intake through their poop. SEVENTY SIX PERCENT! That is a lot of potassium.

For people with kidney disease who may need to watch their potassium levels, making sure that your poop is good can really make a difference in what kinds of foods you can eat and how much of them you can eat.

What kind of poop is best for managing potassium levels?

The best kind of stool for managing your potassium levels happens to be the same type of stool that the general population should aim for. Pictured below is a stool chart that I found on good-ole WebMD. If your poop Is like Type 1 or 2, you probably aren’t getting rid of as much potassium as you could if your poop looked like Type 4.

The softer your poop is, the more water it contains. The more water it contains, the more potassium it contains. So we want soft poop. But we don’t necessarily want watery poop or diarrhea. If your stool output is extremely watery and frequent, you could develop electrolyte imbalances due to too many electrolytes being excreted in the stool. So again, we should be aiming for soft stool that does not require straining on the toilet to pass.

What can I do to improve my poop?

  • Make sure that you are eating the right foods (more on that in just a second!)
  • Look at your poop every time you poop. Seriously. Poop tells you a lot about your health. For the purposes of this article, we are only really concerned about the consistency of the poop, but the color can also tell you a lot. It is important to know what your poop looks like so you can make adjustments to your food choices. It is also important so that you can tell your doctor when something seems different, wrong, or abnormal. Which brings me to my next suggestion….
  • Talk to your Doctor!! While making better food choices can improve your stool, there may be other things going on that your doctor can help with. Many people with kidney disease have underlying issues that can make you constipated. If you are on a medication that causes constipation, your doctor can consider changing the medication. They may prescribe a stool softener. You may also need motility drugs to help get things moving. Some kidney medications cause looser stools as a side effect (which, if you’re constipated, could be a great side effect to have!).
  • Exercise. Moving your body helps stimulate bowel movement. It doesn’t need to be intense exercise. It could be as simple as going for a walk!

What kind of food choices can improve my poop?

Make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet. There is A LOT of outdated nutrition information on the internet about kidney disease. Years ago, it was thought that kidney patients had to cut out high fiber foods like beans, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It was thought that these foods were too high in phosphorus and potassium. There has since been a ton of research to show that is not entirely true. Most of those foods are lower in phosphorus that we thought because they have low bioavailability and no additives (Check out this video on phosphorus additives to understand more).

  • Add in more beans, nuts, whole grains, and high fiber fruits and vegetables. Our Potassium Tool is excellent for helping you filter down to find higher fiber fruits and vegetables. We also have many food guides to help you make better choices – and if you can’t find what you are looking for, please contact us. We love getting suggestions on things to write about.
  • Avoid fiber supplements – these can make constipation worse (especially if you are on fluid restrictions). You also miss out on all the important nutrients and antioxidants that come with high fiber foods when you rely on fiber supplements.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are non-whole grain foods. These lack fiber and can actually cause your small intestines to absorb more water into your body than it usually would – which can result in more constipation.
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