Elimination is one of the MOST important things our bodies do for us. We all poop. It’s one of the few reminders we get about our health on a (hopefully) daily basis, and yet most don’t pay much attention to it. But the truth is: if you’re not pooping right, it could be a subtle clue from your body that something is going wrong.
Did you know the average person generates about five TONS of stool in his or her lifetime? Turns out, there is much to be learned from this mountain of poop.
The shape, size, color, and other fecal features can tell you a great deal about your overall health, how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning, and even give you clues about serious disease processes that could be occurring, like infections, digestive problems, and even cancer.
You may be spending a lot of time and energy trying to consume healthy, real food. But are you digesting it well? Are you breaking it down and absorbing all of the nutrients? The quality of your poop is a direct indication of how well your digestive tract is functioning.
If you’re poop isn’t healthy, your digestive tract is either moving too slow or too fast… which can lead to an increased risk of conditions like neurological disease, autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory conditions. Your brain and the good bacteria in your gut communicate directly with one another influencing your mood, immune system, and inflammation levels.
Normal bowel habits vary but a good transit time for your body to turn food into poop is about 18-22 hours. A bowel movement 1-2 times per day is a good sign things are working well.
What’s more important than frequency is the ease with which you move your bowels. If you need to push or strain, something is off – moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas. The thing to watch for is a sudden change in your bowel habits. Many factors can affect regularity, such as diet, travel, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, exercise, illness, surgery, childbirth, stress and a whole host of other things.
Most animals on the planet inspect their “work” after doing their “business”… I believe they are checking in on their own health status…and we could learn from their example.
The Bristol Stool Chart is a handy tool that may help you determine what you’re going for. Ideally, your stool should approximate Types 3, 4 and 5, “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft” to “soft blobs that pass easily.” Type 4 is PERFECTION.
Fiber tends to bulk up your stool and acts like glue to keep the stool stuck together, instead of in pieces. If your stool is on the softer side, short of diarrhea (“soft serve,” as some call it), it could be related to lactose intolerance, artificial sweeteners (sorbitol and Splenda), or a reaction to fructose or gluten.
Most gastrointestinal problems can be prevented or resolved by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you aren’t achieving poo perfection, or if you don’t feel right, then look at the following factors and consider making a few changes. These strategies will help reverse constipation or diarrhea, in addition to helping prevent recurrences.
- Remove all sources of gluten from your diet (the most common sources are wheat, barley, rye, spelt and other grains)
- Eat a diet that includes whole REAL foods, rich in fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber; most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not from grains
- Consider adding digestive enzymes, to assist your digestive system
- Chew your food longer and eat more slowly… this helps your absorption process
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, excess sugar, chemical additives, MSG, excessive amounts of caffeine, and processed foods as they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal (and immune) function
- Boost your intestinal flora by adding naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as home-made sauerkraut (cultured vegetables), pickles, kefir/yogurt (if you tolerate dairy); add a probiotic supplement if you suspect you’re not getting enough beneficial bacteria from your diet alone. Remember the pasteurization process kills all the beneficial bacteria in foods that we generally associate with having them (like store-bought yogurt & kefir).
- Try increasing your fiber (aim for 35 grams/day); fresh organic produce and freshly ground organic flax seed and chia seeds (this type of fiber acts as a pre-biotic feeding the good bacteria in your intestines)
- Make sure you stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water
- Get plenty of exercise/movement daily
- Avoid pharmaceutical drugs, such as pain killers like codeine or hydrocodone which will slow your bowel function, Antidepressants, and antibiotics can cause a variety of GI disruptions
- Address emotional challenges because a stressed body & mind leads to trouble of all kinds
- Consider squatting instead of sitting to move your bowels; squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle and encourages the complete emptying of your bowel without straining, and has been scientifically shown to relieve constipation and hemorrhoids… Look into a “Squatty Potty”. Leaving You with WISHES for a Happy 2016 and Healthy Pooping all Year LONG!
Poo-Pourri Commercial (This was too funny not to include)… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKLnhuzh9uY