Let's talk about poop, baby.

Yes, I said it, poop. It is so interesting that poop is such a taboo topic for many. It is one of the things that we all have in common. Everybody poops. Everybody. So why are we so afraid to admit it? Well, today I am breaking that rule! I am talking about poop.


As a nutritional therapist, one of the first things I ask my clients about is their poop. I ask how often they go, if there is urgency or reluctance to go, what the colour and consistency of their stool is -- I even show them illustrations and ask them which most closely resembles their poop. You see, knowing how the bowels are moving is an important clue to how the digestive system is working and, therefore, how well they are absorbing any nutrients that are coming in via their food. We use something called the Bristol Stool Chart to help the client pinpoint what is normal for them. Check out the chart below -- which best depicts your poop?



So what does that mean?


1 or 2 -- You are suffering from constipation and your faeces is probably staying in your body for too long. I will discuss why this is an issue a little later.


3 or 4 -- Lovely poop people! As long as you are getting these on a regular basis you have normal healthy bowels.


5 -- You are probably lacking fibre and would do well to read my post on pre and probiotics.


6 or 7 -- You are suffering from diarrhoea and might want to see a nutritional therapist who will help you to support your digestive system so that you can get the most from your food. If you have diarrhoea on a regular basis your food may be moving too quickly through your gut to absorb the goodness from it. This can lead to nutrient insufficiencies and a whole host of realted disorders.


Why do we poop?


Your body is infinitely clever. It knows exactly what to do and works hard to keep everything in balance, or homeostasis. There are countless processes in the body that switch on and off based on deviations from this homeostasis. Pooping is no different. Your body is able to take the food that you eat, digest all different portions of it in different parts of the digestive system into small enough pieces that it can then absorb what it needs via the intestinal wall and pass out all the rest through the bowel. Ideally, what is left over for us is dinner for your microbiome and they can feast and multiply on the scraps to keep your gut healthy. In your body's infinite wisdom it uses the system already in place to excrete waste food particles to excrete waste products from inside the body. So, all of those spent hormones you no longer need, those chemicals, medications, pollutants etc broken down by your liver can be packaged up and excreted along with your food waste. Very clever.


Can you see where the problem is if you don't poop enough? Yes, all of those not so nice things from our environment (mild estimates of 100s per day to high estimates of 100,000s) get processed by our amazing livers and are transported out of the body via the urine or stool. If your stool is not moving, neither are those wastes. What happens to them when they sit in the large intestine? They get reabsorbed! So without regular clearouts, we get more toxic build-up. I like this analogy...


Think of your toxic waste disposal system like a bathtub. Your liver (the faucet) fills the tub (your bowel) with all the processed waste from your body and you excrete it via your 'drain'. Constipation is like putting a plug in your tub or having a great wad of hair blocking your pipes. With the faucet running all the time, your tub will eventually start to overflow. How long this will take will depend on how fast your faucet is running and how plugged your drainpipe is but it will overflow. And all of those toxins so lovingly processed will flow out of the tub and into the rest of the room (your body).


The same goes for spent hormones. We all need hormones and we all produce them but when we have used them for their purpose we need to excrete them. If they are reabsorbed they can affect the fine balance the body has with them resulting in a whole host of symptoms.


What if I am constipated?


If you have checked the stool chart, paid attention to the frequency in which you poop and have determined that you are not pooping enough (at least one bowel movement per day is ideal, a gap of more than one day without a poop is considered constipation) then there are some very simple things that you can try to get that poop train going.


Water


I have said it before and I will say it again. Drink 8 8oz glasses of water per day (for those using metric that is between 1.5 and 2 litres). I start the day with a big glass of water to make sure I get off to a good start. If you are a coffee drinker make a deal with your self that you are not allowed coffee until you have that big glass of water and stick to it. Piggybacking changes onto already established habits makes them much more likely to stick. Your body uses water to excrete stool. The soluble fibre in your food (read about it in this post) absorbs water causing it to 'flush' your bowel.


Fibre


Make sure you are getting 30g of fibre per day. The fibre in your food and the water you drink work together to move and clear out your bowel. The insoluble fibre helps to 'scrape' the sides of your bowel as it passes through in order that food does not get stuck, left behind or start to ferment. It also adds bulk to your stool which triggers your bowel to know that it is full and peristalsis starts to move the stool towards your rectum.


Keeping a regular schedule will keep you regular


Your body loves routine. If you eat at roughly the same times every day and eat the same number of meals and snacks per day your body will get to know your rhythm and will start to prepare your digestive tract for food before you eat. With regular meal times, your body can start to move the food in your digestive tract out of the way in preparation for a new meal to come in or as a result of you eating a meal.


Exercise daily


Movement triggers peristalsis. There are yoga poses that support digestion, try some of those. Move your body in a way that feels good to you. Do it every day.


If you are eating enough fibre, exercising, drinking enough water and trying to keep a regular schedule but you are still not regular. It may be time to visit a nutritional therapist who can help you to support your digestive system and therefore help get you pooping.


Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you found our toilet chat useful.


To wellness!


April



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