Are Your Bowel Movements Healthy?

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Let’s chat about your bowel movements.

Did you just cringe a bit? Let’s face it, poop isn’t anybody’s favourite topic. Nonetheless, our bowel movements hold valuable clues to our overall health. But these signs are often ignored because most of us are a bit uncomfortable talking about them – even to our healthcare providers.

Your Appointment is a Judgement-Free Zone

Keep in mind that your healthcare practitioner will not be shocked or uncomfortable if you talk about your poop. In fact, that’s part of our job! We want to really get to the bottom of your health issues (no pun intended), and sometimes that means talking about the “unmentionable” topics. So, if you have a concern, please don’t hesitate to bring it up.

Your Poop is a Reflection of Your Health

The appearance and smell of your poop is a direct reflection of your overall health as well as any inflammation your gut is experiencing, as your digestive system connects intricately with your nervous system and detox pathways. Changes in your bowel habits can indicate changes in other parts of your body –  from excess stress, to liver problems, to cancers.

The good news is that we don’t have to go into great detail describing the various types of bowel movements and what they signify. There’s already a chart that shows various problems and what to look for called the Bristol Stool Chart  (http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/46082.pdf ) after the hospital that developed it in 1997.

What The Bristol Stool Chart Looks At

  • Smell

  • Colour

  • Frequency

  • Ease

  • Completion

  • Red flags

What The Bristol Stool Chart Means for You

To summarize the Bristol Stool Chart, your bowel movement should be a daily event that is well-formed, sausage like, medium brown, and not too smelly. It should not hard little pebbles of constipation or unformed loose stools of diarrhea.   If you see blood or mucus, or if you feel that anything about your stool doesn’t seem ideal, you should talk to your healthcare practitioner to address or rule out any issues requiring medical help.

How to Improve Your Bowel Movements

Aside from learning if you have an actual medical condition affecting your stools, there are a few simple ideas for how to improve your BMs:

1. Pay attention to your diet.

Pay close attention to how particular foods affect your digestion. If you experience diarrhea or constipation, try keeping a diary of what you eat, and the symptoms you experience. We can help you set up an effective tracking system to monitor your diet if you need a little help with that.

Fiber helps keeps things moving by adding some bulk to your stool – think seeds, whole grains, beans, fresh fruits and fresh or cooked vegetables Fiber also feed the beneficial bacteria in your intestinal microbiome, which helps digest your food as well and process it normally.  . If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid upsetting your intestines, and always make sure to up your water intake alongside extra fiber.

Prunes, applesauce, squashes, eggplant, are also associated with a good bowel movement and can be eaten regularly.  

Adding fiber powder, such as psyllium, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, oat or rice or wheat bran, apple pectin, prune powder, (etc) to foods/drinks/smoothies can be a great easy way to add more fiber into one’s diet.

2. Choose medication carefully.

Many medications can cause constipation, so it is important to be aware and adjust your diet accordingly. Avoid laxative medications as much as possible, as your body quickly becomes dependent on them, and some evidence links their use to colorectal cancer. Talk with your integrative medical practitioner about natural solutions to constipation cause by medications if diet alone isn’t enough.

3. Stay hydrated.

The quickest way to figure out how much fluid to drink is to half your body weight and drink that as ounces.  So, if you weigh 120 lbs, that’s 60 ounces of water a day. . It’s particularly important to get adequate water if you’ve recently increased your fiber intake. Not only are our stools 75 percent water, but the bowel muscles need plenty of hydration to work their best.  

Drinking a ½ to full liter of warm or room temperature water with lemon juice to taste  in the morning after awakening, stimulates the liver and gallbladder and that stimulates the colon to empty out its contents.  

4. Increase your movement.

Exercise stimulates your digestion. Studies suggest that digestion is better if you exercise regularly and, if possible, at the same time of the day.

In fact, sitting for too long overall can lead to constipation regardless of other exercise, another argument for working at a standing desk for part of the day. And, on a similar note, pay attention to how your body moves. Some yoga poses are designed to assist with digestion.

5. Develop a routine and don’t fight the urge.

If you feel like you gotta go, don’t ignore that feeling! Fighting the urge to poop can lead to constipation. Setting aside a specific time of the day can help you stay regular.

6. Change positions.

As well, consider the way you sit on the toilet. Over the course of history, toilets themselves are a pretty recent invention. That means that we evolved pooping from a squatting position. Many people find that bringing their feet up onto a stool can help bring them into a squatting position which makes bowel movements easier. Check out the Squatty potty for more info on aids for better positioning.

7. Talk openly.

Don’t hesitate to come into the office and have an open talk if you have any concerns or questions about your bowel movements. Your stool can be a good indicator that your body has something going on that needs attention, and it’s always better to bring up a concern than to worry about it!

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25223576

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/18/truth-about-poo-doing-it-wrong-giulia-enders-squatting

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15043514

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