Talking about poo is something I have become a bit of an expert at. I remember years ago feeling quite repulsed as I watched Dr. Gillian McKeith inspect her clients’ poo in the TV series ‘You are what you eat’. Anyone else remember this? How little I knew back then!
Today I try and educate my clients on how incredibly important it is to tune in to the messages they get from their body. Whether through poo, urine, tongue, nails, skin and even eyes, your body is constantly telling you what is working well and what might need a little support.
The best way you can really gauge what’s going on with your health and digestion is by looking at your poo. At first my clients really struggle just talking about it, but as time passes, they really start to understand how to tweak their diet in order to support their poo. Your poo tells you so much about how well it is functioning. The shape, size, colour and odour all tell a story. Pebbly droppings could be insufficient fibre, dehydration, lack of sleep, frequent medication use, and more. Looser stools can indicate food intolerance, leaky gut, high stress levels, malabsorption and more. Floating stools can be a sign that your body struggles to break down fat. The smell and colour all tell a story.
How Common is Constipation?
Constipation is something I see in 80% of the women and in around 50% of the men that come to see me . Ouch, that is a high statistic. Having suffered with constipation myself, I know just how uncomfortable it can be. I started using laxatives from a very young age as nothing really seemed to work. Since my mother struggled, I just thought it was genetic. Sadly, my daily dose of laxatives increased year-after-year and before I knew it, I was lucky to go once a week. Laxatives can over time exacerbate the problem as it makes the bowel lazy and therefore more sluggish. I see these laxative patterns with so many people (especially women). What’s worse still is that they feel incredibly uncomfortable talking about it and understandably so.
Some of the symptoms currently recognised within the national health service doesn’t really include all the symptoms we typically experience when constipated. It is therefore really important to ensure that any changes in bowel movements in terms of regularity, shape, size, colour and odour are discussed with your health care provider. Sadly very few people with constipation are picked up by their health care provider as they might not present with the classical symptoms.
One thing I have learnt since embarking on my own journey to wellness is that talking about poo is most probably one of the healthiest and most important conversations you can have. It is also something we should ALL be discussing with our children. Our children should be taught from a young age to regularly check their poo and to talk about it. Supporting your child to understand why healthy bowel movements is essential is one of the biggest and most valuable lessons you will ever teach your child.
What does regular mean?
In todays article by the BBC they say it can be anywhere from three times a day to once every three days. The aim I have for all my clients is to ideally work towards a really good and healthy bowel movement at least once daily. Sometimes it can take a little time to get there, but I generally see this resolved within the first month. In an ideal world, we really want to void after each meal, so for some, it might be good to know that there is nothing wrong with going three times a day.
How should it feel?
You really want your stools that glide out and submerge into the toilet bowl. If you are straining or experiencing pain, then I would suggest getting some support from a Nutritional Therapist or speaking to your healthcare provider. Straining is definitely a sign that your diet is lacking in fibre and water and that your liver might be struggling too!
Regular healthy bowel movements can significantly improve your overall health in terms of detoxification, hormones, energy, sleep and brain function. Many women suffer with hormone imbalances when constipated. This is not surprising when considering that the only way for oestrogen to be excreted is through the stool. Infrequent bowel movements will therefore lead to much higher levels of excess oestrogen surging through the body. This will undoubtedly lead to a host of associated problems. If conception, peri-menopause, menopause or any other hormone-related factors are on the table, then all the more reason to really fine tune this area of your health.
My ten top tips to improve your bowel movements.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water each day
- Reduce sugar as sugar can drive constipation
- Increase fibre rich foods such as vegetables, legumes, brown rice
- Increase exercise and movement. It doesn’t have to involve running, simply walking or doing yoga can be incredibly beneficial. Yoga can help to cleanse and detoxify the body
- Reduce your intake of processed foods as they are much lower in fibre
- Address any possible food intolerances by working with a qualified Nutritional Therapist. Over time food intolerances can become problematic and drive disease, in fact it is one of the biggest drivers for developing an autoimmune condition
- The liver is one of the most important organs to support when constipated. Cruciferous vegetables offer amazing liver support. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spring greens, turnips, radishes, etc. Try and incorporate three portions of cruciferous vegetables each day
- Start the day with a glass of warm water and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar with the mothercontains significant amounts of pectin, a water-soluble fibre that helps to normalise the acid levels in your stomach and improve digestion
- A probiotic with fibre, such as Optibac Bifidobacteria & fibre, can be really effective. This will not only support bowel movements, but also provide good levels of good bacteria for the gut (which is negatively impacted when you are constipated)
- My go to supplement for constipation is Magnesium Citrate. Magnesium citrate is an osmotic laxative, which means that it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. It is generally gentle, unlike many laxatives. It is however worth noting that it is best to work with a Nutritional Therapist as it can change the electrolyte balance in the body.
Time to bring about change
Infrequent bowel movements are going to make you a whole load more toxic, which could fuel inflammation and drive disease. Working on your bowel movements and really paying close attention to them can make such a different to your health, vitality and longevity. In truth, it is like fine tuning your engine. Everyone operates slightly different, so find out what works for you and stick to it!
If you suffer with constipation or diarrhoea and would like support to improve your gut health. Contact me to take advantage of a 15-minute free call where we can discuss the best possible options for you to improve your health.