Countdown for a better poo
When was the last time you did a good poo? Did you know that a daily poo is one of the markers of good health? Two poops are a great sign too.
A daily poo tells you that your food is being digested well and the waste products from your food and liver function are being properly eliminated.
If you struggle to pass a stool and go only every other day, then you have constipation. Do you poop every day but rely on stool softeners or coffee to help you along? You could benefit from diet or lifestyle changes to improve your bowel function.
Constipation is something that I discuss with clients everyday in my clinic. It's a very common condition affecting about 25% of Australians. Constipation is often accompanied by bloating, gas and pain. Other symptoms that may occur alongside constipation include headaches, acne, eczema or irritability, especially in children.
If you're struggling to poo, your body is sending you a signal that you haven't eaten the right food or consumed enough fluids the day(s) before. If you ignore your body's messages over the long term, constipation can become chronic and you risk developing other digestive conditions such as IBS, SIBO, haemorrhoids or diverticulitis.
This is my top 10 countdown to a better poo.
10. Could it be a food intolerance?
Food intolerances are a common cause of constipation. This is something I see frequently in children and adults. I might suspect a food intolerance is if the constipation is accompanied by other symptoms such as bloating, rashes, eczema or fatigue.
If you have been trying to add more fibre to your diet in the form of whole grain bread or wholemeal pasta and your constipation in getting worse, it might be a clue that wheat or gluten is a problem for you. Many people experience non-coelaic gluten sensitivity and will benefit from reducing their gluten intake.
Dairy products are a common cause of constipation in children. This can be confusing because lactose intolerance most often presents as diarrhoea. Other foods that might cause constipation in some people are soy, corn and eggs.
It can be beneficial to keep a food and symptoms diary and then remove any suspect foods from your diet for a period of 3 months to see if the constipation improves. For best results I recommend working with a naturopath, especially when reintroducing these foods into your diet.
9. Do you have gut dysbiosis?
Our gut microbiome can influence many aspects of our health, including how well we poo each day. This is a rapidly growing area of research. Studies have demonstrated that the bacteria in the bowel of a healthy person is different to the bacteria in the bowel of a patient with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.
Gut bacteria is influenced by what we eat and also any infections we've had, or medications or antibiotics that we have used. Gut dysbiosis can play a large role in childhood constipation due to the developing infant digestive system and the influence of gut bacteria inherited from the mother during birth and breast feeding. Read more about gut dysbiosis.
8. Do you have IBS?
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) commonly experience either constipation or diarrhoea, (or they might swing between the two). IBS comes with cramping, bloating, gas and often a feeling of fullness or heaviness after eating.
When I work with IBS patients I like to understand their stress levels and how they manage their day to day physical, mental, psychological and emotional stresses.
People with IBS often experience anxiety or depression along with their constipation. This is due to the connection between our gut and our brains. Thanks to science, we now understand that certain foods can affect our mood via the gut-brain connection, and our stress levels can in turn affect our digestion.
Stress hormones have a direct effect on our digestive capacity by reducing body's ability to produce stomach acid and digestive enzymes when they are needed to break down food.
I love to have a conversation with people about when and how they eat, as well as what they eat, to see if stress may be playing a role in their constipation.
7. Could it be SIBO?
Recent studies have shown that up to 60% of people diagnosed with IBS actually have SIBO. Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition where bacteria that is considered healthy when found in the large bowel, has moved into the small intestines.
In the small intestine, bacteria snack on foods that we haven't yet completely digested, causing bloating, abdominal pain, damage to cells, malnutrition, gas, and constipation or diarrhoea.
Fortunately there is a simple breath test to determine if your constipation is caused by SIBO (or if your ongoing constipation has caused SIBO). I often suspect SIBO when clients present with long term constipation. It's important to work with a trained naturopath to get to the underlying cause of this condition.
6. Are you chewing your food?
Have you ever noticed that you're a fast eater? When I ask this question in clinic I often get a quick 'yes!' response from people with bloating, reflux and constipation.
Chewing your food well supports the rest of your digestive system to properly breakdown food, absorb the required nutrients, and eliminate the waste. The smaller the pieces that enter your stomach, the less work your stomach has to do to digest the food.
If your stressed and not chewing properly it's a recipe for poor digestion and constipation. Sounds too simple? Try sitting down to eat and chewing each mouthful until it's mushy in your mouth before swallowing, and notice if your digestive symptoms improve.
5. Are you overeating astringent foods?
Some foods are astringent such as foods that contains tannins.Tannins are produced by the bark, leaves and outer rinds and skin of fruit. Examples of astringent foods are persimmons, green bananas and tea.
While these foods are part of a healthy diet, I recommend people with constipation steer clear of them until their constipation has resolved because when eaten in excess, these foods can be constipating.
4. Get regular
I have noticed that many people (busy women in particular) try to rush their poo or avoid it if they are busy. It's actually important to set aside a regular time to do a good poo each day. Most people will feel a natural urge after waking or after eating breakfast. A poop should take anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute or two.
Putting your feet up on a stool in front of the toilet is a good practice to get you into a comfortable position and make passing a stool easier.
Push when the urge strikes and not before! Passing a poo is a bit like having a baby, it's better to work with your natural bowel contractions for an easier poo.
3. Get moving
Exercise is essential for regular bowel motions. A regular walk is very helpful for a healthy bowel, particularly in the morning. If you are someone who struggles to pass a stool in the morning, try going for a 20 minute walk or swim before eating your breakfast.
There are many yoga poses that are beneficial for constipation with a lot of information available online, or for best results talk to your yoga teacher.
2. Increase your fibre intake
When people hear the word 'fibre' they often associate it with breakfast cereals containing 'added fibre', products such as metamucil, or psyllium husks. However there is no need to check the side of a box to see how much fibre you are eating.
When I recommend fibre I'm simply suggesting consuming more of the fibre that occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables. The recommended 2 servings of fruit and 5 to 7 servings of vegetables is a good way to consume your daily fibre.
For people with constipation I particularly recommend fruits such as kiwi fruit (with skin on if possible), other berries, or pineapple and paw paw because they contain natural digestive enzymes as well as fibre. Some popular and delicious vegetables that contain great amounts of fibre are sweet potato, carrot, artichokes and broccoli.
Beans, lentils, grains, and seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds are also good sources of fibre. Remember to chew them well. If you struggle to eat enough vegetables, you might like to read my other blog how to eat more plants.
1. Stay hydrated
There is no strict rule for how much water you should drink during the day. It very much depends on how active you are, if you're in the sun, and what you are eating and drinking. Be guided by the colour of your urine, which should be clear if you are adequately hydrated.
If you're one of those people who needs to pee as soon as you've had a glass of water, try sipping your water more slowly, or adding trace minerals for improved absorption.
Drinking water is especially important if you are at risk from being dehydrated because
you have been exercising
you have spent a day at the beach in the sun
you have been eating pizza, potato chips or other salty foods
you have been drinking a lot of alcohol
TAKE ACTION for a better poo!
After reading through this countdown I hope you have some ideas for finding relief from constipation. Start with the easiest ideas such as drinking more water, and work your way backwards through the list of suggestions.
If you suspect a food intolerance, I recommend keeping a food diary to see if you can pin down the food(s) that might be the culprit. If you suffer from many digestive complaints it can be a good idea to have a comprehensive stool test to detect microbiome imbalances.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS or you suspect SIBO, or need help with aspect of your digestive health please get in touch to find out more about how I work with you, or book a consultation. I would be delighted to be a part of your health journey.
Hi! I'm Simone Jeffries. I am a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and certified wellness coach. I am also a foodie and an advocate for a whole food diet.
The information in this blog is from my Bachelor of Health Science degree, experience from working with women in my clinic, and continuing research.
This blog is for information only and not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please seek assistance for any medical concerns.