As a Naturopath, I’m well aware of the woes associated with digestive issues and pooping troubles, both from a clinical perspective as well as from a personal perspective. Discussions about poop are quite common and oftentimes, in great detail loaded with imagery.

Regular bowel movements are an indication of a healthy digestive system and good diet. Very few people feel comfortable talking all things poop related, but our daily motions can help us to have a more fulfilling day. There’s truly nothing like having a good toilet break and emptying out your colon. Just think Jerry Lee from the movie K9, frolicking around the grass. Now okay, he was frolicking for an entirely different reason than pooping, but you get the gist.

A question I’m often asked in clinic is; how often should I be going to the loo each day? My return question is: how many times do you eat a day? A sign of a healthy digestive system is passing a bowel motion within 30-45 minutes after a meal. While ideally, going to the loo after each meal is desirable, it is not always possible.

Bowel motions should be well formed, yet still softly molded, very similar to a long sausage (have I turned you off sausages yet?) The Bristol Stool Chart is a good visual to get you to start understanding what bowel motions you have. Some of my clients like to keep a journal for a short time, of their daily throne visits. It gives them a tracker of what their stools look like, how their bowel motions affect their daily lives in terms of emotions and energy and what foods affect them.

Ideally, you would like your stools to be a Type 4. Or a soft Type 3. Foods can affect the way our stools form. Foods that lack fibre, are high in oil or sugars will give undesirable stools.

Factors That Influence Our Bowel Motions

Hydration

Lack of water is one such factor. Stool requires adequate hydration to soften the chyme (undigested food mass) through the colon. Ideally, drinking around 1.5 – 2L of water a day is best.

Exercise

Exercise is important for keeping the digestive tract in good condition. When we are sluggish, so is our digestion, our lymphatics, our cardiovascular system and our entire circulatory system.

Animal Products

A diet high in animal products contributes to the development of constipation issues. The more constipated you are, the harder it is to push things ‘out’ and leftover food stays stuck in your intestines. Many of my clients who have gone on a juice fast are shocked at how much fecal matter comes out of them when fasting/cleansing.

To think about it another way, meat can really mess up your intestinal environment. Imagine keeping some leftover lamb roast in a sealed plastic bag,  and leave it out on a 30° degree humid day. What would happen to the meat after 16 hours? Obviously it putrefies, and the odour would become unbearable. There’s no way you are going to want to eat that because your instinct tells you that they are covered with E coli and other harmful bacteria. Well, that’s basically what happens inside your body when you consume meat, especially when you are already constipated. This makes for a very unhealthy intestinal environment.

Constant Grazing – Eat Less, Less Often

When you are constipated, it’s like a traffic jam at peak hour inside your intestines. If you keep eating, grazing, nibbling and snacking, you are just adding more and more traffic to an already congested tunnel. Eating less, less often helps the digestive system to ‘catch up’. It gives the liver a break so that it can clear toxins easier and reduces the load on the digestion and enzymes.

Magnesium

A little known benefit of magnesium is that it is vital for effective bowel motions. The best form is magnesium citrate. One thing to be cautioned about here is: not all citrates are created equal. It is best to speak to you Naturopath or Natural Health Practitioner for the best brand. I use a Practitioner Only brand called Diasporal. These are in powder satchet form for easy assimilation in the body. (Please note: Practitioner Only brands are only available via consultation)

Fibre Ain’t Fibre

As the old Castrol GTX motor oil ad on TV used to say: oils ain’t oils and neither is fibre. Long have we been advised that anytime we experience constipation, we need to reach for the Metamucil or psyllium husk or rice bran. Not so I say! In fact, these are all gastric irritants and cause long term issues. And don’t get me started on Metamucil!

So then, what’s the best form of fibre? The answer is vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables along with cruciferous vegetables. You may also wish to add some starchy veggies such as sweet potatoes – and if you’re lucky enough to get some Hawaiian purple sweet potatoes, you’ll get the added benefit of high Vitamin C and anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant as well.

Fruits that have good fibre content are apples, pears, guavas, oranges and plums.

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go!

Do not ignore the urge to go to the loo. Holding onto your bowel motions is a sure fire way to increase the likelihood and severity of constipation. Holding in your poop allows the stool to build up. They start to dry out, block your system and create impacted fecal matter.

If you hold the urge in for a long time, the feces returns back to the colon, resulting in the stools becoming harder and harder. The harder the stool is, the harder they are to pass.

You can cause your rectum to ‘stretch out’ or cause dysfunction in the rectum muscles. Either way, it’s bad news for you in the long run.

All in all, consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes and beans, getting sufficient exercise, quality hydration and good sleep is highly beneficial to your pooping ability.