why does it matter?
Our bodies want to get rid of things for good reasons!
Imagine what happens if you don’t take your garbage out. Even relatively benign organic matter will start to decompose, to smell, to grow mold, to grow or invite critters.
Bowel movements are how we get rid of the toxins cleaned from our blood in the liver, things we can’t digest, broken down hormones, excess cholesterol, and more. If those sit around because we’re not pooping often enough, our bodies can reabsorb them — increasing toxic load and impairing our health.
The converse is also true: If we poop too fast and frequently, our bodies don’t have time to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. So it’s important to understand why that’s happening, too.
The perfect poop
- How often do you poop?
- What color is the poop?
- Does it pass easily or do they have to strain to pass it?
- Does the poop float in the toilet water?
- Do they see any blood, mucus or undigested food in the poop?
- Is the bowel movement hard, soft, formed, loose or watery?
For the consistency question, I refer to the Bristol Stool Chart. (Cue giggling.)
Having the chart is nice because we can grade things easily and … ahem.. consistently over time. It really helps patients see what the options are, and understand what’s going on for them personally.
how often is optimal?
All people have their patterns, and may feel quite comfortable with them. But getting accustomed to something doesn’t mean it’s normal or optimal physiologically.
When I ask the frequency question, people almost invariably respond saying “I’m regular.” So I have to ask what that means. Some people will then say they poop twice a week (constipation!) or five times a day (probably diarrhea!)
Optimal pooping is once after all full meals. The idea is that you eat food, which stretches receptors in your digestive tract, which in turn stimulates the intestinal waves that move food through and out. So most of us should be pooping three times daily.
5 ways to improve your poop
Most of the ideas below are intended to help people who fall on the more constipated end of the spectrum. But as you know is my mantra, vegetables make (almost) everything better. Eating a variety of veggies will help digestion all around, including how you get stuff out.
So here are the five tips you’ve come this far to see.
eat more fiber.
max out the magnesium.
Humans have squatted to poop for most of our existence. And while a porcelain throne may be more comfortable, it does not comport with human physiology. When we’re seated, the puborectalis muscle pinches the rectum closed. So if you’re straining to stool, that may be part of the problem. Approximating or actually squatting opens the channel so feces can move more smoothly. Some clever folks now sell cheekily named bathroom footrests to help: squatty potty, tushy, go stool. These snuggle the base of your toilet and slide out of the way when you’re done. They’re available in many different colors and styles.
skip the senna.
get help if you need help.
Sometimes pooping problems are easy to fix. (Again, veggies.) Sometimes they’re not — and that can indicate serious disease.
So if you have questions or need help, ask your healthcare provider. If you’re in Alaska or Oregon and would like to talk about your issues with me, you can make an appointment here.