Let’s talk about your POOP!
Sacramento, CA- Let’s be honest. Few things are as important to our sense of happiness and well-being as a good bowel movement. Bowel movement may be an embarrassing topic, but it says a lot about how well the body is functioning.
Poop, also known as stool or feces, consist of waste products being eliminated from the body. Stool is mostly composed of 75% of water with remainder as bacterial biomass, undigested carbohydrate, fiber, protein, fat, and dead epithelial cells from the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. They also contain small amounts of metabolic waste product of red blood cells and bile, called stercobilin, which is responsible for the brown color of poop with which we are all familiar. Stool can vary in its color, texture, amount, and odor.
Diarrhea and Constipation are exceedingly common
Acute infectious diarrhea remains one of the most common causes of death in developing countries, particularly among children and people with compromised immunity. Constipation, on the other hand, is rarely associated with death and is exceedingly common in developed countries, leading to frequent self-medication and a third of those, to a doctor’s appointment. Although diarrhea and constipation may present as mere nuisance symptoms at one extreme, they can be severe and life threatening. Even mild symptoms may signal an underlying intestinal lesion, such as colorectal cancer, or systemic disorder, such as thyroid disease.
Deviating significantly from the regular pattern may still be considered healthy, but it can also indicate the development of stomach or bowel problem. Some of the factors in bowel habits include:
- Fluid intake– The large intestine absorbs excess water so not drinking enough fluids can harden stool and make it difficult to go. Fluids that are excellent at keeping you hydrated include: water, tea, naturally sweetened juices, and water-dense fruits such as grapes and melon. Consumption of alcohol can both lead to dehydration and reduces peristalsis (the movement of intestines that cause a bowel movement).
- Age– As we get older, the contractions of the muscles in the intestines slow down which can cause the food to move slowly through the colon causing constipation.
- Medications– Antibiotics, antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, anti-depressants, some blood pressure medications, can cause both diarrhea and constipation by altering intestinal microflora and changing GI physiology. This list is not all inclusive. Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist for additional information about the effects of medication.
- Activity– Exercise helps constipation by lowering the transit time it takes for the food to move through the intestines via stimulating the contractions of muscles in the intestines. Stay active to stay regular!
- Diet– High fiber foods found in veggies, fruits, and legumes (beans, lentils) make it easier for feces to pass through the intestines. On the contrary, processed foods devoid of nutrient and fiber, processed grains, red meat, milk, cheese, fried foods, alcohol, all cause constipation.
Best foods to relieve constipation include dried prunes, apples, figs, spinach, kale, and other greens, citrus fruits, etc. Add probiotic foods to your diet: a healthy yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut for optimal bowel movement daily.
- Medical history– underlying food allergy or sensitivity, Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis), Irritable bowel syndrome, low thyroid function, celiac disease, all contribute to alternating bowel movements, frequency, and appearance of stool. Significant changes in the frequency of bowel movements or the appearance of the feces can indicate a problem, particularly when these changes accompany other symptoms such as abdominal pain/cramps, nausea, bloating, gas, fatigue, weight loss, bloody stools, anemia, muscle cramps, mood fluctuations.
- Social factors– Traveling for a vacation or a job can be exciting but can also wreak havoc on your GI system. Both diarrhea and constipation can result from not being in the comfort of your own bathroom, psychologically speaking. Jet lag and changes in lifestyle and diet can affect bowel movement.
- Hormones– Increase in GI symptoms happen around the time of menses and early menopause due to changes in ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Buildup of the hormone progesterone can cause constipation. Progesterone is responsible for growth and thickening of uterine walls and it peaks right around ovulation. Diarrhea can happen when prostaglandins (fatty acids responsible for inflammation) begin to relax smooth muscle tissues in the uterus as menstruation begins.
Bowel Movement TIPS and TRICKS to ensure daily success on the porcelain throne
Step 1: After waking, relax for a few moments. Don’t think about the hectic day ahead and definitely do not start reading the news. The anal sphincter is a muscle that responds to tension, so keep it relaxed. Think relaxing thoughts.
Step 2: Drink a tall glass of warm water (preferably with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar). This awakens the digestive system and stimulates peristalsis in the intestines.
Step 3: Squat. (Also, called Malasana in yoga or Garland pose). Malasana opens and tones the abdominal area and preps the body by putting the organs of elimination in the optimal position. If squatting is difficult, sit on the front edge of a chair seat, thighs forming a right angle to your torso, heels on the floor slightly ahead of your knees. Lean your torso forward between the thighs.
Step 4: If you still need an assist, practice deep breathing by visualizing breath filing your abdomen and exhale visualizing breath going out and downward as you relax and release.
Step 5: Stay relaxed and let it all out! By trying to keep your bowel movements consistent from day-to-day, you will feel much better overall by eliminating the unpleasant symptoms you may have. If you find that you are experiencing a change in bowel movements, keep track of how often and the symptoms you are having so that you can make your physician aware. Share any concerns you have with your physician so that you can work together to alleviate discomfort and rule out underlying causes of GI distress.
In summary, as a Naturopathic Doctor, NDs seek to find and treat the cause of disease. Some of the primary causes of constipation are: poor diet, stress, lack of movement, intestinal parasites, lack of probiotics, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, laxative abuse, underactive thyroid, magnesium deficiency, and liver problems.
About Dr Regmi
Dr. Regmi is a California licensed Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in Sacramento who specializes in treating various acute and chronic conditions by utilizing Naturopathic medicine modalities such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, IV therapy, individualized diet and nutrition therapy, and mindfulness relaxation techniques in guiding the body back to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual alignment.
Visit Sacramento Naturopathic Medical Center online or by calling (916) 446-2591.