We tend to avoid talking about poop — until our toilet time isn’t going right. And even then, it’s not usually something we’re going to bring up around the dinner table (well, unless maybe you’re with my husband and me).
As a holistic nutritionist, I adore talking about bowel movements. I really do! They’re our daily checkup that keeps us moving and shaking without feeling weighed down.
And as someone who was once diagnosed with and subsequently healed from Crohn’s disease, I find every great poop to be a definite reason to celebrate!
Unfortunately, many of us aren’t pooping nearly enough. About 20 percent of North Americans suffer from constipation, and we’re spending big bucks on laxatives — more than $800 million a year in the U.S. alone.
When we haven’t pooped in days, spend ages straining in the bathroom, and feel perpetually bloated and fatigued from being blocked up, it’s difficult to reflect on anything but poop.
Here are seven things you can do every day to make sure you're pooping on the regular:
1. Perfect your pooping posture.
The toilet is a modern invention, conceived in the 16th century. Before the toilet, we all used to squat. This is actually the ideal pooping position, as it supports our intestines and gives the colon something to work against as peristalsis moves waste out our rear ends.
But I’m not suggesting you begin squatting in your yard. To replicate the position at home, simply place a small step-stool under your feet as you go to the bathroom. This will make a big difference in supporting your colon for complete evacuation, while also reducing the risk of hemorrhoids.
2. Schedule time for your poops.
It’s challenging to have a proper bowel movement when you’re racing to get dressed, make breakfast, prepare school lunches, feed the cat, and beat morning rush-hour traffic. No wonder we can’t poop under such pressures!
So make time for your BMs. Set aside at least 15 minutes in the morning, preferably at around the same time each day.
Our bodies love schedules and routines, so let your body know when it’s time to poop and it will start getting into the habit.
3. Get your insoluble fiber.
Our digestive tract is a muscle, and fiber gives it something to work against. Think of eating fiber as our mode of internal weightlifting. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to our stool, allowing bowel movements to pass through the digestive tract more quickly (but not too quickly).
Insoluble fiber can be found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, flax seeds, brown rice, cabbage, dark leafy greens, and raspberries. Depending on your age and gender, fiber needs will vary. Generally, I recommend women aim for 25 to 30 grams of total fiber per day, and men 35 to 40 grams.
You can also get supplemental insoluble fiber in the form of psyllium. I recommend 1 tablespoon before bed, stirred into water. Yes, it will be a bit like drinking sawdust — but the super-poop you’ll have in the morning will be well worth it!
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Hydration is essential to good bowel movements. Without water, the fiber we eat is unable to do its job. Water helps us bulk up that fiber and shuttle waste out of the body.
Make sure you drink at least 10 to 12 cups per day to keep things moving. If plain water sounds boring to you, spruce it up with mint, lavender, sliced cucumber, grapes, or berries.
5. Get more magnesium.
Magnesium is nature’s smooth muscle relaxant, and it helps encourage our digestive muscles to relax so we can poop properly.
You can use a magnesium citrate supplement — follow the dosage instructions on the bottle, or speak with your health care practitioner — or naturally boost magnesium-rich foods in your diet. This includes dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, millet, black beans, yams, lentils, and almonds.
6. Boost your probiotics intake.
Probiotics are beneficial, friendly bacteria that help regulate our bowel movements and keep our digestive environment in balance.
You can take probiotic supplements — as with magnesium, follow the dosage instructions or speak with your health care practitioner — or increase your intake of fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and dairy-free kefir.
7. Support your nervous system.
When you’re stressed and uptight, the poop down below ain’t going to loosen up and go anywhere. Our digestive tract is ruled by the sympathetic nervous system — and that means we need to be at rest to digest, absorb, and eliminate our food.
I recommend working on relaxation techniques like deep breathing, spending time in nature, or enjoying your favorite hobbies. You can also support the nervous system with stress-busting B vitamins (found in dark leafy greens and whole gluten-free grains) and herbs like lavender.
When you begin incorporating these practices into your everyday life, pooping can go from a stressful experience to a truly pleasurable one. As I like to say, few things are more satisfying than a good poop!