Did you know that sales of laxatives supersede that of most medications with the exception of aspirin? $700 million is spent every year on laxatives and other medications to treat chronic constipation.
Most people avoid professional support because they are embarrassed or ashamed. But guess what? You're not alone. In fact there's a big tribe of constipated folks out there—and I used to be one of them.
Discussing pooping patterns along with poop color, texture, and smell with patients is my proud passion. This intimate approach allows me take the embarrassment out of a common problem and is also a big part of my detective work.
The body uses symptoms and signs, such as constipation and digestive complaints, to gently (or sometimes loudly) poke us when something isn't functioning optimally.
Constipation can be any or all of these:
- Incomplete emptying of the bowels. You may poop daily but often you feel dissatisfied, as if there is more that can be evacuated
- Hard, dry stools which need excessive strain to pass
- Infrequent or unsuccessful evacuation of the colon
- Other digestive symptoms such as abdominal cramping, excessive wind, or bloating
Reasons for constipation
Constipation has many causes, some of which are:
- Change in diet, water intake, or not enough fiber/roughage
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of daily movement that slows your metabolic processes
- High levels of stress, emotional trauma, or suppression
- Disorders or malfunction of the colon, rectum, anal sphincter, central or peripheral nervous system
- Neglecting the urge to go out of habit
- A body low in iron does't have enough energy and does not eliminate well;
- Pregnancy (and 3 months after birth)
- Menstruation can cause digestive disturbance during different hormonal phases (luteal, follicular)
- Certain medications like antidepressants, antihypertensives, analgesics, antipsychotics, and iron supplements. (I recommend iron diglycinate, a form of iron that is less likely to constipate)
- Other: the presence of a virus, appendicitis, food poisoning, organic, or systemic disease
We instinctively know that we need to poop and feel uncomfortable when we don't go for days, but do we really know why pooping regularly is essential?
Why is pooping is so important?
Pooping is our body’s natural way of removing waste, toxins, and hormones. The skin, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs, and bronchioles are also elimination organs, but it is the bowel that is the most abused and neglected.
There is no “normal” poop pattern, only averages. Studies have shown that people poop anywhere between three times a day to three times a week. I believe that while not always possible, it is important to encourage a nice, healthy poop daily.
Why daily? I see many people who confess to going every second or third day, or even once a week. I have yet to meet someone who is comfortable with this infrequency. They generally feel “uneasy,” “backed up,” and “full” and often present with a myriad of mild to chronic inflammatory conditions.
What happens when the bowels don’t cooperate?
Toxins can weaken the bowel wall and cause a leaky gut. As the name states, the intestinal lining becomes “leaky,” allowing undigested food, proteins, toxins, cholesterol, and fats to pass through into the bloodstream and lymph where they go on to affect the health of other organs, especially weak ones.
When too much pressure is used from straining to poop, we can develop bowel pockets, where the lining of the colon bulges and food and contents collect there. These pockets are called diverticula and can be a house for fermenting, rotting food and other contents.
Rotting of food in the bowel and the development of diverticula can stimulate the growth of dangerous pathogens such as parasites, bacteria, and fungus.
Toxicity leads to poor oxygen delivery in the body. Without oxygen, our energy levels are depleted.
All of the above often lead to chronic inflammatory conditions. In a nutshell, toxicity can aggravate pre-existing conditions or cause pathological change in organs.
On a more noticeable and at times socially awkward note, chronic constipation contributes to body odor, bad breath, insomnia, bad dreams, itching, and nausea.
I strongly encourage you to start looking at your poop daily and take note of how often you go during the week and notice any changes.
Remember: We all poop, it’s a natural bodily function, and most of us experience snags in regularity at different times in our lives. Sometimes constipation can be resolved quickly, while at other times further investigation and a long-term repair approach is needed.
Tips for relieving constipation
- Eat fiber with every meal
- Drink about 1.5 litres of purified, room-temperature water daily
- Add herbs and spices to your dishes. Certain herbs and spices nourish the organs of digestion and elimination, such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and spleen. My favorites are cayenne, liquorice, coriander, fennel, ginger, and turmeric
- Drink 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with water upon rising. ACV improves the production of stomach acid, which means a more effective breakdown and absorption of foods and better elimination of waste
- Eat healthy fats. Good sources are coconut, olive, and macadamia oil; avocado; oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring); butter; nuts; and seeds
- Avoid excessive protein. Aim for a palm-sized portion per meal
- Take magnesium bisglycinate. Magnesium is a muscle (intestinal-wall muscles included) and nervous-system relaxant
- Do some daily breathwork. Without breath, there is tension, blockage, and resistance
- Move the body. Movement improves metabolism, stimulates intestinal contractions, and tones the muscles in the core that help create healthy bowel movements
- Squat. Squatting or using a squat platform allows for a more natural angle and pressure. It un-kinks the colon and allows for an easier passage for poop to leave
For more tips and tricks to get the bowels moving read 13 Tricks To Have A Great Poop, Every Time.
Lynda Griparic is a naturopath, nutritionist, writer, and speaker living in New South Wales, Australia, with over 14 years of experience in the health industry. She specializes in gut health and weight loss, and has an advanced diploma in naturopathy, nutrition, and massage from Nature Care College.
Founder of the podcast Love & Guts, Griparic has extensive experience running healthy, effective, and sustainable weight loss programs, by investigating and treating the underlying causes of weight gain, metabolic problems, and gut disturbance.