How to poop better.
I'm going to blunt in this one. We all know it feels really good after you've had a good bowel movement. When you haven't gone for a few days (or even a day), you feel kinda sluggish or icky. And sometimes, you just don't have the opportunity to go. Calls-for-service or being stuck on perimeter are common reasons. Or maybe, you're just not a "public pooper". I get it.
One age-old and popularly-held theory in some circles is when your stool sits in your colon for awhile, the bacteria and toxins may be reabsorbed causing "autointoxication". But this theory (around for hundreds of years) has yet to be proven and has been largely written off as pseudo-science.
Here's a few more things you may have seen if you were suffering from constipation in the early 19th century:
(photo credit) Whorton, J. (2000). Civilisation and the colon: constipation as the “disease of diseases.” BMJ : British Medical Journal, 321(7276), 1586–1589.
It's estimated that up to 28% of the population is affected by constipation resulting in more than $6.8 billion dollars in medical costs and $700 million dollars a year on remedies. So if you're a little stopped up, you're not alone.
What causes constipation?
There are many reasons you may be slow to go. (It's never simple, is it.)
- physical activity
- good gut flora
- food triggers
- specific diseases like hypothyroidism, MS, diabetes
- problems with your colon or rectum
- abuse of laxatives
- not pooping when the urge hits (my first responders get this one)
As a side note, constipation has been shown as a biomarker for people with Parkinson's (studies are showing that those diagnosed with Parkinson's had been suffering from constipation years before being diagnosed).
So how can you poop better?
I'm going to share some things I personally do to keep things moving along.
#1 Drink water.
It's a simple thing and water is free. You probably guessed this one but do you know why it's important? If you're dehydrated, water is triaged for more important functions (like your brain). Your colon uses a lot of water to help move things along. When it's taken away, you understandably may become constipated. Read more on hydration here.
#2 Fiber (both insoluble and soluble)
Insoluble fiber (wheat bran, oat bran) does not absorb or get digested. It adds bulk and appears to help food pass through more quickly.
Soluble fiber (psyllium, nuts, seeds, beans) attracts water and turns into a gel during digestion.
Both require increased fluid intake or it may make things worse. Some people get gassy from insoluble fiber because it's not properly digested by gut flora. But I have GREAT results taking a psyllium supplement daily. Make sure you drink lots of water with psyllium AND do not take any medications/supplements 2 hours before or after. The psyllium will interfere with it.
#3 Exercise (the double whammy)
It's a commonly prescribed solution. Maybe it's because of increased blood flow or a stress release. But one study has shown that exercise (2-6 x a week) decreased the risk of constipation by 35%. It's a double whammy because stress is also associated with poor gut health. As a cop, firefighter or military member, it goes without saying that YOU'RE STRESSED. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress (you KNOW how good it feels when it's over). It makes sense that a reduction is stress may greatly improve your regularity.
As always, check with your doctor before starting any new program.
Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2012. pg 430, 437
Risk of Parkinson's disease following severe constipation: A nationwide population-based cohort study. (2014, December). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353802014003630
Bested AC, Logan AC, Selhub EM. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part I - autointoxication revisited. Gut Pathog. 2013;5(1):5.
Dukas L, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Association between physical activity, fiber intake, and other lifestyle variables and constipation in a study of women. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003;98(8):1790-6.
(photo credit) Whorton, J. (2000). Civilisation and the colon: constipation as the “disease of diseases.” BMJ : British Medical Journal, 321(7276), 1586–1589. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1119264/