Ah, pooping. Such a personal subject. The intimate relationship between you, your toilet bowl and Charmin.
Bowel habits are typically not something that most people feel comfortable discussing, especially when the conversation centers on how often you go.
But it probably won’t surprise you that I believe it’s a VERY important topic of conversation, so let’s have a little chat about your Number twos.
Where do you fall on the spectrum?
Generally speaking, people are considered to have “normal” BM frequency if they go anywhere between three times a day and three times a week.
But it’s not as cut and dry as you may think.
For example, if someone goes three times a day, but two out of their three BMs are diarrhea, well, something’s up.
On the flip side, if someone’s normal bowel pattern is three times a week, but their BMs are consistently rock hard and take an hour to pass, while that may be “normal” to them, it’s not healthy.
To help sift through the wide range of turd tendencies, the Rome IV criteria were established to help define the different categories of BMs.
In order to be considered constipated, your potty habits must include two or more of the following:
- Straining during more than 25 percent of defecations
- Lumpy or hard stools more than 25 percent of defecations
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation more than 25 percent of defecations
- Sensation of rectal obstruction/blockage more than 25 percent of defecations
- Manual maneuvers needed to facilitate more than 25 percent of defecations (please don’t ask me to elaborate)
- Fewer than three BMs per week
- Easy to pass stools rarely present without the use of laxatives
Diarrhea is a little more straightforward—according to the Rome IV rules, you are considered as having it if your stools are loose and watery more than 25 percent of the time.
In case you need a visual
If you’re more of a visual person, you’re in luck because the Bristol Stool Scale has been created to illustrate the various degrees of doo-doo:
As you would expect, Types 1 and 2 suggest constipation, Types 3, 4 and 5 are more normal (with 4 being ideal) and Types 6 and 7 indicate diarrhea.
The bottom line (no pun intended)
When you have other-than-normal bowel movements, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes besides either rocketing to the toilet or grunting and grabbing the seat to finish the job.
Let’s start with…
With diarrhea, having to sprint to a toilet on a moment's notice is not the only problem.
Because when your wastes rocket through the intestinal tract, chances are excellent that you are not properly absorbing the nutrients and fluids from your foods as they fly on by.
This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, underweight and dehydration.
Plus diarrhea can trigger hemorrhoids and anal fissures (torn skin in the anus).
Now on to…
Like diarrhea, constipation can also cause hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
In addition, you may be dealing with stools that cannot be expelled (fecal impaction) as well as a lazy bowel, being unable to have a BM without laxatives.
But one of the most serious implications of constipation is an imbalanced gut microbiome (dysbiosis) which can weaken your immune system function and provide a pathway for leaky gut to develop.
Constipation can also spur the development of diverticulosis and trigger attacks of diverticulitis.
Common poop spoilers
Here are the most common causes of abnormal BMs:
Too little fiber or water in your diet—Both water and fiber are crucial to healthy bowel function.
Enzyme shortages—If you are low in stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes or bile, or have had your gallbladder out, that will have an impact on your digestion. Plus as we age, our body’s production of enzymes diminishes, so people over age 50 are at risk.
Stress—Digestion is a parasympathetic process, meaning your body must be in a relaxed state for it to be accomplished like it should.
Medication use—Many medications can impair digestion, especially acid reducers, antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants and birth control pills.
Underlying issues—Problems such as food allergies or sensitivities, IBS, Crohn’s disease, colitis or liver/gallbladder problems can all impact digestion.
Poops you can be proud of
Healthy, regular bowel movements are vital to your health, so it's time to start making sure yours are what they should be!
Make its job easier
When you make your GI tract’s job easier, you are paving the way for super-efficient digestion and healthy BMs!
It’s simple—just avoid eating animal proteins (meats) and starches (like bread, potatoes, pasta or rice) together in the same meal.
The reason is because proteins trigger acid secretion for digestion and starches require alkaline enzymes, and the presence of those two opposing enzymes in your stomach together can cause them to weaken and neutralize each other.
Throwing your digestion out the window!
Instead pair meats OR starches with vegetables—you’ll be shocked at the difference it can make.
Check out my Great Taste No Pain system for more information and some delicious recipes and meal ideas.
Keep it real
Concentrate on real (non-processed) foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
Support your microbiome
Your beneficial gut bacteria help break down starches and fiber, so having a strong population of them is crucial for thorough digestion.
Unfortunately, factors like stress, refined carbs, medications and constipation can throw your microbiome balance off, creating an environment that favors harmful bacteria and impairing your digestion.
But supplementation with a full-spectrum probiotic like Super Shield multi-strain probiotic formula can help keep your microbiome in a healthier balance, which in turn will support proper digestion as well as strong immune function.
Get an enzyme boost if needed
If you suspect enzyme challenges may be an issue for you, a complete digestive enzyme supplement like Digestizol Max can pinch-hit where your body needs help and encourage more efficient, thorough digestion.
Try to eat in a relaxed state and avoid eating during higher-stress times like when you’re upset, working or driving.
Talk to your doctor
If you are on any medications that can affect your digestion and BMs, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
And if you suspect an underlying condition (such as IBS, Crohn’s, colitis or food sensitivities) ask your doctor to do the proper testing.
Now you are on the road to better BMs and a healthier you!
To your health,