Healthy bowel movements are a critical foundation for the body to function properly and for true well-being.
I like to simplify wellness by putting it in two categories; nourishing or eliminating.
As you probably guessed, healthy bowel movements are a very important aspect in the elimination category.
What do I mean by ‘healthy’ bowel movements? Read on to learn…
- You need to poop EVERY SINGLE DAY, at least once a day. Your poop is the primary elimination route for toxins, and eliminating toxins is something your body needs to be doing on an on-going basis. Otherwise, you’re at risk of re-absorbing toxins that have been packaged and ready to be delivered, back into the blood stream. No bueno!
- A healthy poop shouldn’t be very smelly- there may be a slight scent, courtesy of sulfur, but it should be tolerable. Strong odor is usually an indicator or some sort of microbial overgrowth or mal-digestion - usually due to insufficient stomach acid or digestive enzymes.
- You should get to know your poop - color and texture matter (more on this below)
WHAT IS POOP?
It’s a collection of water, fiber, and fodder from our diet as well as a lot of bacteria, dead tissue from the lining of the intestines, and toxins - everything from heavy metals and other chemicals.
A healthy stool is a medium brown color, courtesy of something called bilirubin - a substance made from broken down old red blood cells.
Isn’t this so interesting?!
The Bristol Stool Chart will help you score your poop. Ideally, your score is a 3 or 4. 1 & 2 indicate constipation while 5-7 indicate diarrhea.
If you have lighter / yellowish color stool, that’s a clue that there may be a maldigestion of fats and hence, not enough pancreatic enzymes and bile. Bile is critical for emulsifying fats.
Side Note: It is not true that removing your gall bladder is no big whoop. It absolutely can affect your health. Anyone whose had their gb removed need to, at the very least, take bile salts everyday for the rest of their lives.
These issues can arise from things such as diabetes, SIBO, or an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria in the gut. Some causes of microbial imbalances are antibiotic or regular use of meds like Advil or Tylenol.
If there’s issues with the pancreas, like inflammation or sub-optimal release of enzymes, this can cause stool to be white. White stool is an indication of dramatic maldigestion of food.
With the exception or somethings like corn or certain seeds (like flax seeds), which have hard outer layers and can be challenging to break down for anyone, if you regularly see food in your stool, that’s also (an obvious) indication of maldigestion. This can be caused by insufficient stomach acid, digestive enzymes, AND not chewing your food! Digestion begins in the mouth folks!
Root causes of constipation include:
- Regular use of pharmaceuticals.
- Dehydration. Btw, it’s not enough to simply drink water. It’s gotta have high mineral content for to properly hydrate you.
- Insufficient magnesium. Magnesium is crucial for over 300 actions in the body, including the smooth muscle movement called peristalsis which moves your bowels. Unfortunately, because our soils have been depleted of nutrients from over farming on them, most people are magnesium deficient and need to supplement. For most constipated people, magnesium citrate is specifically helpful.
- Hypothyroidism — sluggish thyroid = sluggish everything, including slow motility.
- **When getting your thyroid checked, make sure to ask your doc to check for T4, 3 and 2! Not just TSH.
- Often, when there’s gas and bloating, people throw fiber at it which can actually exasperate the problem, especially if you have microbial imbalance or SIBO. If you have other symptoms of hypothyroidism, have your thyroid checked first.
A quick side note on fiber: Obviously, fiber is important. But excessive fiber can cause problems. Often when people are constipated, they need a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. This is why it’s good to eat fruit with the skin. The skin is much higher in insoluble fiber whereas the flesh, in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber sucks up water, bulking up the stool so it’s not watery (people can be constipated and still have water stool) Insoluble fiber scoots the stool along. We need a balance of both.
- LOW-FAT diets. The low-fat diet craze has caused a lot of health issues, including constipation. Unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fat diet, you need a good amount of healthy fat. Fat lubricates stool which helps move it out more readily.
- Hormonal imbalances. Some women take progesterone to help balance estrogen dominance, but be careful here. Too much progesterone can cause constipation. Also, PMS. Often times, IBS is misdiagnosed when it’s really estrogen dominance. Contrary to popular belief, intense PMS is not normal. It’s common, but not normal. Try evening primrose oil if you have bad PMS symptoms and work with a fxmed practitioner to balance your hormones.
- Chronic stress - after some time of having high cortisol, your body will seek balance by driving cortisol down (this is where the incorrect diagnosis of adrenal fatigue comes from - your adrenals aren’t fatigued, your body is trying to tell you you need to find a way to manage your stress). Low cortisol can cause constipation
Let’s not forget about diarrhea. Too fast of a transit time means malabsorption...
Root causes of Diarrhea include:
- Stress (making its second appearance in this shit show)
- Food Sensitivities. As a general rule (not black and white truths) people with a sensitivity to gluten have looser stools and people who have a sensitivity to dairy have more sluggish stools.
- Microbial overgrowth, parasites and/or food poisoning. There’s a specific probiotic that’s very helpful if you have food poisoning called Saccharomyces boulardii. Taking this 2-3x a day if you have food poisoning can really help flush the foreign invader. However, if you have a sensitivity to yeast, this is not a good probiotic for you. Instead, take a combination of lactobacillus plantarum and rhamnosus.
- My number one rec for gut supplements is MICROBIOME LABS They have very effective probiotics as well as gut healing protocols. Use code ThriveWithApotheka5 for a 10% discount.
- Metformin - a medication used to treat diabetes or insulin resistance. In some people, it can cause chronic diarrhea.
A better approach is to work with a fxmed practitioner to help reverse diabetes
In conclusion, it’s important to pay attention to your poop.
If you wanna be number one in the number two business., begin with managing your stress, hydrating and having appropriate levels of magnesium.
If you’re living with constipation, gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements, or more complex issues, don’t ignore it. Schedule a free 30 minute consultation to see if functional health can is right for you.