After covering some strategies on how to help reduce bloating in last week’s blog, I thought it was time to travel a little bit further down the gastro intestinal system.
Well, to the end.
The very end.
Everyone poops, so we should all be ok talking about it. As a dietitian, talking about poo is a regular part of my day, so I wanted to share the love and go through a few tips to make sure our trips to the bathroom are as pleasant as possible.
How often should I poop?
When it comes to bowel movements, there’s a pretty broad spectrum as to what makes up a “normal” amount. Anywhere from once every few days to a few times a day is considered healthy and normal, and this will vary from person to person. What we do need to keep an eye on is whether we experience any long-term changes to what OUR normal is. If that has occurred, best to head along and speak to your GP or dietitian.
I know I talk about fibre a lot, but it plays a vital part in so many important bodily functions so I just can’t help myself. And when it comes to poops, it’s the star of the show.
There are two types of fibre that we want to be including regularly in our diet: soluble and insoluble. Not only does soluble fibre absorb water and help form your poop, it’s also linked to reductions in a number of chronic diseases. It can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and oats.
Insoluble fibre is largely responsible for adding bulk to your poo and helps it travel through your body. It can be found in whole grains, nuts, seeds and the skin of fruits and vegetables.
Having a diet that includes a good amount of both of these types of fibres will ensure our poop is well formed and can also travel easily through our body, both of which are going to make our toilet time go much better.
If we’re finding it difficult each time we head to the bathroom, one of the other things to focus on is your water consumption. If you’re not consuming enough water, your body will compensate by trying to retain as much water as possible. One way it does this is to absorb as much water back out of your poop as possible, which can make it hard and difficult to pass. Aim for 2L+ a day, or whatever amount you need to consume to keep your urine a light-yellow colour and you may find your number twos become a lot easier!
On the other hand, if you’re finding your trips to the bathroom a little TOO easy, there are a couple of quick things you can try. Assuming you’re now eating enough fibre (to help form your poop), it may pay to look at what sort of foods you’re eating. Some of the main offenders are sugar alcohols/artificial sweeteners (usually found in diet soft drinks or diet versions of foods) and coffee. Both of these things draw water into the large intestine, and although some water can help soften your poop, too much water is not ideal. I’m not saying you need to completely cut these foods out, but maybe play around with how much you’re having throughout the day.
Another thing to be aware of is spicy food. Spicy food can speed up your “gastric emptying”, which is basically a fancy way of saying how quickly food travels through your stomach and intestines. If this happens too quickly, we can experience diarrhea.
Just like in last week’s blog about bloating, the causes of constipation and diarrhea can be incredibly complex, so these tips are merely meant to scratch the surface and offer some simple ideas that you can try before investigating things more seriously, but if your symptoms persist PLEASE make sure you’re going to speak to your GP or dietitian, as they can help you pinpoint what the true cause is, and offer more specific advice about how to help. Remember, everyone poops, and everyone’s poop is different, but if you’re experiencing difficulty or changes with your regular pattern, speak to someone!