In the Naturopathy field we recognize the importance of having healthy bowel movements. But, what is healthy, really?
The first question I usually ask my clients is if they have 'healthy' bowel movements. Most say yes to start. However, the surprising fact is that most of these people only have 1-3 bowel movements PER WEEK and consider this to be 'normal'. Yes, this might be normal for some, but it is not healthy.
Each time we eat, we should be poopin' out the previous meals we consumed. We should be pooping 3 times per day, and if we are not we probably have fecal matter that is 'stuck in our gut' and feeding back toxins to our system that we should be eliminating. I once heard that the average person has almost 20 pounds of impacted fecal matter in their gut. Elvis Presley? Well folks, his autopsy revealed he had 50 pounds of impacted fecal matter. Can you see the importance now of eliminating your wastes properly?
If you are constipated, then you have this problem too. Your body is not letting go of the 'crap' that is stuck in your intestinal tract. This can cause a whole host of problems, including: headaches, nausea, bad breath, skin eruptions, and other more chronic illnesses.
There are many causes of constipation, and each person's treatment plan is different. I have listed below some guidelines to follow when observing your poop.
How frequent are they?
It is healthy to have at least 2 to 3 bowel movements per day. What goes in should come out. If you are not eliminating this much, then you probably have a backup of fecal matter that is allowing your body to reabsorb the toxins that it is trying to eliminate. This is one of the major causes for blood that has become unhealthy and toxic. Like I said above, the cause of constipation is different for each person. One thing you could focus on for this section is your intake of dietary fiber. Fiber is like the broom and mop for the intestinal tract and is a necessary substance for removal and elimination. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, and are, in fact, the best way to get fiber into your diet. You should be getting at least 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. You could also try Psyllium as a good source of fiber. Are you considering taking a fiber supplement? Make sure you are getting enough water throughout the day since fiber grabs onto liquid and creates bulky stools.
What do they smell like?
Do your bowel movements stink? I have heard many people say "it smells like something is rotting inside of me!" (GROSS, I KNOW!) However, this is true. If you aren't eliminating as much matter as what you are ingesting, then you do have 'something rotting inside of you'. Bowel movements do not have to smell, and if you are eating a healthy diet and eliminating properly, then they probably won't smell (that bad). Animal proteins in the diet can also cause your bowel movements to smell since it takes the body a long time to digest. Another cause? A lack of friendly bacteria in your gut! Since we are a society that takes antibiotics each time we feel ill, we can safely assume that most of the population does not have a good supply of healthy bacteria. Each time you take an antibiotic it affects your healthy gut flora for 2 years! Other drugs also kill your friendly bacteria, including: steroids, birth control pills, and other drugs and chemicals that are part of the modern American lifestyle. If your poop smells bad, then consider looking at your diet, and the possibility of taking a probiotic supplement. This will add healthy flora to your gut and get you back on a track to health! Aside from smell, healthy flora is so important for many other things! Healthy and balanced gut flora plays a very significant role in fighting off pathogenic bacteria, toxins, allergens, chemicals and pollutants.Yogurt isn't enough to give you this healthy flora if your gut flora has been damaged, so you will need to buy a good probiotic supplement.
What do they look like?
How well formed are your bowel movements? Many natural health practitioners believe that a perfectly healthy bowel movement is one to two feet long. Doesn't it feel good to turn around and see a well formed and super-long bowel movement?! When we see this some of us think "SUCCESS!" In order to get your bowel movements well formed, beneficial bacteria and fiber are so important. If your bowel movements are poorly formed then your food is not being digested efficiently. And, if you are not digesting your food properly, then you aren't getting the important vitamins and minerals from your food. If your body cannot digest, then it cannot break down your food. Hydrochloric acid helps your body to break down food substances, especially protein. If you have low stomach acid, a whole host of problems can arise, including: bloating and belching after meals, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, food allergies, nausea, iron deficiency, asthma, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, eczema, gallbladder disease, psoriasis, osteoporosis and much more. A common supplement in the typical American medicine chest is an Antacid product. This does the opposite of what I am telling you... it eliminates stomach acid so you don't feel indigestion. Most of us need MORE stomach acid, NOT LESS! If you find yourself popping antacids throughout the day, I urge you to look at your diet and consider consulting a natural health practitioner. You are seriously depleting yourself of the very important substance needed for proper digestion! So, for most of us who are low in stomach acid - juice 1/2 of a lemon in the morning before you eat anything and drink with water. This will help your body digest food throughout the day and with an adequate amount of stomach acid!
Do you ever see whole pieces of food come out the other end? This is another sign that you are not digesting your food properly. This is also a sign that you need to learn how to chew your food properly! Chewing is so important and is the first step of digestion!
Do they float?
This is NOT something that we learn when we are growing up. A perfect and healthy bowel movement should be on that does not smell, is well (and loosely) formed, and floats at first (and then sink as they absorb water)! If yours are sinkers, then you must realize that there is something missing in your diet. Fiber is so important, and if you are eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables, then your poop will float. However, if it is not, consider your diet once again as the culprit. Again, fiber is important here. Essential fatty acids are also vital to each of us, since most people are deficient in healthy fats. Part of this stems from the very popular belief that fats are bad. Fats are certainly not bad, but instead, so essential to build many substances in your body. Ground up flax seeds are a great addition to your daily diet and are tasty in soups, smoothies, salads, yogurts, and more. They will also help your poop float for a healthy and perfect bowel movement!
I have also heard some people say that they have never turned around to evaluate their poop. Please, for the sake of your health, turn around and observe what is coming out! This will only help you to assess your health and determine the next step for healing!
Update: You can view my most commonly asked questions with answers about poop here.
Svea is a traditional Naturopath, classical homeopath and holistic doula. Her private doula practice can be found here.