Sunday, May 25, 2014

Poop 201: Commonly asked questions and answers about poop

A couple years ago I wrote a blog article about assessing your health based on what your bowel movements look and smell like, and how you feel when you are having them.

If you haven't read that article, I highly recommend doing so. I didn't know it at the time, but that article has proven to be a great success, and has hundreds of views per day. I also have a lot of people asking questions through comments.

This article is dedicated to answering some of the most commonly asked questions about poop. I hope this helps you with your bathroom extravaganzas.

Q & A

Q: I am getting poop 3 times a day, but the problem is I'm unable to control it.

A: A lot of people struggle with diarrhea. It is one of the most common health complaints. The first thing to do is to try and figure out why you are having diarrhea. Food sensitivities can contribute to uncontrollable episodes. You can try an elimination diet. Try eliminating one food at a time to see if it is the cause. You can start with dairy. Don't eat anything with milk (cheese, butter, icecream, etc) for at least two weeks and see if your diarrhea is better. If not, try eliminating the next allergen - gluten. Gluten free products are readily available in health food stores. This recommendation will at least get you started. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can try to cut out all processed foods - as these can be a major contributor to digestive problems. Don't know what I mean when I say processed? Basically anything that you buy in the non-refrigerated aisles of the grocery store.  If you can't understand the ingredients on the label, then you shouldn't be eating it. Soda can also cause diarrhea. 

Another thing to consider with diarrhea (and any poop related symptom) is your emotional state. Stress is probably the biggest cause of diarrhea. Just think of that time you had to do public speaking. Your nerves were on edge and you probably couldn't stop going to the bathroom before the speech. Even a small amount of stress can affect your bowels. The remedy - eliminate as much stress as you can from your life. Is your job stressful but you're concerned about money? You have to decide for yourself which is important - your health or your job. It may not seem like an easy decision, but if it can add years to your life, then isn't your health more important?! 

There are many more reasons why you can have diarrhea, but the above are good starting points. 

Q: I poop once or twice a week. I know it's bad for health so I would force myself to poop. But sometimes no matter how long I sit on the toilet bowl there's just no poop.

Constipation is another major health complaint. A healthy gut should produce 2-3 well-formed bowel movements per day. Please refer to the above answer (the answers are the same for both diarrhea and constipation). Make sure you are drinking enough water (1/2 your body weight in ounces). Try an elimination diet and check out your emotional state. Are you holding on to "crap" in your life? Sometimes this is the case and your bowel says "Ok, my mind and emotions are holding on to crap... I might as well too." 

Additionally, you should never force yourself to poop. You will cause hemorrhoids. and that's no fun. 

Q:  I have been having off and on problems with hemorrhoids for a couple of years now. Mostly from the invention of the smart phone and facebook in the loo. Ha. But seriously, having met with a Gastro two months ago, and her recommending banding, I would like to try to change my diet or add a supplement.

A: If you are straining or pushing too hard on the toilet, then you probably have hemorrhoids (AKA piles). For those of you who don't know what a hemorrhoid is, here is the definition: "a swollen vein or group of veins in the region of the anus." They can be itchy and/or painful and can bleed. Do you ever wipe your bum and see a little bit of bright red blood? It's probably from a hemorrhoid. Interestingly, hemorrhoids are very common in more developed countries that use sitting, "Western", toilets, and quite uncommon in countries that use squatting toilets. The best position to be in when pooping is squatting (think about it... it makes a lot of sense!). Unfortunately, "western toilets" are the major culprit of hemorrhoids. I just came back from India, and I have to say that their toilet system is great! You squat, you poop and then you wash. When we came back to Canada, I felt a bit shocked that we sit, poop, wipe with dry toilet paper and that's it. Actually, it's quite unhygienic. 

In order to avoid hemorrhoids, take the above suggestions if you are constipated. You want to remove the cause of the hemorrhoid - they are stubborn buggers and will keep coming back. If you already have a hemorrhoid, you can apply witch hazel directly on it with a cotton swab. Witch Hazel is astringent, and will shrink the hemorrhoid. If that doesn't work, there are a few other steps you can take. Bioflavonoids have been shown to help with hemorrhoids (but make sure they don't have an interaction with any drug you are taking). You should also wash and dry thoroughly after each bowel movement. Exercise is also great (for everything) - so get out there and start walking or jogging. There are many other natural remedies out there for hemorrhoids - if you want to know more, just do an internet search. 

Q: The moving of the bowls is not the problem here, but the floating stool. I had my gallbladder removed about 7 months ago and in the past several weeks my stool has been floating. My intake of fiber and water is okay, as my general eating habits have not changed. Should I be worried here?

A: In the original article I posted that your poop should first float and then sink. If you have poop that is floating, especially if you are having problems with your gall bladder, then you are probably having a hard time digesting fats. If you are having gallbladder issues, you should immediately change your diet to a healthy one. The gallbladder isn't your problem - it's your diet. The solution to gallbladder problems from the conventional approach is to remove it from your body. This approach doesn't address the fundamental cause of your symptoms, but instead removes the messenger. If your diet is good then you probably wouldn't experience gall bladder problems. Cut out all processed food from your diet. Make sure you are drinking enough water and that your diet mainly consists of fruits and veggies and protein (meat, eggs, nuts & seeds, etc). You should minimize the amount of amount of fried foods you consume, gallbladder or not. 

Q:  I am a vegetarian and I follow a gluten free diet. I take aloe vera occasionally and that seems to help but not always. I take a regular probiotic and drink lemon juice in water, tea, etc about 5x daily.... in addition to a lot of plain water. First thing in the am I usually have the urge to have a bowel movement and sometimes it feels complete but not everyday.... they are usually loose but not too bad. Then I have tea or coffee and usually have another... looser. But throughout the day I often have several more... sometimes large and sometimes small... sometimes loose and sometimes not but I begin to feel constipated and lots of bloating. It gets really frustrating because I feel like a pregnant woman in all of my clothes. I don't know what's causing this but I'd really like to fix it.

A: This is an interesting question. As you can see, this person is quite healthy but still has digestive problems. So many people are actually very sensitive to soy and don't realize it. If you are a vegetarian and eat an otherwise healthy diet, you can consider eliminating soy from your diet if have digestive complaints. It may be tough since it's a major source of protein for vegetarians, but you can get protein from other sources. Additionally, soy contains estrogen, which may throw off your hormones and cause other symptoms. Also, some vegetarians eat dairy products. If you are feeling bloated, have diarrhea or constipation, and/or have mucus - then eliminate dairy too. 

Q: I have a lot of cramping between the times I poop and during. The cramping can be very severe, and I sometimes feel nausea too.

A: Again, diet can be the culprit. Try the elimination diet. Also, you may want to consider a parasite cleanse. Most people have parasites and should consider a yearly cleanse. I will leave it up to you to research this and decide. Hulda Clarke is a great resource for parasite cleansing. 

If you feel like you have tried EVERYTHING to no avail, then consider that your problem may be caused by emotions or stress. You'd be surprised at what they can do to you. 


Svea Lynn is a traditional Naturopath, classical homeopath and holistic doula. Her private doula practice can be found here. Her Montreal Natural Fertility site can be found here

1 comment:

  1. I have to POOP every 2 hours it seems. I POOP 3 times when I get up, 4 more times during the day. Gas then hard stools. HELP ME!