How well you know your poop?
And what you can do to ensure good gut health and relieve constipation?
I am sure if you’ve been in the constipation business long enough, you must have heard of the Bristol Stool Chart and how it helps to track your day-to-day affairs!
Although normal bowel frequency has a wide range from 3 times per day to 3 times per week, it all boils down to the quality of the poop and that’s where the Bristol stool chart comes into the picture.
And it’s no mystery that with poop, as with life, consistency is everything (both with frequency and quality)😏.
This regular monitoring not only alerts us to take appropriate steps to prevent constipation before it becomes a full-blown 🤢 problem but also helps us keep track of our progress in resolving constipation and improving our overall gut health.
There is a lot of truth to Hippocrates' statement: "All disease begins in the gut”!! Good poop is usually considered a sign of good sleep, healthy digestion, a balanced nervous system, and a resilient & healthy pelvic floor.
As you can see in the picture, 𝗧𝘆𝗽𝗲 𝟰 is a clear WINNER 👑!! But, don’t be too relieved 😅 (pun intended) if you are having a 𝗧𝘆𝗽𝗲 𝟲 or 𝟳, thinking you are having diarrhea and therefore don’t have constipation ❌.
In chronic constipation, the stool gets impacted, meaning it gets stuck in the colon and the rectum gets distended. It becomes impossible to push it out 😥!!
The newly formed waste material (as a result of digestion) therefore, is eliminated by the body in form of loose stool (diarrhea), as the colon loses its optimal function of crafting a fully formed stool by absorbing excess water.
Sometimes, it can even lead to losing the ability to hold the feces, known as fecal incontinence. Not because the sphincter becomes weak all of a sudden and loses its ability to control the bowel movement, but more because this liquid stool comes gushing down so powerfully (fecal urgency) that even the sphincter muscle gives up, resulting in leakage.
The impacted stool is usually diagnosed with a flat-plate X-ray and can be treated with an enema or colon prep. However, please do not attempt it without discussing it with your doctor first. (Will discuss colonics in a future blog post).
Therefore, learning the signals of our body in the form of our poop by following the Bristol stool chart can help uncover different lifestyle factors that affect our gut health! ✅.
And if you’ve come this far, keep on reading to learn what you can actually do to ensure a good poop on a consistent basis. I wanted to give you a 360-degree perspective on improving your gut health, which is frequently and very quickly blamed on the food we eat. Don't get me wrong… what we eat is important! But, just like with many other systems in the body, gut health also depends on multiple factors, not just food and fiber! This food blaming has actually created an unprecedented amount of fear around food resulting in a disordered relationship with it, negatively impacting mental health as a consequence.
So here are a few (non-food related) things for you to consider and follow to maintain good gut health.
GI system functions like a clockwork ⏰ and is actually a ‘creature of habit. Taming it is not really that hard as long as you follow these habits:
💩 1. Practicing sleep hygiene and waking up at the same time every day.
💩 2. Learning to notice the urge— it usually comes shortly after waking up. It could look different for different people. Some people feel pelvic pressure, some would feel lower belly pressure and some may even feel cramping/ pressure in their upper belly. Ignoring the urge is when the problem of constipation usually begins or gets worse!
💩 3. Establishing a time for using the bathroom, and try to stick to the same time every day. Using the bathroom ONLY per your convenience interferes with the communication between your brain and your rectum. If you ignore the urge to use the bathroom later between your meetings, the poop will get pushed back up and your brain probably won’t alert you again, thinking probably it’s not something of importance.
💩 4. Calling gastrocolic reflex to action. If your urge is not very reliable for some reason, you could take advantage of this cool reflex of the GI (gastrointestinal) system. The gastrocolic reflex gets activated 30-40 min after having breakfast in the morning and stimulates the rectum to empty itself to make room for the incoming traffic (newly ingested food). So please don’t miss your breakfast!
💩 5. Calling into action the parasympathetic nervous system by having a more relaxed morning, practicing breathing exercises, or meditation. Digestion and elimination are parasympathetic nervous system activities-- meaning rushing in the morning to get out the door will most likely turn off the parasympathetic drive and hence that Nature’s Call!
💩 5. Practicing movement- some form of exercise in the morning is a wonderful way to help stimulate the gut which can help you go.
Check out this video to learn an exercise sequence for this.
PS: My little secret that cured my own constipation was really taking my time in the morning to eat my breakfast.
I hope you find these tips helpful :-)