Wrote by Stephanie Oswald Certified Health Coach (IIN, graduated 2014) and an Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
Today I want to talk to you all about pooping, more specifically how to keep your bowel movements healthy and regular. There are many dietary choices and lifestyle factors that can have an effect on the quality and regularity of our bowel movements. Even your morning coffee can have certain effects when it comes to elimination. Constipation can occur as a result of many issues ranging from too little stomach acid (HCl) to too little physical movement, and many things in between.
When we are constipated, our stools end up sitting too long in the colon. Because it is one of the main ways we eliminate, they are filled with toxins, hormones and waste products that can get reabsorbed by the body instead of being passed promptly. This can lead to toxicity symptoms like headaches, acne and fatigue; and hormonal imbalances on top of the obvious symptoms associated with constipation (bloating, abdominal pain, nausea). And let’s face it, when we are not eliminating promptly, we can really end up feeling like…well crap.
Get Your Gut Functioning Optimally.
Getting your gut health into check has many moving parts; among the most important are balancing your microbiome (good bacteria), proper eating etiquette and ensuring adequate levels of stomach acid being produced.
Proper Digestion Etiquette:
If you are not properly chewing your food, eating when stressed (stress shuts down digestion), eating in a rush or on the go you are not giving your digestion the best start. Try to take time out of your day to sit with your meals, take a few deep diaphragmatic breathes before you eat and try to eat in a mindful manor. Making sure you are chewing your food until it’s pretty much liquified (aim for 30 chews per bite) can really help with the mechanical breakdown of food and start the process of carbohydrate digestion. Following these practices during meal times can help put your body into its rest and digest state (parasympathetic nervous system), manually break down food with proper mastication and avoid over eating by actually paying attention to what you’re eating and when your full; all of which help prevent constipation.
Increase Stomach Acid (If needed):
Having an underactive stomach can be a real problem when it comes to healthy bowel movements. If stomach acid (HCl) is not being produced properly or in optimal quantities it can cause constipation, allergies from poor protein breakdown, indigestion and even acid reflux (lack of acid causes the esophageal sphincter not to close fully, this can mean symptoms mimic excessive stomach acid because acid can splash back up the esophagus). If you suspect you have too little HCl being produced, you can try taking 1 Tbsp. sauerkraut juice or 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in a little water before meals to naturally boost your body’s production of HCl. Also avoid drinking excessively with meals, as that can dilute digestive juices. If you need to drink with meals, opt for warm herbal tea or water instead of cold and just take small sips throughout your meal.
Nourish your Microbiome:
Our gut microbiome is the environment within our digestive system where a large portion of our friendly bacteria live. These bacteria have all sorts of functions like bulking our stools, producing some B-vitamins and combatting the “bad” bacteria and yeast to keep levels in balance. Many things can wipe out our good guys, for example taking antibiotics, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol too often can all impact the microbiome. You can promote a healthy nourished microbiome by eating a varied diet rich in a diversity of plant foods, including a daily serving of fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented veggies (look for refrigerated, cultured, non-pasteurized and with no vinegar added), miso paste, kefir, kombucha and tempeh and getting prebiotic fiber rich foods into your diet (which feed the good bacteria) like chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, bananas and asparagus.
Other Tips for Constipation Relieve and Prevention:
Increase intake of Fiber rich foods to help bulk stools and promote healthy bowel movements. Some great sources of fiber include: bananas, apples, strawberries, beets, carrots, broccoli, swiss chard, potatoes, brown rice, whole grains, chia seeds, flaxseeds, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Manage your stress levels as high or chronic stress shuts down digestion and can contribute to constipation. Make some space within your life to unwind from your stressors like a 10-minute guided meditation in the morning, take a walk with some music you love, take a few minutes to focus on deep diaphragmatic breathing to bring in oxygen and promote relaxation or take a yoga class a couple times a week when you can fit it in.
Dehydration is a major contributor to constipation. Ensuring you are getting adequate pure water in each day is very important, aim for at least 8, 8oz glasses of water per day being sure to add an extra glass for every cup of coffee, caffeinated tea or alcohol which are dehydrating. If you have trouble getting water in, try soaking cucumber, mint and lime, flavored chlorophyll (eucalyptus is my personal favorite) or berries in filtered water for some flavor or buy a water bottle you love and carry it around with you to remind you to drink enough daily.
Many of us live sedentary lifestyles, working on computers, driving for transportation and relaxing on the couch. Too little physical activity can cause our digestion to be sluggish and contribute to constipation. Making sure you get 30 minutes of active movement each day can help keep things moving.
- Taking a Tbsp. of Land Art Aloe Vera Gel or 2 Tbsp. Aloe Vera Juice to some water or juice twice a day can help aid in digestion and promote proper bowel movements.
- Land Art Total Detox contains detoxification promoting and supporting medicinal plants for each major detoxification system, including the digestive system. Containing Cascara Bark a mild laxative, it promotes bowel movements and is a great choice if you are in need of a reset.