We’re all about what goes in. Is it organic and locally sourced? Or, is it free of fat, gluten, pesticides, gmos and lactose? Many of us, most of the time, meticulously monitor what goes in our mouths. How does the food make us feel? Does it make us bloated or sleepy or energetic? For me, a root beer float made with Zevia Root Beer and Straus vanilla ice cream make me feel really, really good.
We spend very little, if no, time thinking about or, dare I say look at, what comes out the other end. Everything that exits the body, like our urine, mucus, vomit, blood and feces, gives a good indication of what’s going on in the inside. Like the mouth being the beginning of the digestive tract, the anus is the last stop. If you’re not thinking about the exit end, then you’re missing half the picture. What lands in the toilet can tell how your gastrointestinal tract is functioning and give clues to infections, digestive problems and even cancer, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis.
It was not until I started studying and practicing Ayurveda that anyone cared about my elimination. While growing up, there was never a peep about poop. Because my family and friends never talked about it, I never really knew what was normal or healthy. Truthfully, It wasn’t until I lived with a boyfriend that I realized, and was somewhat astounded, that some people pooped daily and often at the same time.
The big Q is what is normal. Bowel habits vary from person to person. What’s normal for me may not be normal for you. For some people 3 poops a day is as normal as 3 poops a week. Lots of factors can affect your regularity, such as diet, travel, medications, hormonal fluctuations, sleep patterns, exercise, illness, surgery, childbirth, stress and a whole host of other things. The red flag is if there are unexplained changes in your habits, which could alert you to something sinister going on inside.
Besides frequency, the “ease” with which you move your bowels is important. According to Mercola.com, “If you need to push or strain, something is off – moving your bowels should take no more effort than urinating or passing gas”. On one end of the scale is constipation and diarrhea on the other. It takes 18 – 72 hours to convert food into poop. If this time is shortened, the body doesn’t have time to absorb the water, so it results in diarrhea. Or, if the transit time is longer, the body has absorbed too much water and it results in hard, difficult-to-pass stool.
Straining, incomplete elimination, bloating, crampiness is no bueno and indicates constipation. Chronic, untreated constipation can lead to fecal impaction (doesn’t sound good), which can be a serious medical condition. Up to 20% of the population is constipated and generally more women than men. Be cautious of laxatives as they can be addictive and easily misused, causing chronic constipation. Still, according to WebMD, 85% of doctor visits for constipation results in a prescription of a laxative. Laxatives should be avoided or considered a last resort and used for a very short period of time.
Part Two comes next week, where we’ll look at the “quality”, including shape, color, odor and consistency of feces. In the meantime, maybe you’ll take a second to take a peek behind you before you flush.