Over our lives, we spend a heck of a lot of time focused on how our bowels do or don’t function. It seems the older we get the more excited we are about being regular – it’s like a daily mission. You do have to admit that the body does feel better holding less waste. Our bowels are directly impacted by our stress levels, diet and exercise and have a whole bunch of responsibility in overall health. When the gut is unhappy so is the rest of the body – it plays a role in hormone regulation, detoxification, mood regulation, energy levels, blood sugar balance, and brain health – which includes everything from a poor memory to full-on disease.
So here are five tips to get and keep things moving PLUS the Bristol Stool Chart to see how your bowels shape up!
- Drink! …water that is. Dehydration is a main cause for constipation. There is no exact amount of water to drink but if you are constipated you aren’t drinking enough. And remember beverages like coffee, alcohol and black tea are dehydrating so you need to drink even more water.
- Move! Your body was made to move in every way. The more you move your muscles the more your bowels will move. Even gentle whole body stretching will help.
- Daily castor oil packs are a saviour when it comes to the gut – in either constipation or diarrhea they balance normal bowel movement. They also calm inflammation, provide relief from abdominal pain and via that gut-brain super highway, calm the central nervous system. These are particularly pleasing before bed to help improve sleep.
- Getting enough fibre? Drop the simple carbs, increase the veggie content and things should transform before your eyes – remember veggies are full of water too where as simple carbs like bread, muffins etc are more dehydrating. Add a couple of teaspoons of ground flax to your diet, not only is it a great source of fibre, it is a prebiotic food and helps the body clear estrogen!
- Appropriate supplementation – start with a probiotic (50B) each day and see where that takes you. Raise the bar with any number of digestive teas – marshmallow, licorice root, fennel, chamomile, bitter herbs like dandelion root, or ask your naturopath for deeper healing strategies.
For hundreds and even thousands of years the gut (bowels) has been the epicentre of good health. It is one of the major reasons people seek naturopathic care (cause we know how to fix it).
What are signs that you need more than a trip to the health food store? Pain of any kind, a mass you can feel, blood or mucous in your stool, regular diarrhea or long periods of constipated stool. PS you can even be constipated if you have a BM every day. What should your bowel movements look like? Compare yours to the Bristol Stool Chart, a medical aid which classifies human stool into seven categories.
- Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
- Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy
- Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface
- Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
- Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)
- Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool
- Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely liquid
Types 1–2 indicate constipation, with 3 and 4 being the ideal stools (especially the latter), as they are easy to pass while not containing any excess liquid, and 5, 6 and 7 tending towards diarrhea.
Download this chart and pin it to your bathroom wall!