Happy Healthy Poops: 8 Tips to Better Your Digestive Health
Everybody poops. Yet, we don’t often talk about it, even though we all know how satisfying it is when you have an enjoyable experience on the toilet. Growing up with a mom who is a nurse, I had my fair share of “poop” talks – and she always encouraged me to look in the toilet to get a better idea of what was happening inside of my body. Years down the road, this has resulted in both a fascination with digestive health, as well as an ease in discussing bowel movements with my friends, family, and patients.
How I see it is our bowel movements are an extra diagnostic tool into how our bodies are functioning, and one of the few daily reminders we get about our health. To be mindful about our poops allows us to better understand and connect to the health of our bodies.
And to be honest, none of us have perfect poops all of the time – however we can make changes to improve the health of our digestive system. So here we go! Eight tips which I find extremely helpful to having happy, healthy poops:
1. Restrict Raw or Cold Foods in your Diet
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is known that our digestive organs crave warm-property foods, and that too many cold and raw foods will cause strain and stagnation in a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. Think of your digestive system as a digestive fire – if you add too many cold or raw foods, such as cold salads and smoothies, it will dampen this digestive fire, taking longer for your body to both break down the foods as well as produce energy from the food. If you find your digestion is sluggish, your stools are loose, that you have fatigue after eating, or have constant bloating, then try balancing your diet out by eating 80% cooked and warm property foods. Drink hot tea and hot water, cook your vegetables, and add ginger to your morning smoothies to help nourish your digestive system.
2. Incorporate Black Sesame Seeds Into Your Diet
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Black Sesame Seeds, or Hei Zhi Ma, are used to help relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements. These seeds are packed full of vitamins and dietary minerals, and can provide bulk to your digestion as they are rich in dietary fiber. The oil in the black sesame seeds helps to lubricate and moisten your intestines, which can help when you feel backed up.
3. Change Your “Poo-sition!”
The time-honoured tradition of squatting is much healthier than our westernized toilets. With the traditional squatting position, our body is properly aligned for eliminating waste. Squatting relaxes the puborectalis muscle and straightens the rectum – allowing for healthier and easier bowel movements. A quick solution to this (rather than renovating your bathroom) is to grab a short stool to rest your feet on while sitting on the toilet – helping your body to shift to a more natural position.
4. Drink Plenty of Warm Water
In TCM we have a saying, to “float the boat out”, meaning we should have enough water in our intestines to help push the stool out. Dehydration can lead to difficult digestion, and result in constipation – so make sure you are getting at least 8 glasses of water daily. In TCM, we also stress the importance of drinking warm or hot water to aid a healthy digestive system. One of the main recommendations I tell my patients is to make a routine of drinking warm water with lemon, especially first thing in the morning. This will help cleanse out toxins in your digestive system, stimulate the bowels to keep you regular, circulate blood flow and relax abdominal muscles, and if I haven’t convinced you yet, it also helps to break down body fat and prevent premature aging.
These friendly bacteria act as protectors of our digestive system. Probiotics helps to balance out bad bacteria in our guts, and are especially helpful after taking antibiotics which destroy your healthy gut flora. Probiotics can be so effective in helping to relieve symptoms of bloating and cramping, chronic diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. You can increase your probiotic intake through supplementation, or through incorporating yogurt and kefir in your diet. If you are dairy-free, try fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
6. Reduce Stress
Stress and our digestive health go hand-in-hand. Our gut is our “second brain” – and truly it is a fascinating ecosystem of bacteria and neurotransmitters. The gut’s sophisticated network of neurons can have a direct effect on brain chemistry, while emotions can also directly affect the gut. Many people suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression also have digestive disorders, and that is because of this close connection between our gut and our brain. By maintaining a healthy digestive system, we can also help to regulate our moods. And by reducing stress in our lives, we can help keep our digestive system on track. Incorporating stress-relieving practices into your daily ritual, such as yoga, meditation, and exercise, can have a great influence on your digestive health.
7. Try Acupuncture
TCM views the body in a holistic perspective, and an Acupuncturist can work with you to find out the root of your symptoms you are experiencing. Troubles with our bowels, such as constipation, could be due to a number of different factors – stress, diet, lack of exercise, excess heat in the GI tract, a deficiency of fluids, or blood deficiency. Acupuncture can be used to treat constipation or abnormal bowel movements through its ability to move and balance our body’s energy, while having direct influence on the nervous and immune systems. It can reduce inflammation in your stomach, and helps to promote overall health of your gastrointestinal system through aiding your digestive organs to restore proper function.
8. Look In The Toilet Bowl
Try familiarizing yourself with your bowel movements by making sure to look in the toilet bowl! Anyone who has been to an Acupuncturist knows that we love discussing your bowel movements. The appearance and consistency of your poop is incredibly helpful to us in the overall diagnosis of your symptoms. A happy, healthy poop is one that is formed into one solid piece, think a “S” or “C” shape, soft and solid and easy to pass, and a medium or golden brown colour. As you make changes to your digestive health, these changes can be seen each time you look into the bowl.
Jill Truscott is a Registered Acupuncturist and offers appointments at Local Health Integrative Clinic on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Click here to book an appointment with Jill.