First of all, I want to preface this column with the statement "I don't mean to have my mind in the gutter." I really don't. But pooping is almost always on my mind, so now I'm going to write about it. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you should probably click away. If you're fine with dishing the dirty details, then read on.
When I was 20, I would have been completely ashamed to talk about pooping. I would have denied ever having done such a thing. If I stayed over at my boyfriend's house, I would avoid bowel movements altogether - sometimes for days at a time! Now that I've reached thirty, if I go for two days without 'taking care of business', I'm concerned. Longer than that and I start to get cranky. Or I start cramping. I'm irritable. Slow-moving and slow-thinking. Lethargic.
My boyfriend will cheerfully, if somewhat abashedly, grab his iphone and slink off to the throne room for some alone time Every Single Day. Without fail. Okay, I haven't been home every single instance, but I've observed that it is consistent and for him - a non-issue.
For me? Ugh. When is it NOT an issue? I know I don't have a regular schedule as a flight attendant, and I'm not always eating healthy and I probably don't drink as much water as I ought to. But I swear, I have more irregularity than most. Actually, I'll take that back. Apparently, according to a Naturopathic Massage Therapist I know, "Many people believe that the definition of a normal bowel movement is having one movement each day, but that is not true for everyone. There is no rule for frequency of bowel movements, but the general range is from three times a day to three times a week."
Honestly, I'd prefer it be daily, which is what I feel is healthy and normal. Preferably first thing in the morning. To start my day right, you know?
The following are some of the best and most natural supplements and remedies for finding your own regularity. I've been experimenting between them for about a year now and while I'm still in search of the perfect poop, I feel I'm getting closer. Check some of these bad boys out and get back to me.
First, there's the heavy favorite. With the US being the world's largest importer of Psyllium, I first have to wonder 'What is UP with American eating habits!?' Psyllium is a true dietary fiber, and as such can help reduce the symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea. The purely mechanical action of psyllium mucilage absorbs excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Basically, psyllium fiber absorbs water (subsequently softening the stool) and becomes a clear, colorless, mucilaginous gel that increases in volume by tenfold or more. Bonus! Bulking Action!
I take two tablets of Triphala every day after discovering that it helps to 'tonify' ('increase the available energy of') your gastrointestinal tract. I figured this out when spending a couple of months in an ashram in India. Eating rice every day, several times a day had me bound up tighter than a small infant in swaddling clothes. A few days of feeling like I was going to die of stomach cramps (not Delhi belly, surprisingly, because that creates the opposite effect), one of the ladies in the ashram gave me a bottle of Triphala. I have taken it almost regularly since then. Read more about Triphala here.
"Chia is an excellent food source of high fiber. 5%-10% mucilloid soluble dietary fiber (helps lower cholesterol and manage diabetes) 90%-95% insoluble dietary fiber (promotes healthy regularity). Taking chia daily will greatly aid your regularity, and sweep out old debris in your intestines helping to detoxify your system naturally. Chia aids in the assimilation of other foods and hydration retention." I'm starting to try out Chia Seeds myself, so I can't give you personal anecdotes on these nutritional powerhouses, yet. But I hear great things. Check out more about them here. I bought mine on Amazon.com, and you can find them for a good price.
Dehydration gives you dry, sticky mouth, right? Well, imagine what dehydration does to anything lingering in your large and small intestines. Okay, now that you have that horrible mental image, go drink a couple of glasses of water. In order to soften stool and maintain regular bowel movements, drink plenty of water - it helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and clean. Try to stick with water and not sodas or coffee. Tea is good, though. And actually, coffee helps SOME people...
Avoid Refined Foods
The less processed your food is, the more nutrition and fiber it retains. It's not rocket science (and frankly, I'd prefer that my food NOT be a science project). Filling your diet with lots of fiber and vitamin-filled green, leafy vegetables and eating less boxed and fast food will start to have an immediate effect on your elimination habits. Many fruits also have a a diuretic and laxative effect. Grains like barley, millet and brown rice are also particularly effective for easing constipation.
If you are still constipated after trying the above, you may want to consider supplementing your diet with probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found naturally in a the gastrointestinal tract. Supplementing the diet with probiotics helps to aid in digestion which in turn can help to avoid constipation. Probiotics can be found naturally in cabbage and artichokes. But, if you aren’t a fan of these foods or find it challenging to get them into your diet, consider getting them through supplements. I was recommended probiotics by a doctor who practices western medicine, but prefers to try eastern, homeopathic remedies first. Probiotics were one of the most amazing discoveries I include in my diet every day.
Chlorella is usually found being promoted alongside Spirulina (something I don't have a lot of personal experience with), but I do know that the former is a highly nutritious whole food. Chlorella is packed with hundreds of macronutrients, minerals, vitamins and protein - it's described as a 'metabolic activator' - it acts directly on the body tissues at the cellular level to promote increased activity to 'burn up' mucous-forming substances and support healthy intestinal flora.
Lastly, maintaining a regular workout program is imperative to staying healthy - exercise helps to decrease the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine and keeps bowel movements loose. Get up and go for a walk.
On a final note, if you occasionally rely on laxatives for constipation, PLEASE consider limiting your use to very infrequently! Laxatives overuse or abuse causes the muscles in your bowel to become weakened from the overuse, eventually causing dependance. Don't do it. You don't want to always have to pop a pill to poop.
Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.4.12 @ 11:55p
I definitely concur that regular workouts are necessary for regularity.
And, though I haven';t bought probiotic pills, Greek yogurt does wonders as a daily dose to move everything along.
9.5.12 @ 12:46a
You';re getting probiotics in the Greek yogurt - you';re still doing well! And yes, omg, yes. When I';m running three times a week... I';m pooping three times a week.
9.6.12 @ 7:18p
What a bunch of crap! :-D Sorry. I tried to let it pass. Butt I';m weak.