Pooping is such an essential body feature. Actually, if you don’t poop, you die… Does that convince you? In my intake form for my clients, I always ask about presence of constipation, because it is totally part of the big picture when we talk about pelvic health. For example, constipation leads to straining, which in turn increases your chances of developing a pelvic organ prolapse (when your bladder is falling out of your vagina!). Having a rectum full of hard stool can also push on your bladder and create urgency and frequency (going to the bathroom too often).
I would have many more reasons to advocate for a great bowel health, but let’s get to the point here. Don’t you think there is something so satisfying about having a nice long sausage-like stool that just slips right out of your bum? I never heard of anyone being stocked about straining to push those hard nuggets out that come along with constipation. I guess this is not something we normally discuss on a Friday night with friends, to be fair…!! But I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, right..?
OK so let’s go ahead with my 5 top recommendations for healthy pooping!
1- Stay hydrated
The best way to assess hydration is to look at your urine colour. If it’s pale yellow, you are good. Darker urine is okay for the first pee in the morning, but throughout the day it should be pale.
Stay away from recommendations such as “everyone should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day” – everyone’s needs are different. A breastfeeding mom will have lots of water coming out of her body from feeding her baby, therefore will need to drink more. Same with someone who exercise a lot, or has a very salty diet.
Your urine colour is a much better gauge to dictate how much water you should be drinking, rather than relying on a general recommendation.
2- Eat enough fibres
Again, that may look different from a person to another. My philosophy is: fix your water intake first, and see what happens with your stool – if it does not fix your constipation problem, then try increasing fibre intake. We want to target a stool that looks like #4 on the Bristol Stool Chart – like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft, with no cracks.
So first thing guys: LOOK AT YOUR STOOL BEFORE FLUSHING! Obviously, I’m assuming that you are pooping in a toilet and not in an outhouse (which is an unfair assumption especially in the Yukon where many people live in a dry cabin…!) But please if you can, do it!
For the longest time I had the Bristol chart by my toilet at my house and my roommates were making fun of me for it. But I wanted to bring awareness in the household and it worked!! Soon enough, people started saying “Hey I had a #4!!” with so much pride – it made me so happy!! #pelvicfloormafia
But coming back on fibre intake – if you see that even with proper hydration, you are still struggling with a #1 or #2 type of stool, you should look at increasing your fibre intake. Some easy ways are:
- Adding 2 tbs of ground flax seeds to your breakfast (in your oatmeal, smoothie, yogurt, or simply mix it with hot water – not the best taste though..!) – they need to be ground otherwise it go straight through your body without doing anything for your guts!
- Prepare some celery sticks snacks for the week – if you are not a fan of the taste, add a dip or hummus to make it tastier!
- Snack on dry fruits such as prunes, or fresh fruits like berries
There are many other ways to increase your fibre intake – a naturopath or dietician would be the best professional to guide you through this if you need more assistance. One important thing to mention with increasing fibre intake is that you should also increase water consumption proportionally, especially if the food item you chose does not contain water. For example, celery already has water content, whereas seeds do not. So if you choose to eat more seeds, you should also increase water intake to balance that out, otherwise you will get more constipated…!
3- Squat to poop!
If you have never watched the Squatty Potty advertising, this will convince you!!
Basically, when you sit on a regular toilet without squatting, you are anatomically setting yourself for a harder time during your bowel movement. If you are already a bit constipated, having your knees higher up versus down can make the world of a difference!
4- Relax your pelvic floor muscles!
The pelvic floor muscles are the ones around your urethra, vagina & anus. If you pretend to pick a berry with your anus and pull it up, you are contracting your pelvic floor and closing your anal sphincter. Now pretend to let go the berry and bring it back down, you are releasing and opening the anal sphincter. While pooping, you want to let the berry go, not pick it up!
If those instructions seem very foreign to you and you have no awareness whatsoever of what is going on in this area, go see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist so they can assess your pelvic floor to optimize elimination!
You would be surprised how many people hold their breath and tuck their belly in while having a bowel movement. Actually – that was me before becoming a Pelvic Health PT!!! And even now, I need to be so mindful about not going back to those bad habits, and keep breathing properly & let my abdomen relax while having a bowel movement. All the pressure you are adding onto your rectum and intestine while holding your breath and clenching your abs is definitely not helping for your stool to come out. It is rather squeezing everything and restricting the motion of your stool.
So when you are about to have a bowel movement, squat, release your belly, unclench your abs, and start breathing in through your nose, out through your mouth. Your abdomen should be rising and falling with your breathing, very passively, and this nice rythme will help moving the stool along.
OK now I realize that I said 5 tips but I actually have 6… Is that okay?
There is a super cool intestinal massage you can do to trigger a bowel movement. It is recommended say if you have not had a bowel movement that day and you would like to trigger it, or else you are bloated or feel intestinal cramping. It helps moving things along. Normally, you should feel a signal to go for a bowel movement within 15-20 minutes after doing it. I recommend this massage after a meal to benefit of the great digestive enzymes that are naturally secreted after eating.
The best thing: I made a video to demonstrate it!!!
I hope this was helpful!!! Don’t forget that gut health has so many components and it is hard to summarize it in 5 recommendations. There are many other things that will affect gut health such as stress level, diet, level of activity, medication & medical conditions, to name a few. But I think if you apply those tips to cover the basics, you will have a head start on many people… !!
Thanks for reading!