It’s time to talk shite. Get the giggles out, or shake your head in disapproval, if you must, but like the title of a famous children’s book declares, Everyone Poops! It’s the final frontier of our digestive journey. And sometimes, when the ecosystem that regulates our poop gets compromised, issues can range from a passing nuisance to a very real health issue. Healthy bowels are very important for overall health. As a matter of fact, it has been said that 80% of our immune system lies in our gut! Bowels that are stuck in the colon are a problem, firstly, because the old contaminated, rotting fecal matter leaks toxins into the body and can cause a whole host of inflammatory responses, and additionally slow moving bowels prevent proper absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food we take in. I’m a big believer that taking care of digestive health is the cornerstone for healing and health.
Generally speaking, a healthy body should eliminate at least once a day. I know this goes against most “conventional” medical advice, but all you need to do is look to the rest of the natural world – all other mammals poop shortly after a solid meal, they don’t hold onto it for days, and neither should we.
Now, there are many reasons for a stubborn poop pipe, such as stress, food allergies/intolerance, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and certain prescription medications. If you generally have a clean bill of health, the following tips are guaranteed to get your bowels moving like smooth jazz.
Start the day with a wonderfully simple and naturally detoxifying drink: juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 hot (just off the boil) water. Optional additions are 1/4 tsp of turmeric and 1 tsp of unpasteurized honey.
Drink pure, filtered water and caffeine free herbal teas throughout the day. Intake should be about 1-2 litres per day depending on your body composition and level of activity. I talk about different ways to “dress up” your water in a previous post.
Reducing or omitting (at least for a short period) alcohol and caffeine will ensure all the good hydration doesn’t get wasted.
2. Increase fibre.
My favourite ways sources of easily digestible fibre are ground flax seeds, chia seeds, dark leafy greens, apples, pears and berries. At least one of each should be included daily in a nutrition plan.
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed in a tall glass of water (drink before it gets gelled up), or add ground flax or whole chia seeds to your smoothies or in your bowl of oatmeal. A great fibre and anti-oxidant rich smoothie idea is: 1 cup frozen wild blueberries, 1 small banana, 1 large handful of baby spinach or kale, 1 scoop (plant-based) protein powder, 2 Tbsp whole chia seeds, 1 cup almond milk + water to desired consistency.
3. Give food a “time-out”.
Give the body a break from the hard work of digestion and peristalsis (fancy word for the muscle contractions in the organs of digestion). The easiest way to do this is by eating your last meal 3-4 hours before bed. If you eat your last bite of dinner by 7:00PM, in bed by 11, then have breakfast by 7:00 or 8:00AM your body would’ve been in a fasting state for over 12 hours without you even trying! New research is suggesting a whole world of health benefits of intermittent fasting, a major one is improved digestion and elimination.
When battling constipation, it is best to avoid heavy and hard-to-digest meals such as a big steak or greasy pizza. Focus on easily digestible foods such as nutritious home-made smoothies, quinoa, teff or brown rice-based dishes, oats (if they agree with you), and steamed veggies.
4. Nourish your adrenals.
Adrenal glands are the “stress glands” and they secrete the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol over time leads to dense slow moving poop. So not only are you eventually full of angst, you’re also full of shit! Since stress and anxiety is part of our modern-day lives, constipation can be precipitated by these factors. Managing stress can be full-time gig for a lot of people. My top tips are:
a) eliminate highly-caffeinated drinks (yes, I’m serious and speaking from personal experience).
b) Yoga! (get a DVD, join a free Sunday class at Lululemon, just DO IT).
c) include adaptogenic herbs such as holy basil (I like the tea), maca root powder, and ashwaganda root powder.
5. Move your bod to move your bowels.
Yes, this is a recurring theme and the concept of being active for optimal health is not going anywhere. A stagnant body will contribute to stagnant bowels. Do some sort of activity every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, overly challenging or expensive. Go for a walk, go dancing! Even giving your house a good cleaning is movement as far as your body is concerned. Heck! I often have a dance/jam session while cleaning house (what the neighbours must think ) Just get off that couch, lounge chair or Lazy Boy and MOVE; our marvelous bodies were designed for it!