Discover the Digestive ‘Galaxy’ 🌌

There is a whole world within us. Not only are we complex human beings in the way we think, feel, and interact – we contain a universe (of sorts) in our intestines. That’s right, the human microbiome contains an estimated 100 trillion microbes – most of which live in our gut (our largest organ, the skin, also contains a microbiome).

The microbiome influences our energy balance and metabolism (e.g. risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes), gut permeability (and whether one develops “leaky gut” syndrome and/or food sensitivities), immunity, and inflammation.

What influences the microbiome? Our diet, genetics, antibiotics, and probiotic foods being some of the most important aspects.

What to learn all about your digestive ‘galaxy’ and the common issues along the journey? Let’s start at the top and work our way down:

Day 2 and Day 3 are on the same YouTube channel. This is like a mini college course – Digestion 101 so feel free to take notes as you learn all about your digestive tract and ways to improve it #nerdoutwithme

BONUS: for additional information, support, and community – consider joining our Go with your Gut Facebook group

‘Crap-e’ Diem! 5 Tips for AM Poo

What partially inspired this topic was an experience we had while in our dietetic internship (for those unfamiliar, to be a registered dietitian-nutritionist one has 4 years of medical training and then a year of paying, not paid, internship). Between our collective stress as a cohort and our lifestyle factors, which included adult beverages and dancing at bars on weekends, it’s no wonder that, while walking with a friend to meet with our program director, she had a grimace on her face. When asked what was wrong, she grouchily responded, “I haven’t had my morning poo”. We were flabbergasted. Though we were far from the Bridgerton-era of delicate sensibilities, no one talked about poo. Ever. She helped to change that, as her simple statement helped illustrate how integral a morning routine, with a healthy bowel movement, could be. Lest you ever find yourself grimacing because you too have not had a good morning poo, we’ve got you, boo.

Pooping is a common problem in the United States, affecting all ages and populations. About 16% of adults, and 33% of adults 60 and older have symptoms of constipation.

What are symptoms of constipation?

< 3 bowel movements per week

stools that are hard, small and difficult to pass

a feeling of having incomplete bowel movements

Who could be at risk for Constipation?

Pretty much everyone. But more specifically:

• Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth

• People who are not getting enough fiber

• Those taking certain supplements or medications (including iron supplements or diuretics, calcium channel blockers, depression, and pain medication)

• If you’re stressed you’re probably not going to be pooping very well

• Those with certain health conditions or gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. IBS)

Constipation can be a sign of a medical problem so you’re going to walk to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to rule more serious issues out.

5 Tips for a Good Morning Poo

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

1. As a general principle, you want to ensure you are drinking enough water. This seems basic and so many people skip over this, but don’t. When the body isn’t properly hydrated, it draws water out of the colon, which results in hard, dry stools.

2. This goes along with #1; get enough fiber into your diet. Plant foods are a great way to achieve this; however, if you increase your fiber intake without getting enough water, you’re going to have more ‘plumbing’ issues. Adults should get at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

3. Move your body and get your bowels moving. Whether it’s a light morning jog, walk, or even jumping jacks, this could help move things along your digestive tract.

4. Hot beverages. The heat from tea, coffee, or hot water and lemon can help stimulate a bowel movement. The high levels of caffeine in coffee are known to stimulate the bowels. A word of caution, you don’t want to have to rely on this.

5. Squat it out. A toilet stool or Squatty Potty can put your body in a position to make elimination easier.

Remember, talk with your friendly registered dietitian-nutritionist to investigate the amounts and types of fiber in your diet as well as to plan more fiber-rich meals.

So try these tips and ‘Crap-e’ Diem everyday!

Your Body: Whispers or Screams?

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Source: Pixabay

You push back from the computer and yawn, eyes falling upon a clock which reminds you of the many hours left until you can leave work. You notice your bladder is full, shoulders are tense, and stomach is rumbling. Then you detect the hint of a headache starting on your right temple.

In today’s unceasingly racing world, our bodies often fall to the bottom of our priorities list, stuck behind a mountainous back-log of seemingly insurmountable tiny, and big, to-dos. Its little signals are often drowned out by the noise of our work deadlines and chores. Yet, these little symptoms are the body’s attempt to communicate with you. Like a baby, its little whimpers can become melt-downs if its needs – to eat, sleep, play, and eliminate (or the clean-up thereafter) – are ignored. As adults, what starts as a slight, pulsing tension headache can grow into a full-blown migraine.

How do you develop a satisfying relationship with anyone? You start by listening. The same goes for developing a genuine connection with your body.

By tuning into your body at regular, short intervals during the day, you can prevent a lot of the strain and stress placed upon it. Just stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Another tip is to look in the mirror and pretend to be your own parent or health-care provider as you check-in with yourself. Do you have dark circles under your eyes? Stomachache or bloating? Brittle hair? Ridged fingernails? Is constipation or diarrhea an issue?

If you notice dark under-eye circles, can you make a connection to fatigue and being under stress? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this can show a deficiency of kidney Qi (energy that flows through the acupuncture meridians. When Qi is strong and moves smoothly through the meridians, our health is said to be good).  Prioritizing sleep, exercising for stress reduction, good nutrition and even acupuncture can help re-balance the body here. Also consider that the dark circles can signal anemia and may require a visit to your doctor for a blood test.

Perhaps your hairdresser has mentioned it, or you notice on your own that your hair has gotten drier and more brittle recently. The simplest explanation could be a reaction to your hair care products; however, it could also be a signal of low thyroid function (which slows down metabolism and can lead to depression, PMS, anxiety and depression, constipation, and migraines). In TCM, this is often associated with our very yang (active, masculine) culture and not enough yin (passive, feminine) energy. To address the hair issue, you may want to have your doctor check your thyroid function or eating more ‘yin’-nourishing foods such as apples, broccoli, celery, cucumber, spinach, sweet potatoes, and healthy fats.

Peeling or ridged fingernails can be caused to low mineral absorption relating to a deficiency of stomach (hydrochloric) acid. When we are under stress, for example, our body is prepped to run from danger or fight; the body’s priority is to increase our heart rate and breathing (and release glucose from the liver into the bloodstream for energy) while it shunts energy away from digestion (imagine the body yelling, “No time to digest now! We have to run from a tiger!”). Low hormone levels during menopause can also relate to ridged fingernails. Consider getting evaluated for stomach acid production and, for menopause, remember to support your adrenal glands (they play an important role in boosting estrogen levels).

Constipation a constant companion? If you’re not having a bowel movement everyday, there could be a lot of factors to look into. A simple reason for this issue could be dehydration or not enough fiber in the diet; even supplement and medication side-effects can cause constipation. For women, hormonal changes can cause slow transit of the gastro-intestinal tract a few days before menstruation starts.

Diarrhea can signal abnormal intestinal flora or yeast (especially if you were recently on antibiotics) and can also signal a food sensitivity or allergy. Let’s not forget stress and anxiety, which can also manifest as diarrhea. If you’ve had a round of antibiotics recently, consider taking a probiotic supplement (including acidolphilus, lactobacillus, and bifidobacterium) to help re-establish the ‘good guys’ in your gut. To help identify a food sensitivity or allergy, reach out to a registered dietitian to help you make an effective food elimination plan. Common triggers can include dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, and shellfish; however, other foods and even food chemicals can also be at play. This is where a food sensitivity test and certified LEAP therapist can help pinpoint the foods contributing to the increased transit time of your gut. To help reduce stress levels, consider joining a yoga class, prayer/meditation, listening to music, getting a massage, or spending some time alone to unwind.

Next time you get a minute at work or stop by a mirror, do a quick check-up on yourself, beyond lipstick application or ensuring hands are clean. By addressing health issues and symptoms while they are mild and quiet, you can help avoid the more intense, painful symptoms later on.

Read more: Quiz! Body Mindfulness & Straight Poop on Stool

 

The Straight Poop on Stool

toilet

Everybody poos. Are we getting awkward yet? Fantastic. Yes, we each have our own bathroom habits and the information your unique #2 supplies can help you, and your healthcare practitioner, explore gut issues and even food sensitivities.

What is poo made of? Though some females claim it’s all glitter and unicorn smiles, nope; it’s the pretty much the same as our male counterparts. Stool is about 75% water with the remainder being a combination of fiber, live and dead bacteria, body cells, and mucus. Yay! (Bowel) Moving on…

Often times, our BMs (bowel movements) have established themselves in a certain way for most of our lives and we’ve never stopped to examine them. Have you ever wondered what is “normal” in terms of consistency and frequency? 

Next time, before you ‘flush and dash’, take a look….what is the shape, texture, and color? Does it float or sink?  Each of these factors can give insight into hydration, food sensitivities, digestive issues and more.

Oprah has her microphone, plumbers have plungers, fortune tellers have crystal balls, and dietitians..well we have the Bristol Stool Chart! Behold this amazing tool that can help you categorize your BMs and problem-solve to make them into everything you’ve ever dreamed your digestion could produce.

Disclaimer:  these poos are not real. No poo was harmed in the creation of this blog.

bristol stool chart numbers

Poo Types
1: hard, rabbit-like pellets that are hard to expel
2: a contiguous piece but lumpy and still a bit hard
3: a smoother sausage-like poop with cracks
4: sausage or snake-like, smooth and soft
5: soft pieces, clearly separated
6: mushy stool, ragged edges, not well-defined
7: entirely liquid stool

I think mine was a ‘4’ – is that okay? Gold star for you, perfect pooper! In general, the goal is to stay within types 3-5.

Why is poo brown? When red blood cells break down, there’s a pigment called bilirubin which is made. The bacteria in the intestines transforms the combination of bilirubin, iron (from the red blood cells), and waste into a brown poo.

But what if my poo is red/yellow/green/tarry/mucus-y? Oh gosh, pull up a stool…er, chair…okay, bright red can be from a bleeding ulcer, hemorrhoids, or even eating beets. The first two are worth seeing a doctor about, the third is just a reminder of something you ate within the past few days and isn’t serious. Yellowish-green color can be caused by the green bile that combines with the waste products in the gut but move too quickly through the intestines to turn brown before making the exit. This color, which is typically involved in a malabsorption disorder (i.e. celiac disease), is associated with excess fat in the stool. The green color can also be caused by eating lots of leafy greens, food coloring, or iron supplements. Black tarry stools can indicate that there has been blood which, along its route in your intestines, dried up. This can signal internal bleeding and is worth a trip to the doctor.

Mucus can be clear or vary from white to yellow and looks a bit like jelly. Gawd, can this get any more gross? Yes, because even though mucus is normal to have in your gut to help move things along without much friction, sometimes this can get out-of-hand when there are ulcers or inflammation in the intestines. You may want to let your healthcare provider know if this is an issue for you.

How often should I go? Disturbingly enough, a pediatrician once asked a young dietitian-to-be how often she had a BM; the answer of “once every 3-4 days” was met with a response of “that’s normal, everyone is different.” Only later in her studies did the young one find that having 3-4 days worth of toxins in one’s gut is not normal nor healthy. This is why a dietitian worth her sea salt is going to ask you about not only what goes into your mouth, but what comes out the other end. Because we ❤ you and want you to feel amazing. To answer your question though – ‘normal’ will vary from 3x a week to 3x per day. Generally transit time from eating to expelling runs about 18-72 hours. 

Get a handle on what’s going on inside your guts by paying attention and talking with a healthcare professional about your digestive concerns.

Stay tuned! Our next topic will be problem-solving diarrhea and constipation as well as tips on how to have the perfect poo!