This week it’s all about poop. Historically a taboo topic, we’ve come a long way in talking more openly about bowel function…and a long way in understanding the importance of this aspect of waste removal. In this week’s blog post, we’ll talk about how bowel movements help support detoxification, and how to support our bodies in optimizing this important aspect of health.
What is considered regular?
A healthy adult should have at least one bowel movement daily, and it can be normal (even optimal) to have up to two or three. While phase 1 and phase 2 of detoxification take place in the liver (more on that another week), bowel movements are considered “Phase III” of detoxification. After the liver has processed toxins, they are eliminated through our waste.
The problem with constipation is that when waste materials sit in the intestines longer than they should, they have the ability to get reabsorbed. And what happens when toxins get back in the body? Well, they are processed through the liver again – increasing inflammation and the demand for nutrients to help repeat a cycle that should have already been completed.
What is considered normal?
When it comes to consistency, there’s a fantastic chart that gives us the run(s)-down; pun intended. Google “Bristol Stool Chart” for a handy reference guide – the “number 4” is what we want most of the time, though numbers 3 and 5 are considered healthy as well.
So, how do we achieve the seemingly-elusive bowel regularity that supports detox?
1 – Get enough fluids – both fat and water
If you’re not currently drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces of water daily, you could be behind on hydration. I also recommend adding electrolytes to water to support optimal hydration. In fact, magnesium is a mineral that’s most often deficient in the general population, and many electrolytes contain magnesium which can help support bowel regularity.
While fat isn’t necessarily fluid, it can also act as lubrication. Having sufficient dietary fat encourages contractions in the intestines. If you eat mostly lean protein (chicken breast, turkey, and very lean beef), you may fall into the category of people that do need some added healthy fats. To help with constipation and nutrient balance overall, I recommend getting those added healthy fats from whole plant foods like avocado and olives and small amounts of olive oil.
2 – Eat enough fiber – and consider the source
In general, increasing your fiber can help with bowel regularity. Fiber tends to pull water into the digestive system, assisting with lubrication. However, sometimes the sheer volume of raw fibers makes things worse. I’ve met with many patients over the years that are shocked when the increase of salads and raw veggies tends to make constipation worse, rather than better. For those situations, I recommend trying more cooked fibers (after all, when you’re cooking veggies you’re typically also using a healthy fat which helps with lubrication), and ensuring slow and thorough chewing to help break things down in the early stages of digestion.
3 – Stay mobile
Regular movement helps encourage regular bowel movements. After all, it’s in the name! Maintaining an active lifestyle helps also activate the muscles in the intestines to move regularly, too. If you’re struggling with constipation, it may be beneficial to increase your low-intensity steady-state cardio, as this type of movement is most associated with relieving constipation.
4 – Focus on key nutrients
I mentioned it briefly above, but many individuals are lacking in magnesium, a mineral that’s incredibly important for lots of bodily functions, including bowel function. Magnesium helps to draw water into the intestines, increasing the lubrication that’s so important. There are many different varieties of magnesium, with magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide helping to prevent and relieve constipation.
5 – Consider testing for food sensitivities
If none of the above help to improve bowel regularity, it’s worth a deeper dive. For some people, that’s taking a look at the overall toxic load of their environment. And for others, it could be pinpointing if certain food sensitivities are preventing relief. Alcohol, gluten, processed and high-sugar grains, and dairy are all foods that can contribute more to constipation, and if any components of those foods pop up on a sensitivity test, it could be worth an elimination period for relief.
In conclusion, having regular bowel movements really is the first step in making sure our bodies can detox efficiently. After all, the work that our organs do eventually all leads to the bowel – and if it’s not working well, we aren’t going to make progress in supporting detox. If your regularity is off, make an appointment with us to get a better regimen going for your overall health.