Better Bowel Health for Better Overall Health
Constipation. It’s not a fun or exciting topic to discuss, but a necessary conversation to have when it comes to your overall health. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, chronic constipation affects 15-30% of Canadians, and is commonly found in young children and the elderly, occurring more frequently in females than in males. Healthy bowel movements are essential to a healthy body but how do you know what is healthy? Here are some things to keep in mind.
STOOL COLOUR – Generally, stool should be walnut brown. Temporary colour changes can happen if you eat certain foods such as beets or dark green vegetables.
CONSISTENCY & LENGTH– Poop that is passed in one single piece or a few smaller pieces is typically considered to be a sign of a healthy bowel. The long, sausage-like shape of poop is due to the shape of the intestines. Stool should have a consistency similar to toothpaste and the length of a banana. Many people produce small, hard, lumpy stools. Insufficient daily intake of water and fibre are key contributors to improper consistency and length.
FREQUENCY – At least one good bowel movement per day and up to 2 or 3 is ideal for optimum health. Think of pets and babies, they tend to go an hour after eating.
GAS AND ODOUR – Gas is the natural by-product of digestion. However, lots of gas is not normal, nor should it be really stinky.
SINK OR FLOAT– Normal healthy stool should leave the body easily, settle in the water and gently submerge. If there is not enough daily fibre in the diet, the stool will quickly plummet to the bottom of the toilet. If the stool floats, the likely reason is too much undigested fat.
EASE OF POOPING – Many people take a newspaper or a phone into the bathroom and spend time on the toilet. Healthy bowel movements should only take a few minutes. A healthy bowel movement should be painless and require minimal strain. You should also not need to push hard as this could lead to hemorrhoids.
There are many things that can lead to constipation. We have listed a few here for you to weigh in if any – or all are impacting your bowel movements.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
A diet too low in fibre and water may contribute to constipation. Fibre increases stool bulk, accelerates colon transit time and water keeps the colon hydrated. Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams. Most Canadians are only getting about half that much. Contrary to popular belief, coffee does not fix constipation. While caffeine can stimulate muscles that trigger a bowel movement, it is also dehydrating, so don’t rely on that cup of Joe to get things moving!
Lack of Exercise
Exercise helps to move food through the colon more quickly. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, accelerates your heart and breathing rates, and helps to stimulate the natural contractions of intestinal muscles. For many people, regular exercise may improve constipation symptoms as well as overall health. 30 minutes of walking or physical activity five times a week is a great place to start.
Some medications may cause constipation. Talk to your healthcare practitioner and read medication warnings to determine if your medication might cause constipation.
Changes in Routine
When your normal daily activity is altered the bowel can become constipated (travel, sickness, etc). Try to maintain a regular lifestyle because consistency with your eating and sleeping patterns can help regulate bowel function.
Not Enough Time
Sometimes a slight urge to eliminate will be felt, but that urge is ignored as we are “too busy” to act upon it. Over time, this reduces the natural urge to eliminate, and the urges become less frequent. Make sure you set aside time, preferably in the morning or about 30 minutes after a meal, to pass stool. Make sure you have enough time and privacy to pass stools comfortably.
Proper Eliminative Positioning
The modern toilet does not position the body properly for elimination. The natural and anatomically correct position for elimination in humans is more of a ‘squatting’ position. Use a step stool or phonebook to position yourself properly while using the toilet. 
What can you do about it?
Here are a few tips that can help you avoid constipation.
- Include plenty of high-fibre foods in your diet, including beans and legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and bran.
- Eat fewer processed and refined foods.
- Drink plenty of filtered water and herbal teas.
- Get active with regular exercise.
- Try to manage stress.
- Don’t ignore the urge to pass stool.
- Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements, especially after a meal.
- Make sure children who begin to eat solid foods get plenty of fibre and water in their diets.
Taking a daily probiotic is also important to consider. Probiotics are good microbes that help keep us healthy. Many health experts recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement to help restore digestive balance, support immune health, promote bowel health and regularity and replenish healthy gut bacteria. Renew Life® has many probiotic formulas to choose from.
And don’t forget fibre! FibreSMART® is a flax-based fibre supplement formulated to help support daily bowel health. Available in both powder and capsule form, it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre and has additional ingredients for the intestinal tract such as Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm Bark and contains no nuts, gluten, dairy or soy. It is easy to incorporate into your daily routine by adding it to liquid or soft food.
Don’t let constipation be an issue in your life. You can make visits to the bathroom quick and easy with proper diet and lifestyle changes along with supplementation.