Saturday, February 27, 2010

Improving Bowel Regularity

How is your digestive system functioning?

Regular bowel movements are an important aspect of achieving optimal health. Proper elimination can prevent constipation, high cholesterol, hormonal imbalances, all forms of cancer, ill health effects of environmental toxins, digestive disturbance, skin conditions, fatigue and many other general symptoms of ill health. With improved regularity, you may notice an improvement in your overall sense of well being.

Here are a few things you should notice about your digestion:

1. You should be having at the very least, one bowel movement each day. Two to three bowel movements per day is more ideal.

2. They should always be easy to pass. Straining or pushing can cause painful conditions such as hemorrhoids or fissures.

3. Bowel movements should be soft but formed. Like toothpaste comes out of the tube - soft but with shape.

4. The colour should be some variation of brown. The colour will change depending on what your diet consists of (eg. red if you've eaten beets, dark if you've had blueberries, greenish if you've had lots of green leafy vegetables)

5. There should not be any undigested food in the stool. Ocassionally you may see corn, skins of peppers, or small seeds. Often these are the foods we have not chewed properly in the first place. You should never see food in the toilet bowl as it was on your plate.

6. Your bowel movements should neither float on the surface, nor sink to the bottom of the bowl and disappear. Floating stool, or stool with a greasy appearance could indicate impaired fat metabolism. Stool that sinks and disappears indicates that you are not consuming enough fibre.

7. You should not see any blood or mucous. A small amount of bright red blood indicates an issue such as hemorrhoids or fissures. Mucous indicates an inflammatory process in the digestive tract that needs to be addressed.

If from the above comments, you learn that your digestion is not optimal, try the following six suggestions to improve regularity:

1. Drink more water.

2. Eat more fibre. No need to supplement, you can add more fruits and vegetables, ground flax, ground psyllium, oat bran, and beans to your diet.

3. Exercise. Some form of movement each day will stimulate the bowels to move as well.

4. Drink lemon water each morning: squeeze about a 1/4 to 1/2 lemon into a glass of water and drink this each morning on an empty stomach. This wakes up the digestive tract.

5. Toilet training. Yes, for adults. With our busy lifestyles, it may be the case that you just aren't taking the time each day to go to the bathroom. If you are not having regular bowel movements, choose a time of the day to spend 10 minutes sitting on the toilet. Don't force yourself to go, just sit there and let the mind get used to the idea that you have the time to go.

6. Try squatting. This is the more natural position for elimination (think about how you would go if you didn't have access to a modern toilet). With the thighs putting a little pressure on the abdomen, the bowels become stimulated.

If you have incorporated the above suggestions and seem to still have trouble, see your Naturopathic Doctor for support. There may be other factors affecting your digestive system that need to be explored or, you may wish to try acupuncture for improved digestive function.

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