Today’s subject is not the most pleasant to think about – but it’s highly important to your health.
How much? How often? How hard or soft?
Your stool is a powerful indicator of how healthy your gut is – or is not.
You can’t directly see the inside of your intestines without a colonoscopy, so you need to pay attention to your stool.
Some medical experts believe people should be encouraged to pay attention to their stool as it’s another important vital sign of your health, such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, however, it’s one area of life we don’t like to think about when we don’t have to.
You may not care to remember exactly when you had your last bowel movement, but while you’re sitting there, you’re intensely aware of whether you’re straining or simply opening up and letting go.
If the phrase “simply opening up and letting go” sounds like an unrealistic fantasy, you need improvement.
It’s not supposed to be hard – really.
That indicates an issue that is probably affecting not only your digestion but your general mood, your weight, and your immune system.
Because your stool signals the health of your intestinal gut flora, and medical research keeps finding new and important ways your gut biome affects your health.
Over the decades, medical researchers have exhibited a similar reluctance to dig deeper into the subject.
It wasn’t until 2010 scientists conducted surveys of large numbers of people, and determined the “normal” rate of defecation is between three times a week and three times a day.
This was done to clearly define “diarrhea” and “constipation.”
However, although those rates are “normal,” they aren’t necessarily optimal.
After all, 4.4% of men and 4.1% of women develop colon cancer in their lifetimes.
Many others suffer from what is called “pressure diseases:” ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, hernias, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other unpleasant conditions.
And in the study, many people who had movements within that “normal” range also reported urgency, straining and incomplete movements.
Normal – but not healthy.
We need to consume food for energy and nutrients. Pooping is our body’s just-as-important counter balancing metabolic activity of removing unnecessary and toxic materials from our bodies.
How Often is Healthy?
According to Hippocrates, people should go two or three times a day.
Too many Americans, that sounds excessive and unobtainable. That’s because, on average, Americans eat 10-15 grams of fiber per day.
Yet it takes from 100-150 grams of stool inside the rectal muscle to initiate the reflex.
The government recommends people eat from 25 grams (women) to 30 grams (men) of fiber every day. Only an estimated 3% of Americans meet that standard.
Small wonder large numbers of Americans are constipated – going under 3 times per week, or must strain to a dangerous degree.
Based on the analysis of fossilized poop, our Paleolithic ancestors ate around 100 grams of fiber every day. They probably didn’t need to spend much time straining.
Sitting on a Toilet Also Increases the Unhealthy Pressure
The traditional position from which to defecate has been to squat, not sit.
For hundreds of millions or even billions of people in the world, it still is. Running water is a luxury to many in impoverished areas.
If you travel to Asia, you may well discover “Asian toilets” – porcelain receptacles at ground level. They do use running water for flushing, but they still force you to squat. I’ve seen them in modern shopping areas in Bangkok and in the international airport of then-Calcutta.
Squatting does facilitate easier pooping by straightening the anal-rectal angle and relaxing the puborectalis muscle.
One of the first books about yoga I read as a kid – long before it became popular – advised readers to squat – not sit – on the toilet.
That was decades before modern scientists conducted studies that verified squatting is healthier than sitting.
Granted, it’s not as easy.
The idea of raising your feet with a stool, such as with the Squatty Potty, doesn’t help, according to research.
Instead, if you can’t squat – or you don’t wish to leave footprints – lean forward as far as you can. Touch your chest to your thighs, or come as close as possible.
The weight of your upper body on your thighs helps your bowel to fully relieve itself.
It may sound crazy, but if you’re constipated or straining – give it a try.
That straining is nothing to joke about. It cuts blood flow to your heart and your brain. It can result in raised blood pressure, and fainting.
Also, of course – healthy people should eat a large amount of fiber.
That’s whole grains, beans, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.