I know this topic is a little edgy for some. But there are few things in life that can either completely make your day or ruin it. And a good poop, or lack thereof, is right at the top of the list. As a kid, the topic of poop was absolutely NOT ALLOWED around my dad. He preferred to pretend that certain bodily functions did not exist and having an open conversation about it was absolutely taboo. My sister struggled for many years with severe ulcerative colitis so gut distress was certainly something I was aware of, but did not feel I could ask questions openly or speak freely about the topic. Frankly, I was pretty uncomfortable talking about poop for most of my life.
During my adult life, though, I raised three daughters. A new generation of people! And those people liked and still like to talk about poop (and every other thing you could ever imagine). I am glad for their openness and ability to talk so frankly about a topic that I would never have mentioned as a kid.
Exploring and understanding the anatomy of a good poop is something that I want for myself and for my clients, friends, and family. I love the topic, really I do. I follow some absolutely brilliant doctors who specialize in gut health, but to be honest, there isn’t a single western medicine doc or practitioner that I’ve found who is interested in talking or educating me on the natural ways to heal an unhealthy gut. It’s in the holistic world ~ including Ayurveda and Yoga, where I am learning all I’ve ever needed to know about gut health and the process of healthy pooping. I will list a few of my favorite gut docs at the end of this post.
After reading a recent article by Dr. John Douillard, Ayurveda Practitioner, I decided to write this blog post and share some of his wisdom, as well as information I gathered during my certification with Cornell’s Plant Based Nutrition program. Yes, its science, but it’s not hard to understand, and for the average person – like me – understanding just a little bit about this process and the unbelievably easy things you can do to heal your gut and activate a good poop, is a game-changer. Here is the process through which food becomes poop…..
- Chewing food causes enzymes under your tongue to hop into action and begin to break down the food;
- Digestive acids in the gut continue this process;
- Your gallbladder and liver produce bile. Enzymes from the pancreas neutralize the gut acids and continue to break down the food;
- Color, consistency, and regularity of the stool are ruled by bile which is critical;
- It’s in the small intestine where mucus is produced which actually forms the stool (or bolus) of food. This is the stage where nutrients are extracted;
- When the food bolus moves into the large intestine, water is pulled from the bolus and shazaam, you have the perfect poop (theoretically speaking). (Dr. John Douillard)
So that’s poop! Pretty easy, wouldn’t you say?
The anatomy of a good poop, though, would not be complete without a discussion about why the process does not work for SO many people. It’s not because your amazing body is unable to poop. For most, it’s not because your body is broken or missing something (although it is certainly true there are many things that can impact your gut beyond what I’m writing in this post). The two biggest culprits responsible for your inability to have a healthy poop in the morning are that you are not drinking enough water in the morning and your eating habits are not optimal for your body. Here are my top two tips to help you on your quest for the perfect poop:
- Eat an earlier, lighter dinner and close your kitchen after dinner. Keep your dinner simple and easy to digest. The body needs (and actually craves) a break from the enormous workload it has of constantly digesting the foods you eat. Experiment with eating your evening meal earlier, or better yet, see if you can eat only during the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (or pick your optimal times) and allowing the remaining hours in your day/night to rest and digest your gut. I try to have my morning smoothie after yoga and a short run – around 7 or 8:00. I try hard to have dinner no later than 6:00 pm. Many refer to this as intermittent fasting – which is a pretty easy concept, but takes some time to master and for some, it takes having a coach or accountability partner. See if you can find meals for dinner (or SUPper – back in the day, SUP or supper literally meant soup or broth) that are limited to only a few ingredients. Soups, stews, and salads are ideal.
- Drink a quart of water in the morning upon waking – BEFORE COFFEE OR TEA. Does that sound like a lot? It’s not, once you get used to it. When we allow the body to rest and digest throughout the evening, we re-hydrate our entire cellular system. When we drink a quart of room temperature or slightly warm water in the morning, it moves through our intestines and begins to inspire the waste to move out of the body. Our bodies deserve this deep, cellular re-hydration for all that we expect of it throughout the day. In addition to stalling a morning poop, without hydration, we have inflammation in our joints, our fascia gets gunky, and our muscles cramp. Who wants that? Athletes – if you are not drinking lots of water in the morning, your chance of injury is multiplied.
Poop is the magic elixir of life! Without a good poop in the morning, you are carrying yesterday’s waste into your new day. It hurts just thinking about it! When your system is clean, you can take on the world. So see if you can incorporate a reduced time schedule for your meals and close the kitchen after SUPper. Give the body time to rest and digest. Put a quart mason jar near your bathroom sink or next to the coffee machine in the kitchen and opt for water first and everything else next. Drink, drink, drink and before you know it, a quart of water is no big deal. Happy pooping!
If you are interested in learning more about how to improve your life and health through simple lifestyle and habit change, consider my 11-week program Healthy Habits. The next round begins in March ~ I’d love to have a conversation with you about whether the program is a good fit for you.