That good ole #2. Yes, I’m talking about poop. I frequently get questions about constipation. People ask about IBS or similar GI issues such as Celiac and Crohn’s Disease. Gluten is also a big topic when people notice they feel more bloated or don’t seem to be regular. What about probiotics? However, did you know that the “bugs” in your gut can also have a direct impact on your weight? With that in mind, let’s discuss a little about our trusty GI system.
A healthy gut is a happy gut. We need bugs in our gut – healthy bugs. With new research suggesting that flora in our gut may be contributing to weight gain, we should all be making sure we have the right bugs. Treatments of antibiotics can deplete good flora. Dysbiosis, the imbalance on or inside the body, of good bugs can lead to decreased satiety (the feeling of being full after a meal), increased calorie absorption, increased inflammation, decreased fat burning and a leaky gut. There are also studies on how poor gut flora and autism may be related. If our food is not being broken down appropriately, we will not get the nutrition we need, nor will it be easy to pass through our intestines.
So what is normal for our bodies? How often should we be eliminating? From start to finish, you should be moving your food through your GI system in 18-22 hours. It breaks down like this: after chewing and swallowing, your food will pass through the esophagus in 4-8 seconds and then be in your stomach for 2-4 hours. After your stomach, your food will move into your small intestines for about 3-5 hours. Remember, your small intestines are about 20 feet long in the average adult and this is where we want our gut flora to do their job. After the small intestines, what remains of your food will be in the colon for 10 hours.
A lot of the population is dehydrated. I also suggest that you start by trying to drink at least two liters of water a day. You can also divide your body weight by two and drink at least that many ounces of water. We are roughly 60% water after all! Hydration is key for good and consistent bowel movements. So how can you poop right? First, make sure you are getting enough fiber – both soluble and insoluble. The best way to get the fiber your need is to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you feel like your stool is still painful to pass, try Magnesium Citrate supplementation. Our stool should have a toothpaste like consistency. Physical movement is good for our bodies. In yoga, they talk about poses massaging the organs. And of course, make sure you have good gut flora!
I have noticed that many of us are also gluten sensitive. Gluten is the substance that makes breads chewy. It is gelatinous in nature and sometimes a hard substance for some people to digest. They may notice gas or bloating after a meal. Sometimes you may see a mucus or oily substance in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement. The simplest way to see if you do have a sensitivity is to cut it out of your diet for a period of time and then slowly introduce something with gluten back in. Gluten is in things we would expect like breads and cookies but also in soy sauce and of all things, Twizzlers. Think of it as a glue. Most processed foods contain gluten.
If you have concerns about your digestive health, never be afraid to ask your healthcare provider. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Things like medications and stress can also play a huge role in your digestive function. We all deserve to poop right.