Keeping a healthy bowel movement ensures a well-maintained digestive system. However, Americans are suffering from several digestive problems such as constipation today. It’s estimated that almost 4 million people in the country are frequently constipated. Moreover, 16% of adults show symptoms of this issue, while 33% of people aged 60+ suffer from constipation occasionally. What makes someone constipated? We can identify unhealthy bowel movements as the culprit here. You experience constipation when your bowel movements become irregular and stool passes with difficulty. That’s why it’s essential to follow the below-mentioned tips for maintaining healthy bowel movements and avoiding digestive disorders.
Maintaining healthy bowel movements properly
Is constipation the only condition you may get from irregular bowel movements? There are many digestive problems people acquire today. For instance, colitis happens when your colon gets swollen. Likewise, we have Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – involving inflammation of your GI tract. It causes fatigue, diarrhoea, and malnutrition. Gluten-sensitive people may acquire Celiac disease after they have overeaten gluten. Another disorder called IBS occurs among 10-15% of Americans.
IBS affects your large intestine and leads to abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. It reveals itself in the form of several symptoms, e.g., cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, anxiety/depression, and food intolerance. There are many kinds of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) called IBS-C and IBS-D. The names indicate that they occur with constipation and diarrhoea, respectively.
So, how can you prevent all these digestive issues?
Go for a walk
It has been observed that increasing physical activity can lead to better bowel movements. Au contraire, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to difficult defecation, sometimes even causing the person to get constipated. Instead, exercising frequently and adequately can improve your bowel movements significantly. Just walking/jogging a few kilometres a day has many advantages for a productive session on the toilet seat. So, get off your bottom and run around a little sometimes.
Don’t relax too much
It’s healthy to calm down while pooping every morning after/before eating your breakfast. Though we don’t t recommend relaxing excessively! Unwinding yourself excessively in the bathroom causes irregular bowel movements. Spending too much time on the potty exerts unhealthy pressure on the rectum, making blood accumulate in those veins and eventually leading to haemorrhoids. So, don’t take your smartphone/newspaper in the toilet or another object that distracts you from pooping.
Drinking enough water is crucial for healthy bowel movements. An improper liquid intake leads to dry, hard, and difficult-to-pass stool. That’s why you should drink more water, dairy products, smoothies/milkshakes, and other delicious but healthy beverages. We recommend cutting back on tea, coffee, and alcohol. Similarly, you must enhance your liquid intake if you’re urinating less than four times a day if it’s getting darker. Try seltzer water if you want it to taste better.
Remember to squat
Human beings have evolved over the past million years to squat while defecating. Our forefathers didn’t have the luxury of sitting on a shiny, clean seat. Thus, they became familiar with answering the ‘call of nature’ by squatting on the ground. Recent studies have also confirmed that people can empty their bowels quickly when they squat, thereby preventing constipation. But how can you squat over a toilet seat? It’s possible by putting some books beneath your feet or by utilising some posture-changing products. You might want to be careful with these techniques, though. A slip can land you in a shitty situation- pun intended.
Take some medicines
People suffering from IBS, IBD, or constipation should follow certain precautions. They must restrict their intake of gluten while not eating gas-producing foods. There are also many medications to help people overcome irritable bowel syndrome. Besides artificial laxatives and fiber supplements, you can also take antimotility, anticholinergic, and anticholinergic medications. These medications allow you to pass the stool painlessly when our above-mentioned methods have failed to help you poop.
Public restrooms are fine
Public restrooms have gained a horrible reputation thanks to their negative portrayal in pop culture. However, we can’t deny that communal bathrooms make people anxious. A survey shows that some 60% of Americans consider avoiding public toilets if there isn’t enough privacy. But don’t forget that these spaces are there for a reason; elimination marks a necessity for everyone. So, don’t feel embarrassed when you’ve “got to go” during a journey. Just use public toilets to relieve yourself.
Fibre’s your friend
Consider fibre-rich meals as your friends. These poop-producing foods bolster bowel movements by softening the stool and making it passable effortlessly. Doctors recommend eating whole grains and fruits & vegetables. They make you less vulnerable to constipation. Besides, fibre-rich foods absorb water, thereby solidifying the stool. That’s why you should increase your daily intake of peas, beans, pulses, nuts & seeds, and potatoes with skins intact. It’ll help you perform better in the toilet.
Eat fruits and veggies
We don’t need to have an in-depth discussion about how eating more fruits and vegetables can help you defecate effortlessly and relieve you of your constipation woes. These edibles add bulk to your stool and compel your bowels to thrust forward fast and furious. Therefore, we recommend eating fruits (for example, apples and berries) and also vegetables (like carrots and broccoli). But that isn’t enough. There are several natural laxatives you can try that stimulate defecation and alleviate constipation. We’ll discuss some laxatives next.
Try natural laxatives
Some foods are natural laxatives meaning they stimulate defecation and make us poop effectively. These foods (such as figs, dates, and prunes) contain higher amounts of sorbitol, because of which they serve as excellent laxatives. Eating pears/apples can also help you empty your bowels. Furthermore, eating breakfast daily leads to increased colon activity and painless bowel moments. There are also some fruits such as watermelon you can consume when facing problems on the toilet seat.
Avoid certain foods
Just as eating fruits & veggies can improve your bowel movements, certain foods have the opposite result. We suggest you stop consuming stuff that irritates your stomach and blocks the stool. These harmful things include – as you may have guessed – alcoholic/caffeinated beverages. Similarly, you should cut back on spicy/acidic foods as well. Moreover, avoid things containing sugar alcohols (they have names ending with an ‘ol’). Restrict yourself to digestion-friendly edibles only.
What’s the healthy amount of daily defecation? An urban legend states that you should defecate merely once daily. However, studies show that not even 40% of healthy people pass stool only once during an entire day. It’s healthy even if you’re pooping three times daily or three times weekly. You must focus on maintaining healthy bowel movements to avoid digestive problems. We suggest remaining physically active, boosting your microbiome by taking probiotic supplements, and never depending excessively on any laxatives (like stool softeners). It helps to stay hydrated, consume fruits and vegetables, and sleep properly. Hence, these activities can help you regulate your bowel movements and avoid getting IBS.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.