Diet and lifestyle choices play a big part in maintaining your gut and overall health. Here’s how to make it easier to go when you’ve gotta go.
Talking about our toileting habits can be a little uncomfortable, but since becoming a mum, the business of number twos has become a regular topic in our household.
I never thought someone else’s bowel movements would bring me such relief!
If you ask me, poo shouldn’t be a taboo subject. After all, we all go to the loo, and our bowel movements can give us real clues into our health. If your system is functioning well, you should be able to open your bowels often enough that you don’t feel bloated or experience pain, and you shouldn’t have to strain to get the job done.
Food sensitivities and intolerances can cause our digestive system to become unhealthy, as can tummy bugs, stress and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. If you do experience frequent pain, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, you must speak to your doctor.
The good news is that for most of us, adopting good habits and making smart food selections can go a long way towards keeping us regular. You have more control over your bowel habits than you might realise, with diet and lifestyle choices powerful tools towards maintaining your gut and overall health.
Our stools are about 75%, so it’s a no-brainer that increasing your water intake will help you go. People who are dehydrated are more likely to experience constipation, because if the body gets too little fluid, the gut responds by extracting more water from the food passing through it, making the stools harder. There’s no set advice about how much water we should be drinking
as it’s different for everyone, but aim to drink enough to ensure your urine is a light straw colour. Make water your main drink of choice and limit other fluids – such as coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol – which can have a detrimental effect on your health.
What we eat also plays a significant role in our regularity. Natural foods rich in fibre are best – think fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Too much sugar, refined grains, processed foods, fatty foods and dairy foods can all have an impact on your bowel movements. An in-season fruit that can help? The dear old plum. Plums and their dried counterpart, prunes, contain fibre and agents that retain fluid in the digestive system, making the business of toileting a lot smoother.
Squatting has been the standard elimination position for as long as we can remember. It leads to a straighter passage, allowing for an easier exit, and it has been found that constipation and haemorrhoids are more common in western countries like New Zealand that use chair-like toilets. Don’t worry, no one expects you to squat on the toilet seat, but you could consider using a low footrest and leaning forward slightly when you do take a seat. For a specifically designed footstool, google “squatty potty” – they’re stylish and highly functional, promising an easier time with your number twos.
Physical activity is a great way to get things moving because movement naturally stimulates the contraction of our intestinal muscles. It can also decrease the time it takes for food to move through the body, which limits the amount of water absorbed from our stools. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day and make it a regular part of your life, because every bit counts!
A healthy body functions like clockwork, naturally having a time it likes to go – and it’s important that you listen to it. When you ignore your toileting signals, it can make it harder to go later, as the longer the faeces stays put, the more water is extracted from it. As with so many things in life, in this case, having a routine can be really helpful for body and mind.