Food Freedom Friday Edition 34

Know Your S!@#

Yes, it is true, everyone does it! Many of you have even developed a set of rituals and beliefs, some accurate, some not quite, around the act of clearing your bowels.

You might think that you know your stuff about your poop, but there are many common

I am going to clear up (so to speak), a few areas of confusion:

A daily event is normal and optimal

I am sure many of you have heard of the 3-S morning routine, 2 of which are shower and shave. This might imply that the first S, which stands for, uh, defecating, is part of the healthy daily routine you should strive for. It is, however, latrine efficiency, not long-term health, that underlies this ritual which was started by the U.S. army.

Depending on the individual, anything in the range of three times a day to three times a week (every second day) is normal, assuming the feces is neither too loose nor too hard. In other words, regularity does not imply that your act of defecation should happen daily, but rather, that it should happen consistently. Frequency only becomes a concern when it changes suddenly, in either direction.

Constipation, or lack of bowel movements, is caused by many factors, such as sub-optimal or changes in diet, dehydration, lack of exercise, jet lag or nutrition shifts while traveling, pregnancy and certain medications. Resting well , drinking more water, exercising and eating a diet high in the naturally occurring fiber of both above and below ground vegetables, and some fruit is most often a good remedy for backed up situations. If not, a paucity of bowel movements could both be a symptom of, and cause a serious medical condition.

Diarrhea, or loose bowel movements, also has many contributing factors, most commonly being viruses, bacteria or allergic reactions. Consistently loose bowel movements could be a sign or symptom of gastro-intestinal inflammation or a chronic disease.

The odour is expected to be rather unpleasant.

Your excrement may not smell like roses, but the rotten smell of a garbage truck is not what you should have either. A truly awful-smelling bowel movement — something admittedly hard to quantify in writing — is often a sign of an infection or an indication of something more serious that may be simmering in your digestive tract.

Giardiasis, an infection of Giardia parasites, is one infamous cause of a foul smelling bowel movement. I would recommend consulting with a professional if you are experiencing particularly bad odor over a prolonged period when defecating.

Perhaps surprising, passing gas from morning through the night is normal and healthy, the natural by-product of your gut bacteria digesting your food. But as with defecation, consistently noxious smelling gas could be a sign of something more serious.

Taking your time is healthy.

The myth that it's healthy to sit on the toilet for a prolonged time pervades popular culture. The author Henry Miller dedicated an entire chapter in his 1952 tome ‘The Books in My Life’ to reading on the toilet. Those of us lucky enough to grow up in the 1980’s a well familiar with ‘Married with Children’ and the adventures, and prolonged disappearances of Al Bundy into his personal washroom, and even an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ featured George being forced to buy an expensive picture book that he took into the bookstore's restroom to read.

Magazines and entertaining reading material are found so often in personal bathrooms that you might think it is natural, or even beneficial, to relax on the toilet. The truth is quite the opposite.

Studies have shown a connection between toilet reading and hemorrhoids. The theory, dating back to a 1974 study, is that prolonged toilet sitting during which the anus is relaxed, followed by repeated straining, irritates the tissues surrounding the rectum that help control bowel movements, called anal cushions. This can lead to hemorrhoids, or inflamed veins in this area.

A further study published in The Lancet in 1989 reported that patients with hemorrhoids were more than twice as likely to read on the toilet. A study from 1995 in the journal Colon & Rectum found that 40 percent of patients with benign ano-rectal disease read on the toilet, and a 2009 study published in Neurogastroenterology & Motility also found hemorrhoids sufferers more likely to be toilet readers.

It is not clear whether prolonged toilet sitting causes hemorrhoids, or whether hemorrhoids cause longer sitting on the toilet. Nevertheless, more dietary fiber, not more sitting, is recommended to facilitate bulkier and faster bowel movements.

Another argument against toilet reading is a problem is filth. Numerous studies reveal how reading material and phones get contaminated with fecal matter when used whilst on the toilet. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to wash my smartphone.

The colon needs a good flushing.

Despite its enduring popularity, colonics and colon cleansing are not one of the best things for your your colon and long-term health.  At its most benign, colon cleansing is an uncomfortable waste of both your time and money. Recently studies have revealed how truly detrimental the practice is.

In summary, you are unable to be discerning about what you flush away, whether healthy or detrimental, they are all removed. However, what if the ‘unhealthy’ toxins and pounds of festering, fermenting fecal matter are non-existent? What is your body (smart machine that it is), is able to rid itself of unwanted material all by itself?

With each colonic cleanse you are forcibly removing beneficial bacteria and electrolytes. Nearly 1,000 species of bacteria reside in the colon and aid in digestion, including water absorption, and the fermentation of fibers and vitamin absorption, particularly vitamins K, B1, B2, B7, and B12.

Emergency rooms regularly see patients who have sustained injury as a result of colonic flushes. Common side effects are dehydration, rectal perforations, air emboli, blood infections and a loss of the ability to control the muscles of the bowels.

There are no toxins in the colon that get absorbed in the blood to cause disease. This theory of auto-intoxication was proven incorrect more than a century ago. These toxins now reside in a virtual form on the internet and on hydrotherapy websites promoting, well, nothing but crap.

More pooping leads to more weight loss

This may seem to be in with the laws of physics: The more that comes out means the less you are carrying around. Sad to say, this is not (always) the case.

Many people take laxatives or drink certain teas and elixirs with the hope of removing all those extra ingested indulgences and non-nutritious foods. Unfortunately, absorption of our nutrients takes place largely in the small intestine. Stimulants and laxatives are processed and work predominantly in the large intestine, or colon.

There is anecdotal evidence the Asians unload more feces on average per day than Westerners; and considering that most Asian countries have far lower obesity rates compared to most Western countries, you might start to think that the amount you defecate is directly related to your fat deposition.

What the true cause of this excess is a diet high in fiber, in which insoluble fiber provides a feeling of satiety without contributing much energy value. That fiber comes from whole foods found in nature, such as vegetables and vegetable skins, seeds and nuts, fruits and well prepared legumes. These are typically featured in abundance in a primary Asian diet. High-fiber foods pack less energy per pound compared to low-fiber foods, processed foods, the hallmarks of the current a Western diet.

Fiber promotes stool regularity and vacates the body with impressive efficiency.

Your poop can be a great indicator of your health. How often you go to the bathroom, and how much waste you expel, can indicate your general digestive status.

"The digestive tract contains more bacterial cells than there are cells in the entire body," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Raufman, a gastroenterologist at University of Maryland School of Medicine. "It's very important that our bowels work well to absorb necessary nutrients but also keep out any foods, chemicals and germs that could do us harm."

Here is the official chart for your personal stool analysis:

While I know you probably have think you have better things to do than thinking about and analyzing your bathroom habits,  pooping and waste elimination are essential body functions that can tell you if something is wrong. A change in bowel movements could be due merely to a change in diet, but it could also mean the body is fighting an infection or dealing with a serious condition.

If you are concerned about the state of your elimination, or are wondering how your digestion effects the functioning of every aspect of your body, contact me or another professional for a more in-depth conversation.

Michal Ofer