It may seem that we talk a lot about poop, but we really can’t stress enough just how important paying attention to your poop really is. Poop is a great overall indicator of your health, and can give you early clues that things are not right.
What exactly is poop?
So, what exactly is poop? Well, 75 percent of poop is water, and the remainder is comprised of:
- Dead bacteria that helped to digest our food
- Live bacteria
- Waste material from food
- Cellular linings
- Substances released from the liver, including mucus
In previous articles, we have discussed all the signs of a good poop – things that you should be looking for, such as color, shape, size, and smell. The perfect poop is generally shaped like a snake, golden brown in color, one to two inches in diameter and 18 inches long. It should have only a slight odor (not one that knocks you and your whole house off their feet).
Along with general appearance, regularity is also of utmost importance when speaking of a healthy digestive system. Although the experts are not all on the same page in this regard, most agree that one to three bowel movements a day is healthy.
Pooping four times a day or more is generally referred to as diarrhea (stools may have a liquid consistency or be super soft). Pooping less than two or three times a week is referred to as constipation (stools may be hard and dry and difficult to pass).
Dangers of constipation
Yes, constipation is a nuisance, but it certainly is more than that, and should command our attention when it occurs. The truth is that constipation is at the root of some very serious medical conditions, including colorectal cancer.
The colon was designed to hold only a small amount of feces in transit, and when fecal matter does not move through the body efficiently, the colon can end up holding up to twenty pounds or more of toxic feces.
Constipation may also be a sign of a condition known as dysbacteriosis – this is where the normal gut flora is dead or missing. Healthy gut flora is necessary to protect the colon from pathogens that cause inflammation. It also produces B and K-vitamins that are necessary for blood clotting, and protects immunity. In addition, bacteria help to keep stools soft and moist.
Constipation can have a negative impact on genitourinary health – mostly in women, because the large intestine and female reproductive organs are so close together. Potential problems include excessive pressure on the uterus, fecal incontinence, and even miscarriage brought about by straining.
Failure to defecate on a regular basis can also interfere with cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune system functioning. In fact, it has been shown that chronic constipation can actually kill you. That’s right, bearing down to have a bowel movement can cause fatal heart arrhythmia in some people.
Elvis Presley and John Wayne were thought to have suffered with chronic constipation which may have played a role in their deaths. While the number of people actually killed by constipation is few – it makes millions of people uncomfortable and ill.
To rectify a problem it is essential to know its roots – what exactly causes constipation? There are many reasons why irregularity and constipation occur. If you are suffering,, take a look at the nine reasons below to see if one or more may be causing you to back up.
Antacids: Are you a heavy user of antacids? Many of these over-the-counter, so-called heartburn remedies contain aluminum, which can cause constipation. A better idea is to use a natural acid reflux reliever such as apple cider vinegar. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water (about six ounces), and drink before meals to ease
Stress: Stress impacts the body in a number of very negative ways, including causing a flight or fight reaction that may result in constipation. In addition, people who experience stress on a regular basis often consume a nutrient void diet – which can compromise proper digestive function.
If stress has a hold of you, consider adopting some of these healthy habits:
- Get plenty of sleep
- Spend time with family and friends (assuming they are not the ones stressing you out!)
- Exercise daily to release “feel good” chemicals
- Breathe deeply – even just a few deep breaths daily can help shift our focus and recharge our bodies
- Practice meditation – or at least, spend some quiet time alone every day to clear your mind
High blood pressure medications: There are a number of different side effects of high blood pressure medications – constipation being one of them. If you suffer from constipation and are taking these meds, you may want to speak to your healthcare practitioner regarding a healthier alternative. In addition, there are several foods that are known for having a positive impact on blood pressure regulation, including:
- Beet juice – Beet juice is known as one of the richest sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates, which help to improve blood flow throughout the body, including the muscles, the brain, and the heart.
- Raw garlic – The instance of cardiovascular disease is generally lower among populations that consume a large amount of garlic, and a number of studies have shown that consuming raw garlic has the ability to reduce high blood pressure.
- Black tea – A study published in the January 23, 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who drank three cups of black tea each day were able to lower their blood pressure by an average of two to three points.
Dehydration: If you drink very little water, your stools are likely to be hard and difficult to pass. Not consuming enough water for an extended period of time can prompt chronic constipation.
Other signs of dehydration may include:
- Dry mouth
- Lowered blood pressure
- Muscle fatigue
- Dry and cool skin
- Lack of urine
- Dark yellow/brown urine with strong odor
Some health practitioners say to aim for at least ten glasses a day, while others recommend half of your body weight in ounces.
Of course, if you are working out or spending time outdoors in the heat, it is essential that you replace water lost due to perspiration. You can also pull the skin on the top of your hand to see if it bounces back. If it stays up for a while, grab a glass or two of water, your tank is probably low. Skip the soda and other sugary drinks and consume plenty of water – your body will thank you.
Too much dairy: It has been found that too much dairy can cause constipation – especially in children. If you consume a lot of dairy and meat, but relatively little fiber, it may be slowing down your digestion. Be sure you are eating a diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and healthy fats, like those found in olive and coconut oil.
In addition, your dairy and meat sources should be as close to natural as possible. Try eating a few balanced meatless meals each week and enjoy grass fed beef and free range poultry on a limited basis, along with organic dairy products.
While there may be other reasons for constipation – these are a good place to start. Once your body begins to rebalance itself your digestive woes should be a thing of the past. Of course, if your constipation is severe or you are experiencing other symptoms, be sure to see your health practitioner.
-The Alternative Daily