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Your poop reveals a lot about your health. Do you turn around and look after you make your deposit? (more on this in a bit). Are you pooping at least once (but not more than three times) a day? If you’re not pooping daily, you’re constipated.

Your stool is a main vehicle for detox— it contains indigestible plant matter, bacteria (50 to 80 percent!), toxins, cells, and hormones. If you’re backed up, toxins from the bowel can be reabsorbed and circulate through your system, contributing to your overall toxic load, making you feel crappy and heavy. So you want to be pooping at least once a day. And I’m talking a good banana-shaped specimen. If you’re shooting out a few pebbles every day, that’s not a good poop; that qualifies as constipation. If you’re not pooping daily or not pooping enough (incomplete evacuation), taking a laxative (and yes, even the natural ones like Smooth Move or senna) is only a band-aid: we want to figure out the underlying cause of infrequent poops.
Frustrated man on toilet seat
So, let’s talk poop.

Here are some of the top factors that contribute to constipation:

1) Diet. Eliminate the most common food allergens from your diet. These are the most likely to stop you up: wheat, corn, egg, dairy. Paradoxically, these foods can also cause diarrhea in some people. The point is, if you have sensitivities to these foods, they can speed up or slow down your transit time*. If they’re causing inflammation in the gut because they’re irritants or you’re not breaking them down properly, they can stop you up. I’ve seen chronic constipation issues resolve just after people get off gluten. Sugar and alcohol are also major gut irritants and killers of good probiotic bacteria.

Here’s what to eat: focus on making your meals veggie-based, both leafys and starchy root veggies, with enough protein for you and good fats like coconut oil, butter (if you tolerate it), olive oil. I’m not going to rant the typical “get 50 grams of fiber,” because honestly, too much fiber can irritate an already inflamed gut. You have to figure out what works best for your system and possibly build up slowly. Psyllium husk, for example, can have one person pooping perfect rainbows and someone else stopped up and doubled over. Once your gut heals, you can tolerate more fiber.

Resistant starch like banana flour can alleviate constipation and provide excellent food for your prebiotic bacteria!

*Want to know your transit time? It should be 12-18 hours. Eat some sesame seeds or beets and wait for them to come out the other end.

2) Low stomach acid and poor enzyme production can slow down transit time. More importantly: why are you not producing enzymes, and why is your stomach acid too alkaline to properly break down food? Stomach acid should be an acidic PH of 2 to properly break down food and kill potential pathogens. H pylori is a very common cause of stomach inflammation and alkaline PH. Inflammation (caused by poor diet, gut bugs, dysbiosis, or eating foods you’re sensitive to) prevents adequate enzyme production and food won’t be assimilated or absorbed properly.

How do you know if you have insufficient enzyme production or alkaline pH? Seeing undigested food particles in your stool is one sign. Belching excessively after meals is another. Try taking a digestive enzyme with HCl to help while you figure out the underlying cause. Also worth mentioning: chew food thoroughly and eat slowly!

3) Poop is 50-75% bacteria (source: SCD website), so good bacteria play an important role in regular pooping. If you have a history of junk food, processed food, too much sugar or booze, or antibiotics, chances are your gut flora is jacked. Take a probiotic (my favorite is Designs for Health Probiotic Synergy or Renew Life) and eat/drink probiotic foods/beverages like raw kraut, kvass, and kevita. I also LOVE CocoBiotic. I’m not a fan of kombucha– some people react adversely to it.

4) Are you hypothyroid? A main cause of constipation. Get your TSH, T3, and T4 levels checked, especially if constipation seems to be getting worse as you age. Be aware that ideal TSH is around 1.8, which is far less than the standard “range” on lab tests.

5) More on gut bugs: candida or SIBO (read more here) can contribute to constipation. Sometimes just doing a 4-6 week herbal digestive cleanse with herbs like wormwood, goldenseal, berberine, pau d’arco, black walnut, tribulus, Caprylic Acid, oil of oregano can kill off bad bacteria and have stuff moving out in no time. Better to test first (I offer GI testing in my practice; then you know exactly what’s in there and how to kill it off), but this will kill dysbiosis and SIBO. Then follow up with some good probiotics.

6) Are you dehydrated? That causes constipation. Also, a congested liver with poor bile flow may also contribute. Try a mug of hot water with the juice of a lemon in the mornings to cleanse and get things moving.

7) Taking magnesium may help. I like Natural Calm in the evenings because it also fosters restful sleep. But be careful– too much can cause the runs.

8) Finally, make time to poop. Don’t rush out the door in the mornings eating your breakfast on the run. Start your day with hot water and lemon or green tea, and wait for things to brew. Train yourself to be regular in the mornings. Also, stop straining! You’ll give yourself a hemorrhoid.

9) A squatty potty may help because it encourages you to assume the proper position for pooping without straining. It will “unkink” your lower intestines to help elimination.

Long story short, if you’re stopped up, what’s the underlying cause? Poor diet? Not enough good gut bacteria? Low thyroid function? Do you flush quickly, or do you check out what you left behind in the toilet? Look to get good clues about your health. See food particles? You’re not digesting or absorbing your food. Greasy? You’re not breaking down fats. Stinky? You’re toxic: Try a 21 day detox, which helps digestive issues!

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