On this week’s episode of The Nourished Podcast, we indulged in a little poop-talk (every nutritionist’s favourite topic!) and answered a listener’s question about relying on coffee to have a morning poop! If you missed this week’s episode, listen to it here.
As someone who has struggled with constipation for the majority of my life, I have a lot to say about the topic.
I grew up having a difficult time pooping. I remember being constipated a lot and when I did go it was hard and very difficult to pass. Since I grew up experiencing bowel movements like this, I thought it was “my normal”. I think we often hear that term, “this is my normal”. Maybe you feel pooping once every 2 – 3 days is “your normal” because that’s all you’ve ever experienced – you don’t know any different! If this sounds like you, don’t worry. I was that way, too!
Up until 2013 when I began studying at CSNN, I whole heartedly believed that my not going poop every single day was completely normal and nothing to worry about, but after our lecture on colon health and bowel movements, I knew that my chronic constipation was not normal, even though it was something I lived with for my entire life.
We learnt that at minimum, we should be experiencing a bowel movement once a day, however, 3x a day is ideal (our teacher explained that, ideally, you should be having a bowel movement after each meal). When I learnt this, I was shocked and knew that I had to make some changes immediately because, at this time in my life, I was maybe going poop once per week. However, most often, it was less than that as I would go weeks without having a bowel movement.
I quickly began putting my new knowledge to use in my own life and started seeing changes quite soon. It took a little self experimentation, but I was able to discover the reasons I personally wasn’t able to have a bowel movement every single day and finally heal my body so I could eventually do so.
Today, I have a bowel movement at least once per day, however, it usually happens 2 – 3 times, which is fabulous! I do not take my bowel health for granted and I want to help you if this is something you’re currently struggling with!
10 Reasons You’re Not Pooping
This one is pretty obvious, but had to be mentioned because I have had clients struggling with constipation, but it was fixed with increasing their water intake – they weren’t drinking enough fluids to meet their needs.
When we are dehydrated, the feces in our colon becomes hard and difficult to pass, resulting in constipation.
Aim to drink 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces each day to make sure you’re meeting your daily fluid requirement. You will require more fluid if you’re doing activities that cause you to sweat. Listen to your body – drink more if needed, but aim for 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces.
You’re not eating enough
Our feces is mad up of the waste matter from the food we digest. If we do not consume enough food, there will not be enough bulk to our stool, resulting in constipation.
If you think you may be under eating or confused about how much to eat, check out my post about how to build a balanced plate here.
You do not have enough stomach acid
Stomach acid is essential for breaking down proteins as well as proper nutrient absorption. When proteins aren’t being broken down properly due to low stomach acid, vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed properly. Additionally, the absorption of folate and iron are also negatively affected by having low stomach acid.
If you’re constipated and feel as though there is a brick sitting in your stomach after eating, low stomach acid may be to blame.
To increase the acid in your stomach, have 1 tbsp. of raw apple cider vinegar diluted in a small amount of warm water 10 – 15 minutes before your meals, especially meals containing protein. Alternatively, you can supplement with HCl tablets before each meal. I personally had to supplement with HCl tablets when I was addressing my constipation issues and they made a world of a difference, my clients also see great results with them.
You are not producing sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes
Just as you need sufficient amounts of stomach acid to break down the food you eat, you also need digestive enzymes, as well. When the lining of the gut is impaired (or leaky), it is unable to produce the digestive enzymes it needs to produce properly. Additionally, someone without a gallbladder will benefit from digestive enzymes, as well, as their enzyme production likely needs support.
I have also supplemented at the beginning stages of my healing with digestive enzymes and they, too, made a world of a difference for me.
Your gut flora is out of balance
There are both “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in our gut. The “good” bacteria promotes regular bowel movements by increasing intestinal motility, but when there is more “bad” bacteria in our gut than the “good”, our gut flora is deemed as “out of balance” and issues such as constipation can occur.
It is essential to have a proper balance of bacteria in our gut for bowel health. Repopulate the “good” bacteria in your gut and nourish them by including fermented foods into your diet on a daily basis. Begin with 1 tbsp. of fermented foods on a daily basis. Example include sauerkraut, kimchi, or any other fermented vegetable.
I personally include some type of fermented food into my diet on a daily basis in addition to taking a high quality probiotic supplement.
You’re not eating enough of the right type of fibre (or too much of the wrong one)
I think we all know by now that fibre is essential for bowel movement regularity. However, there are two different types of fibre and one type is more beneficial for digestive issues than the other (this is not to say one type is “bad” and one is “good”, rather one if more beneficial for digestive issues than the other).
Insoluble fibre, which is the fibre that is found in higher concentrations in foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, peas, and leafy greens, can be irritating to an already irritated gut when consumed in large amounts. However, soluble fibre can be quite soothing to an irritated gut and resolve issues of constipation.
Focus on consuming foods that are higher in soluble fibre such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, plantain, winter squash, summer squash, beets, and carrots while also being mindful of not consuming large quantities of foods that are higher in insoluble fibre, especially if raw.
You’re eating too low carb
When our diet is too low in carbohydrate for too long, our thyroid health can be negatively affected as glucose is needed to convert T4 to T3 in the liver. When thyroid health is compromised, motility slows down and constipation can result.
If you’re following a low carbohydrate diet and struggle with constipation, experiment with increasing your carbohydrate intake. Approximately 100 grams of carbohydrate on a daily basis from starchy sources such as potatoes or plantains is a good place to start as a bare minimum. 100 – 200 grams is a range you can aim for.
You’re eating too low fat
Digestive motility increases as we eat more fat. Additionally, when we eat fat, bile is released and has a laxative effect.
If you’re eating a low fat diet and struggle with constipation, experiment with adding more fat to your diet. Choose fattier cuts of meat, cook with coconut oil, butter, or ghee, and drizzle your vegetables and salads with extra virgin olive oil.
Your bowel movements can be negatively affected by your level of stress or emotional state. Our gut is often referred to as our “second brain” and, as our second brain, our gut knows when we’re stressed on a psychological level. Colon trouble is associated with anxiety and stress while colon diseases are associated with oversensitivity and overreaction to situations.
On a psychological level, individuals who have a hard time letting go of feelings, expectation, etc. often are the ones who struggle with constipation as well because they are “holding everything in” so to speak.
It’s so important to “feel your feelings” and move on. I write in a journal every night and this practice really helps me release any feelings I have bottled up inside of me. Experiment with journaling or give meditation a try.
You are consuming a food that does not work for you
Often, it will come down to a food that you are eating that will relieve you of your digestive issues. I personally was not able to fully gain optimal digestive health and achieve daily bowel movements until I removed the foods that were offending me. Some common foods that cause digestive issues, including constipation are: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and nuts.
Self experimentation and doing an elimination diet helps determine if there are any problematic foods in your diet.
If you’re currently struggling with constipation, take some time to put these tips into practice and let me know if you experience any positive benefits! I am sure you will as they have worked for me and my clients, as well. However, I know it can be overwhelming to put all of this into practice or approach self experimentation alone, so please never hesitate to reach out. I would love to support you through your health journey. Contact me here if you’re interested in working with me.