*By popular demand, here is a re-visit to a topic that few dare to explore – bowel movements.
A regular bowel movement is normally considered essential for good general health. But in most cases less frequent bowel movements are common and not necessarily a cause for concern. How to have a regular bowel movement and bowel or defecation habits vary from person to person.
Your bowel movement can tell you a lot about your health. This may not be a topic you would typically talked about at the dinner table or a party, but actually more people are somewhat obsessed with it than you would imagine. We should be interested the appearance and/or condition of our bowel movement.
The general health or state of your gastro-intestinal tract or GI tract and the quality and quantity of its output is a great indicator of the health of your body. The GI tract is a rather high tech processing unit. It metabolizes all of the nutrients you take in and eliminates all of the body’s waste that is generated. What comes through it, the bowel movement or stool is insightful of how well or how ill the body is.
There are certain medications, such as blood pressure drugs, antidepressants and anti histamines—that can slow down the GI tract. Constipation or irregular bowel movements, which has a myriad of causes, will lead to even harder, drier stools (since you’re going less often, your stool will stall in the system and the fluid is re-absorbed. For some people, consuming a diet high in dairy products can be a cause of constipation. So, if you are experiencing problems going and have dry, hard-to-pass stool when you do finally go, try reducing your dairy intake for a week or two to see if that helps. Then again, being dehydrated can also lead to this problem. If the body is lacking in water, your system will draw it, and conserve it, from wherever it can find it.
The quality of your bowel movements is nature’s way of telling you the level of health you are experiencing. Just as you need to monitor what goes in your mouth, stool investigation will give you valuable information regarding your highway to health, the digestive tract.
There is a reason for the large intestine to be the first organ developed in the fetus. It is the most important and influential organ of the body. Without proper sanitation, life cannot exist. The best signs that your sewer system is not functioning properly are: bad breath, smelly stools, and there’s no way you can leave the bathroom without the use of air freshener!
What indicates a good bowel movement is, firstly, that the stool floats. Floating stools are both a blessing and a curse. They can float because they are so full of bubbles and gas that they are abnormal. On the other hand, they float because they have too much fat in them, or they can float because they are high in fiber, which is the kind we want.
Now, here’s the big question:
Do you produce floaters or sinkers when you have a bowel movement?
It is not the weight of your stools, but rather their densities that determines their out-of-body fate to float or to sink. Simply put, the “floaters” are bloated by the air in them. Sinkers need a lot more fiber in their diet.
Floaters may be caused by gas in the stool, resulting from a change in the diet. Perhaps you’ve suddenly started eating more high fiber foods, for example. Undigested fat will also make stools float. This could be an indication that your diet is too high in fat, or there could be a problem with nutrient absorption in your diet. Stools that result from poor food absorption often leave a greasy film on the water and are rather large.
If you’re suffering from constipation, you may produce impacted stools, which will “sink” because of their density and lack of moisture. You need to include more fiber, both soluble and insoluble, in your diet to bulk out the stools and get your digestive system working properly again. And drink more water. The bowel and colon need water to work efficiently, just like the rest of your body.
The truth is, a healthy stool is neither a sinker nor a floater – it’s a combination of the two. If you’re in good general health, you’ll pass some sinkers, some floaters and some that seem to just sit in the water, neither floating nor sinking. As long as your bowel motions are soft, fairly bulky and easy and painless to pass, and there’s no sign of blood or excessive mucus in the stools, everything is well down below.
We want stools that do not mark the toilet bowel. We want them to hang together and not be pebbles, non-stinking, have no undigested food particles, a large volume, a clean wiping, and a definite sense of complete evacuation.
Wiping clean should only take a few pieces of toilet paper – not a roll. It is amazing how often people do NOT have this sense of complete evacuation. We want one or more bowel movements every day.
The digestive process can vary depending on what is being eaten and the person’s metabolism. For example, fat takes alot longer to digest than sugars. Fiber in the diet speeds up transit time ( the amount of time from chewing to bowel movement). Generally it can range from 24 to 48 hours for men and slightly longer for women. Chewing takes 5 to 30 seconds followed by swallowing for up to 10 seconds. The food enters the stomach where it is churned and broken apart by harsh acids, namely hydrochloric acid. The food can remain in the stomach from 1 to 4 hours after which it empties in a semi liquid form called chyme into the small intestine. Here is where most of the real digestion takes place.
In other words most of the nutrients are absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream. The highly acidic nature of the chyme is neutralized by the pancreas with bicarbonates and bile from the gallbladder and liver. This process can take about 3 to 6 hours. Finally about 10 hours after you’ve eaten the mushy paste of undigested food enters the large intestine or colon. Here it may take another 18 hours or even up to 2 days before its elimination as feces. Water and certain vitamins are absorbed from the colon but most of the waste consists of indigestible bits of food, mostly fibers from fruit, vegetables and grains.
The amount of time (intestinal transit time) it takes for the food you eat to make its way through the gastro-intestinal system and then exit into the toilet will have an impact on the consistency of your stool. Intestinal transit can vary greatly. It depends on your general health and diet. For a person in generally good health and eating a healthy diet, the intestinal transit time will be about 12 – 24 hours. The average American will have a transit time of 40 to 45 hours. The longer the waste or stool stays in the GI tract, the more fluid is re-absorbed into the body and the stool becomes harder and dryer.
So you see transit time for a meal can vary anywhere from 22 hours up to two days.
And there you have it, “from the tooter to the rooter”!
Not too many people will take on such a topic. Let me know if you find this helpful…
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Address any change or abnormality in bowel movement with your physician immediately, as it can be a sign of a serious disorder.
Glenn Ellis, author of Which Doctor?, is a radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.
Email me at [email protected]
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.