Dietary fibre plays an important role in maintaining gut health and function. Fibre is useful in helping feel full after meals, ensuring our bowel movements are regular as well as stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria to allow the gut microbiome to thrive. It is important that fibre, both soluble and insoluble, is included in everyday consumption to ensure optimal gut health (1). These fibres are found in a variety of different foods as well as prebiotic and full fibre supplements that can be used in times of bowel irregularity or for general health and maintenance. Fibre for healthy bowel
“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” -Lin Yutang
While our bodies are finely tuned, energy efficient, high power, recycling machines, waste is still created. Some waste is simply produced when there is an excess of a nutrient or molecule that our body does not, or cannot, use or store. Some is produced by our cells as they make more energy, or as by-products of regular cell functioning. With each process, our body must do something with the waste – either recycle it or get rid of it, as holding on to these wastes products can be detrimental. Waste products can create a toxic soup within tissues, preventing healthy cells from functioning normally, producing a buildup of free radicals in our cells, and even cause premature cell death. Luckily, our body has adapted not one but four methods of excreting such wastes, through the bowels, kidneys, skin, and lungs.
Bowel Movements: What’s considered normal?
The process of breaking down food is complicated and requires both mechanical and chemical breakdown. To facilitate this breakdown our body enlists the help of acids, enzymes, and bacteria to help extract all of the usable nutrients. What remains in the gut is everything that could not be used.
The appearance of stool, including shape, color, consistency, size, frequency, and urgency of bowel movements can provide insight into each stage of digestion.
- A normal bowel movement should occur a few hours after a meal, providing ample time for nutrients to be absorbed, with minimal urgency.
- If bowel movements are too frequent there may not be enough time to digest and absorb key nutrients. o If there is too much urgency there may be an issue with the rectal muscle tone or neural signaling.
- The volume of the stool will vary based on the volume consumed and size of an individual; however, 200g/day (about a cup of butter) is quite normal. A small volume means that there is not enough weight to stimulate the smooth muscles of the GI tract to contract (this contraction is known as peristalsis). A small volume may also reflect malnutrition or lack of bulking factors, such as fibre or water, in the diet. A higher volume may point to overfeeding or malabsorption.
Tomorrow we will explore other routes of elimination in this blog post series so stay tuned!
You may also be interested in:
S. J. Lewis & K. W. Heaton (1997) Stool Form Scale as a Useful Guide to
Intestinal Transit Time, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 32:9, 920-924
A.E.Bharucha, J.H. Pemberton ,& G.R.Locke (2013). American Gastroenterological Association technical review on constipation. Gastroenterology. 144(1):218-38. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.10.028.
M. Davis, & P.Gamier (2015). New Options in Constipation Management. Curr Oncol Rep. 17(12):55. doi: 10.1007/s11912-015-0481-x.