Most people know that adequate calcium intake is essential for healthy bone formation. Since calcium is the primary mineral found in bones, it has been added to many foods in order to ensure our population does not have a deficiency. For decades marketing campaigns by dairy farmers and family doctors have been advocating high levels of calcium in order to build bones and prevent osteoporosis. In 2011, the benefits of calcium were called into question when a research study found that calcium supplementation was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes (1). This news sent shock-waves through
Ok, I get it- but HOW can I keep myself regular?
The best way to ensure regular healthy bowel movements is to support every stage of digestion. From the types of food you put in your mouth, to how you are positioned during defection, it is important to be mindful.
1. Diet: Start with what you put in your mouth. Make sure the foods you eat are nutrient rich and have fibre to push everything along. Fibre drags all the residual fecal matter out of the colon, cleaning it like a cleaning solution works on clogged pipes in your home.
• Soluble fibre: It attracts water and hydrates the lining of the gut, while still increasing transit time through the GI tract. Soluble fibre lowers risk factors for heart disease by removing excess cholesterol. It is found in kiwis, beans, lentils, oat bran, and psyllium husk.
• Insoluble fibre also speeds up intestinal transit time. These fibres, which are found in whole grains and wheat bran, are good for bulking stool. When you increase insoluble fibre it is also important to increase your level of hydration.
• Adequate hydration helps to keep the gut lining lubricated, as well as the stool itself, allowing it to slide on out.
• Avoid foods that increase inflammation in your gut. This includes anything that makes you feel bloated, flatulent, or causes pain after eating. Ignoring food sensitivities can lead to chronic inflammation in the gut as well as malabsorption. Avoiding inflammatory foods will strengthen your immune system thus allowing it to respond appropriately to bacteria and viruses that cause diarrhea.
2. Supplementation: You can ensure proper absorption by maintaining a healthy gut microflora. While probiotic use is on the rise, prophylactic treatment can be done by supplementing with prebiotics. Prebiotics provide the good bacteria in your gut with fuel. Enter xylo-oligosacharide (XOS). XOS addresses two problems at once. It bulks up the stool while feeding the bacteria that help us digest and absorbs nutrients.
3. Lifestyle: Digestion is stimulated by the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are involved in the sympathetic nervous system and suppress digestion. So, when we are in a relaxed state we can digest, sounds simple right? But when chronic stress is rampant, and when meals, and bathroom breaks, are rushed through with Olympic speed, we aren’t giving our bodies enough time, or providing the right stimulation, for proper excretion.
• Exercise increases blood flow to the gut as well as builds muscle tone. Exercise also revs up your metabolism so post workout bowel movements will be plentiful. Physical activity is also a great stress management tool and, as mentioned earlier, stress suppresses bowel function.
• Often individuals benefit from developing healthy bathroom rituals. Give yourself enough time to have a bowel movement, make it a stress-free experience. You can also try assuming the squatting position. This method of practice is widely used in Asia and studies have shown it improves bowel motility. If you aren’t ready to give up your upright toilet just yet you can invest in a stool that elevates your feet while on the throne.
Since some conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Crohn’s disease have erratic bowel function, alternating between constipation and diarrhea, it can be helpful to keep track of bowel movements. Phone apps such as PoopMD can help you see how regular you are while also letting you take reference images if you should feel so inclined.
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