Friday, 4 October 2013

Poop Power

Two poop issues in the past two weeks have led to this post...

Last week, when I asked a lady I know how she was, she said she hadn't been well in the days since I'd seen her the previous week and that she had an umbilical hernia. I turned to Wiki as I didn't have a clue. I know what a hernia is but an umbilical hernia?

It's when the intestines push through a weakness in the abdominal wall at the site of the belly button. It's three times more common in women than men; more common in children of African descent (she's an African adult) and is acquired as a result of increased intra-abdominal pressure caused by obesity (nope, she's not fat), heavy lifting (very possibly a factor), a long history of coughing (nope), or multiple pregnancies (she has two children).

She has also been very constipated. I bought her a box of Black Forest tea and two big bunches of beetroot. The doctor she saw said she should be drinking more water. She is doing far better this week although the hernia is still there and it is irritated by white-flour products. It remains to be seen what needs to be done long term - surgery could be on the cards.

Another friend had a bowel issue this week. Severe abdominal pain. He thought an injury of sorts from yoga. I asked after his appendix... He ended up in casualty and it turns out he had serious constipation and was sent home with laxatives from the doc. I recommended Black Forest tea and beetroot to him too. You'll be pleased to know his bowels are moving (yes, I've asked him) and he's feeling much, much better.

Of interest, many years ago I was helping to take care of an old man with terminal cancer. The morphine he was on causes constipation. The Hospice nurse recommended paw-paw (papaya) and oranges as most effective. They work.

Dr Oz is big on bowel movements as they reflect your state of health and he recommends that "looking before you flush could save your life".

(On Dr Oz. Made out of clay... just in case you were wondering.)
According to his website, Dr Oz "believes that poop provides the opportunity to do a self exam every single day, that could potentially save your life. There are many diseases that can be diagnosed from checking your poop before you flush, like stomach cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, and gallbladder disease."

Constipation (can't poop / don't poop regularly / really hard poops) are bad. Loose, watery poops - diarrhea - are bad. Both are signs that something is not right. Your aim should be to land one to three S-shaped poops a day.

Indeed, Dr Oz's three critial poop factors - shape, consistency and colour - are determined by your physical state (diseases / illness) and what you eat.

Here's a video of Dr Oz talking poop on one of his shows -

Constipation foods include pasta, white bread and rice which "move like paste, like toothpaste through your intestinal system," he says. "They slow down the process and therefore all that water gets sucked out."

Exercise does help as movement gives the bowel a helping hand to move things along.

On the other hand, spicy foods irritate the bowel and can result in loose poop. Watch that chilli!

And then there's fibre - a major role-player in the consistency stakes. According to Dr Oz we need at least 25g per day (a article recommends 25g for women and 35-40g/day for men) - we're lucky if we're getting 10-15g/day on our Western diets. Eat too little fibre and you're going to be on the constipated side of S-shaped; eat too much fibre and your poops will be pretty loose.

BBC Good Food says that, "Foods that contain 6g fibre or more per 100g are considered to be high fibre foods, while those containing at least 3g of fibre or more per 100g are considered to be a source of fibre."

They go on to say that...
Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and increases water content in the intestine to give a softer texture to the stool. Soluble fibre is made up of gums and other constituents of plant cells and plant cell walls that swell in water. Soluble fibre promotes the excretion of cholesterol and can be helpful for those suffering from haemorrhoids.

Insoluble fibre is traditionally known as roughage, insoluble fibre consists mainly of cellulose which absorbs water but passes through the bowel almost undigested. Foods rich in insoluble fibre fill you up and are effective at increasing stool size and bulk thus promoting regular bowel movements.
What foods to go for to increase your fibre intake? (From BBC Good Food)

Foods containing
Soluble Fibre
Foods containing
Insoluble fibre
Citrus fruitWheat bran
LentilsWholegrain cereals
BeansBrown rice
OatsFruit & vegetables

You'll find lists of high-fibre foods on the web.

To get an idea of how much fibre you're eating, use one of the online food diaries and record what you eat over a few days. Enable the function to include the fibre content of the foods. I can feel when I'm not getting enough fibre - I just feel like my intestines aren't on top of their game.

I've been looking at my fibre tally, which is below 25g/day (as with most people), despite eating lots of fresh and raw veggies.

The tough part is upping intake, especially if, like me, you're being carb/sugar conscious. Oats pack a fibre punch but they're also high carbs. Mmmm... challenging. To the lists I go! It's a good thing I love lentils and other beans.

This time of year is busy. Diets slide. Stress mounts. Digestive systems are under strain.

As Dr Oz says, take a look before your flush to evaluate your health and if there's something wrong with shape, consistency or colour, fix it - like now.

Wishing you better health... and a good poop in the morning.


Robert Green said...

Love your ability to tackle subjects that everyone experiences but rarely talks about. For us runners it also has another twist, like if we are a good morning "pooper", how do we ensure we go before we run and not during the run? For me it's normally eat at least 90 min before running with plenty of fluids but a friend of mine is struggling to find a solution that works for him. Often having to make detours etc during a long run.

adventurelisa said...

Heya Rob,

Oats in the morning isn't a good thing before a run - unless you eat a sufficient duration (like 90 mins) before you run. Pronutro can plug the plumbing - but it really depends on the person too.

Apples - definitely not just before you run. Fruit definitely helps the tummy to work - with the exception of bananas.

For some people bananas keep everything in... yet others will be looking for a bush after a banana snack.

I've had many a morning road race where I've spent kilometres wishing for a porta-loo or garage and eyeing vacant lots with hope.

Afternoon running, that's the solution.

Mornings are a bad time for just-woken-up-tummies, which the gut-jiggling action of running helps to make 'work'.

Maybe your friend needs to experiment with different pre-run foods and to time how long they 'last' before he needs to go. Toast, cereal, yoghurt, banana, PB sammie, hard-boiled eggs, nothing... Process of elimination. Hahahahaha.

I'd be keen to know the results.