Must we talk about poop?

admin/ September 30, 2015/ Dr. Danielle/

Why yes, we must. Not a big deal. Not when you think about it. We ALL do it (even though I am aware of the small subset of the population who swear they don’t poop or pass gas – ha! And we all believe them. Because we are all fools. Right.) So the question is not whether or not we poop; the question is whether or not we poop daily and if we do, is it an easy task or a hard one (pun intended).

It is always very telling to me when I sit down with a new patient, who, let’s say hypothetically, is seeking my service due to chronic back pain. And after I obtain all of the relevant information pertaining to their chief concern, I start getting into additional areas of their health. Because, as you know, I am a naturopath, and that is what we do. And when I ask questions about their digestive health, I get a variety of responses. Typically, there is always some hesitation before they openly and willingly answer my question and most patients require directed questions so that I get the info that I need. What can also happen, and does frequently, is confusion on behalf of the patient with chronic low back pain. They wonder what pooping has to do with their back – Dude, it has a lot to do with your back.

So why am I so interested in your poop? Well let’s look first at why we excrete fecal matter in the first place. Generally speaking, the function of our body producing feces is to get rid of waste and/or toxins that our body has no use for. Luckily for us, being human, our bodies are quite effective at getting this waste out. Every time you poop, you are cleansing your body of stuff it doesn’t want, nor need. Having a bowel movement is a GREAT thing. We shouldn’t be ashamed of this. We should be celebrating everytime we have a full void.

As a naturopath, ideally, I want all of my patients to strive for at least 2 bowel movements a day. I can settle for one a day. But this nonsense about only pooping once every other day, or worse yet, once every 3-4 days?????? Doesn’t fly in my practice. We got work to do. On the flip side, if someone is running to the bathroom with the trots (aka diarrhea) daily, then we also have a problem. Having chronic diarrhea sets off alarm bells for me as well, as this decreased transit time through the stomach could mean reduced absorption of essential nutrients. It can also cause harm to digestive tract tissue.

Now, I could fill this blog with a very large amount of details pertaining to fecal matter. We could discuss size, consistency, form, colour, presence of blood or mucous, and it’s ability to float or sink. But we’re not. We will save that for a one-on-one kinda discussion. Today we are going to keep it basic and foundational. Because I want to get my point across without grossing you out or making you feel uncomfortable.

Let’s break it down. Causes of constipation include but aren’t limited to poor diet, stress, poor innervation of the digestive tract, dysbiosis (an imbalance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut), thyroid condition, autoimmune disease like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, or food hypersensitivity. Constipation itself can increase toxic burden on the body, it can cause damage to the digestive tract, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, anal abscesses, gut-wrenching pain, and the list goes on.

Causes of diarrhea include but aren’t limited to: poor diet, stress, dysregulation of the digestive tract, dysbiosis, thyroid condition, autoimmune disease like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, food hypersensitivity, or infection. (Please note the similarities between diarrhea nad constipation causes). Diarrhea itself can decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, it can dehydrate you, it can harm digestive tract tissue, it can cause anxiety disorders, it can make you not want to leave your house. Ever.

So, how do we know what the cause is? You seek out the help of a naturopath – obviously. Who, in conjunction with your family medical doctor, can help come to the root cause of the complaint. Now is likely a good time to point out that IBS (Inflammatory Bowel syndrome) is a diagnosis of exclusion. Which means it’s not much of a diagnosis at all in that when a doctor cannot find an organic cause for your symptoms, they give it this label. And the treatment is one of “learning to live with it”. Huh. Shitty (again, pun intended). There is ALWAYS a reason why your digestive tract is dysfunctional. So if you have been told to live with it, consider that as a swift kick to the butt to see a naturopath. Naturopathy can offer a different perspective as to why you are having the symptoms and can actually treat it. Imagine!!! Not having to live with it!!! Happily, easily, having at least one bowel movement a day. And you can predict it right down to the very minute you are going to be in need of a toilet!

From a whole person, preventative health care perspective, proper elimination of waste from the body is a must! That hypothetical patient, with low back pain, only had a bowel movement every 3 days and had suffered from hemorrhoids and chronic constipation for 11 years. Diagnosed with IBS, he just learned to live with it. He didn’t see the connection between his bowels and his back pain until together, we got his digestive system back on track, pooping, with ease, every day. His pain went from a 10/10 down to a 3/10 with daily bowel movements. And that, my friends, is why I do what I do.

One more important thing to note before I sign off – laxative use is definitely indicated in severe situations. But beware! Laxatives are physiologically addictive and can have long term effects on the digestive tract and your health as a whole. It is not a justifiable or valid answer to your problems. Unless it is for short term use only.

And with that, I am going to end this installment of my blog. Wishing you a happy, healthy, wholesome, completely voided poop,

Dr. D.