Hippocrates said, “all disease begins in the gut” over 2,000 years ago and boy, was he right. We detoxify our bodies naturally through sweat, urinating and eliminating waste. If one of these detoxification systems is not working properly then we end up reabsorbing substances that our body wanted to get rid of. Therefore, it’s critical that we are sweating and emptying our bowels regularly (1-3 times per day is great). Some people may feel squirmy just reading this post but I promise you this is one of the most important things you can focus on if you’re looking to optimize your health. The first time I meet my clients I always ask about their digestion and bathroom habits. Typically I get a somewhat flustered answer but overtime it becomes a big focus in our sessions.
So let’s get to the meat and potatoes. If you’re struggling with some sluggish bowels, here’s what I would suggest.
My top 5 tips for getting regularity in the bathroom:
- Increase water intake. This one is very common and most people know that when they aren’t drinking enough water it is very likely to impact the regularity of their bowel movements.
- Move more. Getting in regular exercise is a great strategy for increasing frequency of bowel movements. It doesn’t matter when, where or how you do it – just get it done.
- Support good gut bacteria. This is one that people often miss. In order for our bodies to properly breakdown and absorb nutrients from our food, we need a robust population of good gut bacteria in our large intestine. The population of our good gut bacteria is impacted by many things including: antibiotics, eating conventionally raised meats that are given antibiotics regularly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use (think: Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, etc.), and bouts of diarrhea, just to name a few. If the population of our good gut bacteria is not strong, waste will simply sit in our large intestine longer than we would like. During this pause in the digestion process, our body reabsorbs more water and other compounds that it had initially wanted to get rid of.
Therefore, we need to support the growth of a variety of good bacteria in our gut, which we can do in several ways. One of my favourite ways to increase my good gut bacteria is by adding fermented foods to my diet. Some of my favourite fermented foods include: kombucha (fermented tea – my favourite is the grape flavour by Synergy – available at most health food store), fermented coconut water (my favourite is the mango coconut flavour by Kevita), kefir (I recommend getting the unflavoured kefir in as high of a fat content as you can find – 2% is the highest at my grocery store), and raw sauerkraut. Raw sauerkraut is not the same as the sauerkraut you find in the aisle at the grocery store. Sauerkraut that is not refrigerated is fermented using vinegar, which kills all of the beneficial bacteria. Raw sauerkraut is fermented using salt only (I will post my recipe for making your own sauerkraut very soon, so stay tuned). However, if you don’t feel like making your own sauerkraut, you can buy raw sauerkraut in the refrigerated section at your local health food store. Just make sure you keep it refrigerated and don’t heat it or freeze it – of course, that will kill the bacteria.
So what “dosage” of these foods do I recommend?
Kombucha and fermented coconut water – drink half of a bottle twice per week. Keep it refrigerated in between uses.
Kefir – start with ½ cup each day. Pair ½ cup of kefir with ½ cup of berries for a snack rich in both probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (food for the bacteria).
Sauerkraut – start with 1 tablespoon per day with a meal. You can put sauerkraut on meat, salad, and vegetables or just eat it straight off of the spoon.
These are the dosages I find are most beneficial for my clients. Once regularity is established, I suggest a maintenance dose of fermented foods once per week. Please note: start with ONE of these fermented foods and see how your digestive tract responds. This is definitely one of those instances where “if a little is good, a lot is better” does NOT apply. For the sake of your gut, ease into it.
- Fibre intake. This is an obvious one. The more soluble and insoluble fibre we have in our diet typically makes it more likely that we are going to have regular bowel movements. The suggested intake of fibre is 21-38 grams per day but many of us are not getting remotely close to that amount! Check out the list of food sources of fibre below and do a quick calculation to see how close you’re getting the recommended amount. Soluble fibre acts in the body exactly how it sounds – it is soluble in water so it attracts water to your stools and makes them easier to pass. Insoluble fibre also acts in the body exactly how it sounds – it is not soluble so it adds bulk to the stool, which can help food pass more quickly through the gastrointestinal tract.
|Food||Serving Size||Fibre (g)|
|Vegetables and Fruit|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||2|
|Figs, dried||60 mL (¼ cup)||1.9|
|Sweet Potato, cooked, skinless||125 mL (½ cup)||1.8|
|Asparagus, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.7|
|Turnip, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.7|
|Broccoli, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.2-1.5|
|Pear, with skin||1 medium||1.1-1.5|
|Apricots, raw, with skin||3||1.4|
|Nectarine, raw with skin||1 medium||1.4|
|Collard greens, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.3|
|Eggplant||125 mL (½ cup)||1.3|
|Peach, with skin||1 medium||1.0-1.3|
|Peas, green, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||0.8-1.3|
|Carrots, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.1-1.2|
|Plum, with skin||2 fruits||1.1|
|Apricots, dried||60 mL (¼ cup)||1.1|
|Potato, white, with skin||1 small||1.1|
|Apple, red, with skin||1 medium||0.9-1.0|
|Beans, green cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.0|
|Okra, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||1.0|
|Beets, skinless||125 mL (½ cup)||0.8|
|Quinoa, uncooked||100 grams||7|
|Oatmeal, cooked||175 g (3/4 cup)||1.4|
|Brown rice, cooked||125 mL (½ cup)||0.5|
|Milk and Alternatives||This food group contains very little of this nutrient.|
|Meat and Alternatives|
|Black beans, cooked||175 mL (¾ cup)||5.4|
|Lima Beans||175 mL (¾ cup)||5.3|
|Kidney beans, cooked||175 mL (3/4 cup)||2.6-3.0|
|Flax seeds||60 mL (1/4 cup)||2.5|
|Chickpeas, cooked||175 mL (¾ cup)||2.1|
|Flax seed, whole||15 ml (1 Tbsp)||0.6-1.2|
|Hazelnuts, whole||60 mL (1/4 cup)||1.1|
|Sunflower seeds, dry roasted||60 mL (1/4 cup)||1.0|
|Flax seed, milled/ground||15 ml (1 Tbsp)||0.4-0.9|
|Lentils, cooked||175 mL (¾ cup)||0.8|
|Psyllium Husks, ground||15 ml (1 Tbsp)||3.5|
- Magnesium supplementation. Over 60% of North Americans have low magnesium levels, however this does not come up when we get regular blood work done because the best way to test for magnesium is a 24-hour urine analysis. You can read more about my post on magnesium here . If we’ve exhausted all the methods above and my clients are still experiencing some issues with constipation, I will typically suggest 400 mg of magnesium citrate in the evening. This will not only help regulate bowel movements but it will also help sleep – Bonus!
Remember, detoxing the body regularly is important in improving your overall health. Give these tips a try – I’d love to know what you think!
Yours in health,